Pictures of some of the Patriots' top players.
The all-time series between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots is like the movie "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice:" plenty of action but little continuity and not much real drama. You usually have to wait a little longer for the sequel, though.
The Bucs and Patriots have only had eight meetings in more than four decades, and when they have gotten together there's usually been a clear victor from the start. New England won the first three games, beginning in Tampa Bay's inaugural 1976 season. Tampa Bay got its two first victories in 1997 and 2000, but the Patriots have since recorded another three-game winning streak since the NFL's realignment in 2002, which led to scheduling based on rotating divisional matchups. Every game in the series has been separated by a gap of at least three seasons.
Five of New England's six victories have been by at least 17 points; we'll get to the one rather unusual exception below. Tampa Bay's two wins were by 20 and five-point margins, the second one actually remaining in doubt until the final seconds. These lopsided results are partly the result of the two teams rarely meeting in seasons where both were contenders. The Buccaneers didn't beat anybody in '76, and only won two games when the Patriots visited in 1985. The two exceptions came in 1997 and 2005, and each team won one of those.
The Buccaneers and Patriots have never played a postseason game against each other. Necessarily, that would have to be in the Super Bowl, and in that regard those two teams were like two ships passing in the night around the turn of the millennium. New England won Super Bowl XXXVI after the 2001 season, but missed the playoffs (barely) in 2002, keeping them out of the path of a Buccaneers team that rampaged to the title. New England then came back to win the next two Super Bowls while the Bucs had a post-championship slide for those two seasons before righting themselves in 2005.
New England has won the last three games in the series by a combined score of 86-10, but only seven players on the Bucs' current roster saw action in any of those games.
The Patriots were the last team the Buccaneers faced during the grind that was that winless 1976 season. By the standards of that campaign, it was one of the Buccaneers' better efforts, a 31-14 loss to a team that went 11-3 in which the Bucs nearly matched the Patriots in yardage (268 to 300) and had the game tied in the third quarter. However, Steve Spurrier's only interception of the day was returned 68 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Sam Hunt in second half, starting a 17-0 New England run.
When the Patriots came back to Tampa in 1985, Leeman Bennett's Buccaneers were trying to halt a seven-game losing streak to begin the season, and they rushed out to a 14-0 first quarter lead on a Steve DeBerg-to-Jimmie Giles touchdown pass and a James Wilder one-yard run. Things went downhill from there, however, as running back Craig James rushed for two touchdowns and also threw one on a halfback pass to fellow running back Tony Collins. DeBerg was intercepted twice and tackled in the end zone for a safety as the Patriots reeled off 32 straight points.
Tampa Bay didn't make its first trip to Foxboro until 1988, and that resulted in the first low-scoring game in the series, thanks mostly to a 30-mph wind blowing in one direction on a cold December afternoon. Neither offense could sustain drives, with the Bucs gaining 262 yards to the Patriots' 223, of which 56 came in overtime. Mark Carrier's 15-yard touchdown catch with two minutes to play tied the game at 7-7 and necessitated that extra period. The Buccaneers won the toss, whereupon Head Coach Ray Perkins made one of the most memorable strategic decisions in franchise history, electing to kick in order to get the strong wind at his team's back. Theoretically, the Patriots would struggle going into the wind, as they had all day, and the Bucs would get the ball back with a chance to win. The Patriots debunked that theory by taking the opening possession down to the Bucs' nine-yard line, even completing a long, 26-yard pass to Irving Fryar in the process. Quarterback Tony Eason didn't get off a particularly good throw but Fryar made an acrobatic catch, injuring himself in the process. Jason Staurovsky won it with a 27-yard field goal as wind-chill temperatures dipped to 25-below.
The next chapter in the series came nine years later, and by that time the Buccaneers had been purchased by Malcolm Glazer and had begun a complete turnaround after a long run of futility. The 1997 Buccaneers won their first five games, lost three, and then won the next two. At that point, the 6-4 Patriots came to town, led by Drew Bledsoe and Curtis Martin, with a defense featuring Ty Law, Willie McGinest and Lawyer Milloy. The Buccaneers thoroughly dominated to improve to 8-3 on their way to their first playoff Berth in 15 years.
