The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs will meet in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium on February 7, and that will immediately become the most important game in the all-time series between the two teams. That said, there are already a lot of significant moments in their shared history.
The Buccaneers and Chiefs have met 13 times before in the regular season, with Tampa Bay holding a 7-6 all-time edge. In fact, the Bucs had a five-game winning streak going against the Chiefs, their longest active run against any team at the time, until Kansas City won at Raymond James Stadium in Week 12 of this season. The Buccaneers are 4-3 against the Chiefs in Tampa, though the next meeting will be considered a neutral site game.
Despite that relatively low number of overall meetings, the Chiefs have a prominent spot in Tampa Bay's franchise history. Kansas City was the first AFC team that the Buccaneers ever beat, for example. The Chiefs were also the opponent in the lowest-scoring game in franchise history, one that resulted in Tampa Bay's first playoff berth. The Bucs' largest comeback victory in 45 seasons occurred in Kansas City. The Bucs were even on hand when long-time 49ers great Joe Montana played his very first regular-season game in a Chiefs uniform.
The Bucs and Chiefs first met in Tampa Bay's inaugural 1976 season, when the league's 27th franchise played one season in the AFC West and had a date with every team in the AFC. Tampa Bay lost every game that season, but their 28-19 game against Kansas City represented one of the least lopsided finishes. Two years later, the Buccaneers beat the Chiefs, 30-13, in Kansas City for the franchise's first win over an AFC team.
The Bucs won again in a meeting at the end of the 1979 season (more on that in a moment) but Kansas City then prevailed in four straight in a rarely-contested series from 1981-1993. Tampa Bay's subsequent five-game winning streak started in 1999 and stretched into 2016. Here are three particularly memorable games from the all-time Bucs-Chiefs series:
Dec. 16, 1979: Tampa Bay 3, Kansas City 0, Tampa Stadium
Buccaneers fans of a certain age have vivid visual memories of this game, mostly the sight of a torrential downpour creating miniature waterfalls down the concrete steps of Tampa Stadium. More importantly, that rain turned the field into a quagmire and made it hard for both teams, particularly the visiting Chiefs, to mount any kind of offense. Neither team had any luck throwing the ball, or even really tried to do so, with just 13 pass attempts on each side. However, the conditions actually played into the Buccaneers' hands thanks to two strengths that had gotten them to the verge of a division title in just their fourth year of existence: defense and running back Ricky Bell.
Quarterbacks Doug Williams of the Buccaneers and Steve Fuller of the Chiefs combined to complete 12 passes for 97 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. But the Bucs ran when the visitors couldn't, handing it off to Bell 39 times for 137 of their 224 ground yards. Meanwhile, a defense that would end up as the league's top-rated unit held Kansas City to 80 net yards of offense, still the lowest total a Buccaneer team has ever relinquished. Even with all that, it was still a scoreless tie in the fourth quarter. One of Williams' five completions on the day was a seven-yarder to Jimmie Giles to convert a third down and make it first-and-goal at the nine. The Bucs couldn't punch it in from there but kicker Neil O'Donoghue was able to deliver on what was probably the most nerve-wracking 19-yard field goal in team history. The Bucs' defense forced a punt and Bell was able to run the last eight minutes off the clock in a single drive. Tampa Bay ended up with the NFC Central title on a tiebreaker over the Chicago Bears.
Sept. 5, 1993: Kansas City 27, Tampa Bay 3, Tampa Stadium
Kansas City came back to Tampa for the first time since that rainy game in 1979 for the season opener in 1993. The Chiefs were led by Marty Schottenheimer and the Bucs by Sam Wyche in his second year as the head coach, but the focus of the game was on a certain future Hall-of-Famer adding a coda to the end of his storied run in San Francisco.
Schottenheimer's squad had been to the playoffs three years in a row and would go back in 1993 with an 11-5 record, making it all the way to the AFC Championship Game, but the big story at the start of the season was Joe Montana. The Chiefs had been to the conference title game two years earlier with Steve DeBerg under center, and the veteran passer had a good four-year run with the Chiefs but had returned for a second stint with the Buccaneers in 1992. The Chiefs first tried to move on with long-time Seahawk Dave Krieg but in 1993 made a much bolder move by trading with the 49ers for Montana and running back Marcus Allen. Former Buccaneer Steve Young had established himself as the new starter (and, like Montana, a future Hall of Famer) in San Francisco, so Montana came to the Chiefs for the final two seasons of his career. His very first regular-season game in a non-49ers uniform? In Tampa in Week One.
Montana was good during those two seasons in KC, if not quite the same superstar from the '80s. He was certainly good in his Chiefs debut, completing 14 of 21 passes for 246 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions at Tampa Stadium. He got help from Allen, who ran for 79 yards and caught a 12-yard touchdown pass. DeBerg started for the Buccaneers but was later relieved by Craig Erickson in a 27-3 loss.
Nov. 2, 2008: Tampa Bay 30, Kansas City 27 (OT)
In 2008, the Bucs went to Kansas City for the first time in more than two decades and a wild game broke out. This was a bit of a surprise for the visitors, as Tampa Bay was 5-3 at the time and the Chiefs had yet to win a game on their way to a 2-14 finish.
But this one was all KC for the game's first 28 minutes. Helped by an Earnest Graham fumble on the Buccaneers' first play from scrimmage, the Chiefs rushed out to a quick 14-0 lead. Kansas City quarterback Tyler Thigpen, who had already thrown a touchdown pass in the first quarter, ran deep down the field on a direct snap/reverse trick play and caught a 37-yard scoring pass from wide receiver Mark Bradley. It was 24-3 before the Bucs could blink.
Running back Clifton Smith, an undrafted rookie who would go on to make the Pro Bowl as a return man, got the Bucs' backs off the wall with two minutes left in the half when he ran future-Buccaneer Connor Barth's kickoff back 97 yards for a touchdown. The Bucs forced a quick punt and tacked on three more points before halftime to make it a more digestible 24-13 score. In the second half, the Buccaneers used an Antonio Bryant TD grab and a trick play of their own – a halfback option pass by Graham to tight end Alex Smith – to force overtime. Michael Clayton's 29-yard catch on the first play of sudden death kick-started a drive that ended in Matt Bryant's 34-yard game-winning field goal.
The Buccaneers had rallied from a 21-point deficit to win, 30-27, creating what remains the largest comeback victory in franchise history. The team had two comeback wins from 17 points down this very season, but that '08 game at Arrowhead Stadium remains the standard.