Warren Sapp could be looking down at Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon by the end of Sunday's game
No matter how hazy things might be on Saturday, you're likely to remember by Sunday, the second day of the year 2000, that the Buccaneers have the NFC Central Division title on the line when they play in Chicago. Though that goal clearly takes precedence, hear are some other milestones that could be accomplished in the season finale.
DT Warren Sapp: Perhaps most notable of the Bucs' individual pursuits on Sunday is Sapp's chase of Tampa Bay's single-season sack record. Set at 13 by eventual Hall of Fame DE Lee Roy Selmon, that mark is one of the longest-standing record in team annals. Even Selmon, who ended up far-and-away the Bucs' career sack leader with 78.5, never again reached that mark, though he did record 11 sacks on three other occasions. Sapp has hit double-digits for the second time in three years, surpassing his 10.5 last year with 12.5 so far in 1999. Thus, he needs just one more sack to snare the mark after failing to record a QB takedown last Sunday for just the second time in the last seven games. Sapp, in fact, has tallied at least one sack in nine of the 14 games in which he has played, including one on October 24 when the Bucs last faced the Bears. Chicago, it should be noted, has been the league's fifth-best team at keeping its quarterback off the ground.
Defensive Line: In a mark that could fall in concert with Sapp's efforts above, the Buccaneers are just three sacks shy of the team's single-season record, set at 44 by Sapp-and-crew in 1997. That chase is a total team effort, of course, but the Bucs' defensive linemen have accounted for all but 6.5 of the team's 41 sacks. Tampa Bay had picked up the pace during the playoff hunt, recording 11 sacks in a three-game stretch from November 28 to December 12, but the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers have held the Bucs to just two sacks in the last two games.
K Martin Gramatica: Gramatica's three-for-three field goal heroics against Green Bay have put him in position to break a variety of Buccaneer single-season records. In fact, he could reach several of them with only one kick on Sunday. Gramatica has 25 field goals and 98 points so far in his rookie campaign; the Bucs' single season records are 25 field goals, by Michael Husted in 1996, and 99 points by Donald Igwebuike in 1989. In addition, Gramatica currently has a handle on the club's single-season field goal percentage mark, owning an 86.2% mark on 25-of-29 kicking. Steve Christie's mark of 85.2% (23 of 27 in 1990) is thus obviously in sight, but a single miss would probably change that.
Buccaneer Defense: Though their overall NFL ranking has held steady at number two from last year's standing, the Bucs' 1999 defensive performance in many ways is the most dominating in team history. By holding the Bears to a touchdown or less, Tampa Bay could give up fewer points than in any previous 16-game season (the fabled 1979 defense surrendered 237 points). That is a tall order, but the mark for fewest first downs allowed in a season seems almost certain to fall, as the Bucs have given up just 215 this year and the record is 241, set in the 14-game season of 1977. The lowest total ever allowed in a 16-game season by Tampa Bay is 244, set last year. The Buccaneer defense of 1988 gave up just 1,551rushing yards to set a team record, but this year's group has allowed just 1,336, meaning Chicago would have to rush for 216 yards to keep the 1999 team from taking possession of that record as well. The Bucs are also almost certain to allow their lowest opponent completions percentage ever, as the current mark of 53.1% is well below the team standard of 55.8% set in 1990.
CB Donnie Abraham: It would take a Herculean (and Buccaneer single-game record) effort of three interceptions for Abraham to tie the Bucs' season mark of nine interceptions. Cedric Brown established that standard in 1981 and no other Buc has gotten closer than seven since. Abraham has six and isn't likely to catch Brown, but he is still very much in contention for the NFL lead in that category. Philadelphia's Troy Vincent, Miami's Sam Madison and Baltimore's Rod Woodson share the league lead with seven.
P Mark Royals: In the first year of his second stint with the Buccaneers, Royals has an opportunity to claim a few punting records that have hardly been in the books long enough to get comfortable. Tommy Barnhardt established new team single-season marks for gross punting average (43.1) and net punting average (37.8) in 1996, his first year with the team. Royals has followed suit with a 43.1-yard gross and a 37.6-yard net through 15 games. Royals' current mark is actually percentage points ahead of Barnhardt's 1996 mark, but Royals final test of 1999 will likely be under inhospitable weather conditions in Chicago. Royals could also break Dan Stryzinski's team record of 24 inside-the-20 punts by getting three more against the Bears to add to his current total of 22.
FB Mike Alstott: The Bucs are likely to concentrate on the running game in frigid Soldier Field, and Chicago-area native Alstott will be happy to oblige. If he can get enough action, Alstott may become the sixth player in team history to record a 1,000-yard season. A remarkable achievement for a player listed as a fullback, that plateau is 115 yards away for Alstott, who has 885 yards through 15 games. That's a total that Alstott has surpassed on two other occasions this year, with 131 yards against Denver and 117 at New Orleans. In each case, Alstott was given exactly 25 carries. The bruising runner also needs just one more touchdown to get to 34 on his career and tie former TE Jimmie Giles for second place on the team's all-time TD list.
QB Shaun King: Though he didn't get the call until December, King could break the team's rookie record for touchdown passes. King has six touchdown passes, five in his four starts and another in his NFL debut, a relief appearance at Seattle (11/28). The Bucs' rookie record is seven touchdown passes, set by Doug Williams in 1978. King could also help the Buccaneers offense break the team record for completion percentage, as the current team mark of 59.1 is just below the mark of 59.3 established in 1984.
Okay, maybe you prefer to leave these milestones to the reporters and concentrate on the team's ultimate goal. Well, then, know that not only does a win on Sunday bring a division crown, but it also gives the Bucs 11 regular-season wins, the most in team history.