Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Series History: Bucs-Browns

The Buccaneers have won three straight in their series with Cleveland, dating back to the 2002 Super Bowl season, but the Browns still hold the all-time edge, 5-3

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Browns won the first five games of this head-to-head battle, but Tampa Bay has countered with the last three decisions
  • FB Mike Alstott had a memorable day to help the Bucs get their first win in the series in 2002
  • Several previous Bucs-Browns games have featured serious offensive fireworks

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost one of their best head-to-head streaks against any team last Sunday when they fell to Minnesota in overtime, ending a six-game string of victories against the Vikings that dated back to 2001. Maybe the Buccaneers can extend their current run against Cleveland to take its place.

The Bucs have won three straight against Cleveland, and while that streak has been tested less frequently than Tampa Bay-Minnesota, it started at nearly the same time, in 2002. A Week Six downing of the Browns in Tampa was the capper on a five-game winning streak that got the Buccaneers' Super Bowl-winning campaign on track.

Of course, Cleveland had started the series by winning the first five over a period of two decades, so the Browns still lead the overall head-to-head history, 5-3. Thanks to the departure of the team that is now known as the Baltimore Ravens, the Browns have an unusual split history with a gap of dormancy from 1996-98, and it's safe to say that the Buccaneers have enjoyed the second iteration of the franchise much more.

The Buccaneers played the Browns in Tampa Bay's inaugural season of 1976; the Bucs played every AFC team that year. Though the franchise knew it was going to be switched to the NFC the following season, it spent one year in the other conference and played each of the other 13 teams once, with a 14th contest against expansion sister Seattle.

By the time Cleveland came to town just before Thanksgiving, the Buccaneers were already 0-10 and were trying to compete with an already-shallow roster absolutely depleted by injuries. Given that, it could have been much worse. The game was actually tied, 7-7, at halftime after QB Steve Spurrier hit RB Essex Johnson with a 12-yard touchdown pass, and the home team had a 161-95 total yardage edge at that point. The second half was all Cleveland, however. Brian Sipe gave the Browns the lead in the third quarter with a 15-yard TD pass to future Hall-of-Famer Paul Warfield, and the Bucs hopes of a comeback died early in the fourth period when Cleveland DE Joe Jones recovered a Spurrier fumble in the end zone for a 21-7 lead.

The two teams met again in 1980 and once again it was a tight affair most of the way, although this time there were a lot more offensive fireworks. Each team cracked 400 yards, in fact, and Sipe became the first opposing quarterback to post a 300-yard game against Tampa Bay. The Browns needed all of Sipe's 318 yards and three touchdowns because his Buccaneer counterpart, Doug Williams, threw a whopping 56 passes and completed 30 of them, turning that into 343 yards and three scores. All of those numbers were Buccaneer single-game passing records at the time.

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The most recent Bucs-Browns matchup was the 2010 season opener, won by the Buccaneers, 17-14

Tampa Bay made the playoffs three times from 1979-82, but things took a turn for the worse for the franchise in 1983 and took about 14 years to correct themselves. And so it was that the Bucs were 1-9 when they made their first-ever trip to Cleveland in November of that '83 season, to take on a 5-5 Browns squad. At least the Bucs were coming off their one win, a 17-12 upset of the Vikings, but the good feelings didn't last long as the Browns welcomed the Bucs to the, uh, beloved Cleveland Municipal Stadium with a 20-0 blanking. One-yard touchdown runs by Mike Pruitt in both the first and fourth quarters were about all the home team needed.

The 1989 Buccaneers went 5-11 but they did engage in a number of entertaining shootouts: 42-35 and 32-21 wins over Chicago; a 32-28 loss to Washington; a 56-23 humbling at the hands of Cincinnati. Bucs-Browns was more of the same, a 42-31 Cleveland win in Tampa that the Bucs lost despite a 398-271 edge in total yardage. Vinny Testaverde threw for 370 yards to Bernie Kosar's 164, but it was the TD-INT ratio that made the difference. Kosar's was 3-0 while Testaverde's was 2-4. The worst part was that two of those four picks were taken to the house in the second quarter, turning a tight 14-7 game into a 28-7 Browns lead. The loss spoiled one of James Wilder's last great outings, as he caught eight passes for 107 yards and two scores.

The Browns finished their five-game run in their last season before the original team left for Baltimore, taking a 22-6 decision in Cleveland in 1995. That game was mostly notable for the fact that Testaverde threw two touchdown passes for the Browns, the team with which he signed as a free agent in 1993 after six years in Tampa. Both scores were caught by wide receiver Keenan McCardell, who would later join the Buccaneers in 2002 and help the team to a Super Bowl title.

In fact, McCardell was on the other sideline the next time these two teams met, in the aforementioned 2002 contest. He had just one catch for seven yards in that game but the Bucs didn't need any aerial heroics because a stifling defense and Mike Alstott's power running were more than enough. As happened occasionally during Alstott's stellar career, he had been the focus of much attention the previous few weeks for what appeared to be a diminishing role in the offense. The Cleveland game took care of that idea as he ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries and provided one of his best career highlight-reel moments with a 19-yard run in which he seemingly bounced off every player on the Browns' defense.

The new scheduling format that began in 2002 and featured rotating matchups between divisions sent the Buccaneers to Cleveland four years later. This time the Bucs visited Cleveland Browns Stadium (now known as FirstEnergy Stadium) and enjoyed the building and the outcome much more than in 1983 or 1995. Neither team enjoyed the '06 season as a whole all that much, with both finishing at 4-12, but Tampa Bay's defense created echoes of its recent past with four interceptions off QB Derek Anderson. One of those was returned 21 yards for a score by LB Derrick Brooks, who helped hold the home team to 215 yards.

And finally, the most recent meeting between the Bucs and the Browns was played at Raymond James Stadium and was the opener for the 2010 campaign. Playing in his first regular-season game, WR Mike Williams made an acrobatic touchdown catch just before halftime to start a rally after Cleveland went up 14-3. That score came one play after CB Ronde Barber intercepted old Panther pal Jake Delhomme and returned it 64 yards to the Browns' three. It was still 14-10 midway through the fourth quarter until QB Josh Freeman hit WR Micheal Spurlock with a 33-yard TD pass on third-and-10.

Bucs-Browns Game-by-Game Record:

1976

L, 24-7

Tampa

1980

L, 34-27

Tampa

1983

L, 20-0

Cleveland

1989

L, 42-31

Tampa

1995

L, 22-6

Cleveland

2002

W, 17-3

Tampa

2006

W, 22-7

Cleveland

2010

W, 17-14

Tampa
Series Notes:

  • Overall Season Series: Browns lead, 5-3
  • Bucs' Home Record: 2-3
  • Bucs' Road Record: 0-3
  • Current Streak: Win 3 (2002-12)
  • Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 3 (2002-12)
  • Browns' Longest Winning Streak: 5 (1976-95)
  • Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 127, Browns 166
  • Most Points in a Game for Tampa Bay: Brown 42, Buccaneers 31 (1989)
  • Most Points in a Game for Cleveland: Brown 42, Buccaneers 31 (1989)
  • Most Points, combined: 73…Brown 42, Buccaneers 31 (1989)
  • Fewest Points in a Game for Tampa Bay: Browns 20, Buccaneers 0 (1983)
  • Fewest Points in a Game for Cleveland: Buccaneers 17, Browns 3 (2002)
  • Fewest Points in a Game, combined: 20…twice (see above two games)
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