WR Reidel Anthony needed every ounce of his athleticism to make this important grab against the St. Louis Rams
On September 3, just under 30 minutes into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2000 season opener at Foxboro Stadium, QB Shaun King lined up under center for what everyone assumed would be a 'spike' play.
With just over 30 seconds left in the first half and the Bucs positioned at the New England Patriots' eight-yard line after a 33-yard King pass to WR Jacquez Green, Tampa Bay's offense had hustled up to the ball and seemed prepared to stop the clock and regroup.
Instead, King faked his pass into the ground, straightened up and fired a quick eight-yard scoring strike to WR Reidel Anthony. The Patriots were stunned and the bit of trickery ranked as one of the NFL's most-played highlights of the opening weekend. It also kicked off 17 weeks of exciting Buccaneer moments.
But was it the Bucs' most remarkable single play of the year? Would it stand up against Martin Gramatica's 46-yard game-winning field goal into the teeth of a monsoon in Miami? Was it as surprising as the reverse-option-pitch Warrick Dunn, Mike Alstott and King executed for a crucial two-point conversion in Green Bay in the season finale? As timely as Ronde Barber's interception return for a touchdown against the Jets? As improbable as King's 46-yard touchdown pass in the closing minutes at Washington after Bruce Smith had swatted the ball out of King's hand and to the turf?
And, can any play top the improvised pitch-and-lateral play turned in by Warrick Dunn and Shaun King in crunch time against the St. Louis Rams? Without the quick thinking and quick feet of Dunn and King on that play, the Bucs may not have pulled out their biggest win of the year, the 38-35 victory that propelled them into the playoffs. That was certainly one of the first plays to leap to Head Coach Tony Dungy's mind, when confronted with the question, but not the only one.
"I would guess most people would probably vote for the Shaun King-Warrick Dunn play in the Rams game," said Dungy. "I tend to think of those end-of-the-game type plays. For me, I would say it would either be that play or Damien Robinson's interception in Miami."
Were either of those two moments the most exciting of the season for the Buccaneers? You decide.
Beginning Thursday, Buccaneers.com will run a series of Fan Polls designed to answer the first question above. The first five polls will present 10 memorable plays each from the 2000 season. After fans have had sufficient time to vote in each of those five polls, the top two vote-getters from each 'heat', if you will, will be consolidated into a single final poll. Voting in that poll will determine the Bucs' Play of the Year.
Once that has been determined, we'll talk with the principals involved and break down the number one play once more for posterity, in a story to appear here on Buccaneers.com.