On the opening Sunday of the 2015 NFL season, the Tennessee Titans will visit Tampa for a regular-season game for just the fourth time in franchise history, and it will be just the third time that trip originated in Nashville.
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The Buccaneers and Titans do not have much history with each other, though it's a long history if measured in time elapsed. In fact, in terms of regular-season games only, no other team goes farther back on the Bucs' ledger.
In 1976, the expansion Buccaneers played six (six!) preseason games and then opened their inaugural season with a trip to Houston to take on the team then known as the Oilers. The game was played in the so-called "Eighth Wonder of the World," but it certainly wasn't the most wonderful football action ever witnessed in the Astrodome. The Buccaneers, cobbled together from a limp veteran allocation draft, one college draft and a lot of waiver-wire work, gained just 108 yards and converted one of 18 third down tries. Houston RB Ronnie Coleman plowed for 142 of the Oilers' 190 rushing yards, but the home team did not run up the score. Dan Pastorini's 13-yard touchdown pass to RB Fred Willis in the second quarter was all the Oilers would need in a 20-0 decision.
In all, the Buccaneers and Oilers/Titans have played 10 times, with Houston/Tennessee winning eight of those matches. The Bucs have been on the road for much of the series, visiting those two locations a total of seven times, all losses. Tampa Bay is 2-1 against the Titans in games played in Tampa.
The Buccaneers survived those early days to emerge as a playoff team in just their fourth year of existence. Tampa Bay went to the postseason in 1979, 1981 and 1982, which worked out well for the Oilers since they only played the Bucs in 1980 and 1983. In the 1980 contest, also in the Astrodome, the Buccaneers seemingly played it much closer, losing 24-17, but the stat pages were once again lopsided in Houston's favor. The Oilers racked up 467 yards to the Bucs' 193, this time riding future Hall of Famer Earl Campbell to 203 yards on 33 carries. Campbell, notably, had been the first pick in the draft in 1978 after the Bucs traded that pick to Houston in exchange for, among other things, tight end Jimmie Giles and the 17th pick. The Bucs used that pick on QB Doug Williams, but in this game Williams was outdueled by veteran Kenny Stabler and his 242 yards on 19 of 26 passing.
Tampa Bay got into the win column in the series in 1983, when the Oilers paid their first visit to Tampa. It was a matchup of 1-11 teams, dubbed the "Repus Bowl," but the Buccaneers took it 33-24 when they found a rhythm on offense, scoring five touchdowns in one game for the first time in franchise history. Three interceptions – two by Beasley Reece and one by Booker Reese – shortened the field for the offense, allowing Jack Thompson to throw four touchdown passes, two to WR Kevin House.
It would be six years before the Bucs and Oilers met again, as Tampa Bay went back to Houston in December following three straight games decided by a single point (two in the Bucs' favor). This one was close, too, as Houston prevailed 20-17, although the Bucs had to rally in the second half after falling behind 20-3. Tampa Bay QB Vinny Testaverde had a big day, completing 31 of 48 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns, hitting Pro Bowl-bound WR Mark Carrier 10 times for 135 yards. Down three, the Bucs got into Houston territory in the game's final two minutes on a 27-yard completion to RB James Wilder, but Wilder fumbled at the end of the play and the Oilers recovered at their own 18.
This was the beginning of a five-game winning streak in the series for the Oilers, who would become the Titans about halfway through the run. The most competitive matchup in that stretch came in 2001, when the Bucs went to Nashville for the first time. Tampa Bay would make the playoffs that year with a 9-7 record, but it had to make a late-season run after a series of close losses in September and October. This was one of the closest, as Tennessee spoiled a thrilling fourth-quarter Bucs rally with a 49-yard field goal by Joe Nedney two minutes into overtime. Down 14 points after an Eddie George touchdown run midway through the fourth period, the Bucs got a six-year touchdown catch by WR Jacquez Green and, with 58 seconds left, a five-yard scoring grab by TE Dave Moore after a Tennessee interception was wiped out by a penalty.
The Bucs' second victory in the series came 24 years after the first, a 13-10 decision in Tampa in the sixth week of the 2007 campaign. This time it was Tampa Bay winning on a late field goal, as Matt Bryant hit a 43-yarder with 11 seconds left in regulation. WR Ike Hilliard had set up the score with a 28-yard catch on third-and-10 with a minute left. Tennessee tied the game with 1:17 to play on LenDale White's two-yard touchdown run after a Ronde Barber interception in the end zone was overturned on a challenge.
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The most recent meeting between the Bucs and Titans was in Nashville in 2011. Tennessee prevailed, 23-17, on a rainy day on the strength of five takeaways, including four fumble recoveries. Tampa Bay's last play from scrimmage wasn't a turnover, but it was a game-clincher when QB Josh Freeman bobbled the snap and was then unable to pick it up and get the one yard the team needed on fourth-and-one from Tennessee's 25. The Titans scored the game's first touchdown on an 84-yard kickoff return that started with usual return man Marc Mariani handing it off to Tommie Campbell on a reverse.
Bucs-Titans* Game-by-Game Record:
1976: L, 20-0 – Houston
1980: L, 20-14 – Houston
1983: W, 33-24 – Tampa
1989: L, 20-17 – Houston
1995: L, 19-7 – Houston
1998: L, 31-22 – Tampa
2001: L, 31-18 – Nashville
2003: L, 33-13 – Nashville
2007: W, 13-10 – Nashville
2011: L, 13-10 – Tampa* *
* Franchise was located in Houston prior to 1997 and known as the Oilers.
- Overall Season Series: Titans lead, 8-2
- Bucs' Home Record: 2-1
- Bucs' Road Record: 0-7
- Current Streak: Lose 1 (2011)
- Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 1 (Twice)
- Titans' Longest Winning Streak: 5 (1989-2003)
- Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 164, Packers 231
- Most Points in a Game, Buccaneers: 33, Buccaneers 33-24 (1983)
- Most Points in a Game, Titans: 33, Titans 33-13 (2003)
- Most Points, both teams: 59, Titans 31-28 (2001)
- Fewest Points in a Game, Buccaneers: 0, Titans 20-0 (1976)
- Fewest Points in a Game, Titans: 10, Buccaneers 13-10 (2007)
- Fewest Points in a Game, both teams: 20, Titans 20-0 (1976)