Tampa Bay Buccaneers

How the West was Won

Add West Coast woes to the list of recently exorcised Buccaneer demons


S John Lynch has helped the Bucs keep the Western Divisions down in recent years

Tampa Bay's decade-and-a-half of losing, a not too distant past that Head Coach Tony Dungy has helped exorcise since his arrival in 1996, spawned a variety of unsettling notes and trends. Along with trouble on the road and difficulty in cold weather, the Buccaneers were also known for an inability to beat West Coast teams, whether at home or on the road.

That last trend has not been so much snapped as it has been obliterated. Proof is in a somewhat obscure but still telling note: Tampa Bay currently has a winning streak against all 10 teams in the Western Divisions of the AFC and the NFC. It would be hard to defy a trend more convincingly than that.

Tampa Bay completed the Western sweep on Sunday by pummeling the Seattle Seahawks, 16-3, in Seattle's Kingdome. The Buccaneers overcame an extremely noisy crowd that made it difficult to operate an offense by turning away the Seattle attack all day. The effort marked Tampa Bay's first win ever against their 1976 NFL expansion mates; there now remain only three teams the Bucs have never beaten – Dallas (0-6), Cleveland (0-5) and Baltimore (no meetings yet).

"To be honest, that's not something we really think about," said Dungy of the team's supposed futility on the West Coast. "We don't prepare to beat a region…we're just trying to beat a specific football team. A lot of those 'trends' happened when most of us weren't around."

The Bucs are 5-0 against Western Division teams this year, having already dismissed Denver and Kansas City of the AFC West and Atlanta and New Orleans of the NFC West. While none of those teams actually reside on the West Coast, the Bucs win over Seattle could stand as another landmark West Coast win for the franchise. The team's 25-17 victory at San Diego on 11/17/96 didn't have the playoff implications of last Sunday's matchup, but it is considered a turning point for the team. The Bucs had started out 0-5 in Dungy's first season at the helm, but finished up with six wins in their last 11 games, with the Charger win considered its most impressive. The next season, Tampa Bay went 10-6 and ended the team's 15-year playoff drought.

Tampa Bay has one game remaining against the West, a road tilt at Oakland on December 19. The Bucs last meeting with Oakland was a win, of course, a 20-17 overtime victory in Tampa on November 10 one week before the aforementioned San Diego trip.

Now that Seattle has been added to that list of vanquished AFC West teams, Dungy, with tongue in cheek, has a thought for the realignment move in the NFL: "Maybe they should move us out there."

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