Trent Dilfer completed 21 of 29 passes and spread it around, with at least three completions to six different players. Mike Alstott and Errict Rhett rushed for a touchdown apiece and the Bucs outgained New England, 343-168. Derrick Brooks and Donnie Abraham each had interceptions and the New England only avoided the shutout when reserve quarterback Scott Zolak hit tight end Lovett Purnell for a touchdown with eight seconds left. The final score was 27-7 in favor of the home team.
The Buccaneers were still in a stretch of making the playoffs five times in six seasons when they headed back to Foxboro in 2000. This game, in fact, was the team's first since losing in the NFC Championship Game at St. Louis to end the 1999 campaign, and at the time it pitted two teams going in opposite directions, although New England would quickly right itself. The Patriots' 5-11 season in 2000, in fact, marks the last time that franchise finished with a losing record.
It was a competitive game, but the Thunder & Lightning duo of Alstott and Warrick Dunn each rushed for more than 50 yards, with Alstott scoring twice. Shaun King pulled off the fake-spike trick at the end of the first half to throw a touchdown pass to Reidel Anthony. On defense, linebacker Derrick Brooks had a vintage day, racking up 15 tackles, a pass defensed and a forced fumble. Still, after Terry Glenn scored on a 39 yard pass from Bledsoe with three minutes left in the game, the Patriots were within one score. A two-point conversion try failed, meaning the home team was still down by five, 21-16. A sack by McGinest helped New England get the ball back with two minutes still left on the clock, and the Patriots quickly drove to the Bucs' 22. However, needing a touchdown instead of a field goal, New England bled out as Bledsoe threw three straight incompletions under heavy pressure.
The next game in the series, five years later, was also in Foxboro. This time, the Bucs headed to New England at the tail end of a weird, three-road-games-in-14-days road trip. The trip started well, with enormously-important division wins at New Orleans and Carolina, but jet lag caught up with the Buccaneers in the last game of the set. Well, jet lag and Tom Brady, who surgically threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns as New England blanked the Buccaneers, 28-0. Tampa Bay couldn't run the ball at all with rookie sensation Cadillac Williams and their 11 possessions ended in seven punts, one fumble, one end-of-half and two balls given over on downs.
The next time the Bucs and Patriots got together, it was in neither Tampa nor Foxboro. Rather, the teams traveled to London to play in Wembley Stadium, the first Buccaneers regular-season game ever played outside of the United States. Tampa Bay took an 0-6 record into the game and were sent to 0-7 by Brady's 308 passing yards and three touchdowns. Despite interceptions by Aqib Talib and Tanard Jackson, the Bucs could score just once on a 33-yard catch by Antonio Bryant. Starting quarterback Josh Johnson threw that pass, but he was later replaced by first-round rookie Josh Freeman. Freeman would then get his first career start the following game against Green Bay and lead the Bucs to an upset win.
The most recent game in the Bucs-Patriots series was played at Gillette Stadium in 2013, in the third week of the season. The Buccaneers scored first on Rian Lindell's 30-yard field goal but New England took over from there and rolled to a 23-3 win. Brady threw two touchdown passes to Kenbrell Thompkins and overcame an interception by safety Mark Barron.Bucs-Patriots Game-by-Game Record:
|1988||L, 10-7 (OT)||Foxboro|
Series Notes (regular season):
- Overall Season Series: Patriots lead, 6-2
- Bucs' Home Record: 1-3
- Bucs' Road Record: 1-3
- Current Streak: Lose 3 (2005-13)
- Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 2 (1997-2000)
- Patriots' Longest Winning Streak: 3 (1976-88; 2005-13)
- Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 93, Patriots 182
- Most Points in a Game, Buccaneers: Buccaneers 27-7 (1997)
- Most Points in a Game, Patriots: Patriots 35-7 (2009)
- Most Points, both teams: 46, Patriots 32-14 (1985)
- Fewest Points in a Game, Buccaneers: Patriots 28-0 (2005)
- Fewest Points in a Game, Patriots: Buccaneers 27-7 (1997)
- Fewest Points in a Game, both teams: 17, Patriots 10-7 (1988)