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The Bucs dominated a preseason game; how much does it matter?

In 2002, Washington, led by Steve Spurrier, defeated its first four preseason opponents, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jon Gruden's crew, however, went on to win the Super Bowl. [Associated Press]

In 2002, Washington, led by Steve Spurrier, defeated its first four preseason opponents, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jon Gruden's crew, however, went on to win the Super Bowl. [Associated Press]

The defensive line chased Robert Griffin III. Roberto Aguayo drilled every kick through the uprights. Jameis Winston dropped dimes to Mike Evans.

The Bucs looked impressive Friday in their 30-13 rout of the Cleveland Browns, the team Football Outsiders projects to have the worst offense and defense. Still, the Bucs delivered in the third game of the preseason, the one everyone likes to call a dress rehearsal.

You know how the third game of the preseason works — starters usually play the entire first half and sometimes into the third quarter. The thinking goes that it's the most representative slice of August football.

But how much does it mean really?

In search of an answer to that question, I looked at every Bucs' "dress rehearsal" since 2000. I was most interested in the team's performance in the first half.

What I found is that the third preseason game gives us something to talk about, but beyond that, there's not much to glean from it.

The Bucs had a halftime lead in seven of those contests. In four cases, they went on to have losing seasons. In those seasons, they won an average of four games.

The Bucs trailed seven times as well. In four cases, they went on to have winning seasons. In those seasons, they won 10.5 games.

Season Team Regular season Halftime score Led/trailed Final score W/L Opponent Regular season
2016 Bucs TBD 27-10 led 30-13 W Browns TBD
2015 Bucs 6-10 7-17 trailed 7-31 L Browns 3-13
2014 Bucs 2-14 24-0 led 27-14 W Bills 9-7
2013 Bucs 4-12 10-13 trailed 17-16 W Dolphins 8-8
2012 Bucs 7-9 20-7 led 30-28 W Patriots 12-4
2011 Bucs 4-12 10-10 tied 17-13 W Dolphins 6-10
2010 Bucs 10-6 10-6 led 13-19 L Jaguars 8-8
2009 Bucs 3-13 6-3 led 6-10 L Dolphins 7-9
2008 Bucs 9-7 7-10 trailed 17-23 L Jaguars 5-11
2007 Bucs 9-7 17-14 led 31-28 W Dolphins 1-15
2006 Bucs 4-12 11-0 led 18-29 L Jaguars 8-8
2005 Bucs 11-5 3-7 trailed 14-17 L Dolphins 9-7
2004 Bucs 5-11 3-3 tied 17-10 W Dolphins 4-12
2003 Bucs 7-9 3-6 trailed 10-6 W Jaguars 5-11
2002 Bucs 12-4 7-16 trailed 10-40 L Redskins 7-9
2001 Bucs 9-7 7-3 led 20-3 W Patriots 11-5
2000 Bucs 10-6 10-14 trailed 31-21 W Patriots 5-11

Remember when the Bucs took a 24-0 lead into halftime against the Bills in 2014? The defense dominated, forcing three turnovers and allowing 82 yards. When the games started counting, the line struggled to get after the quarterback and the secondary couldn't stop the pass. The team finished 2-14.

What about 2002, when Brad Johnson threw interceptions in the first two offensive series against Washington?

"The Bucs were just that pitiful," the Times said of the 40-10 loss. "They threw interceptions, fumbled, gave up sacks, piled up penalties. Defensively, they didn't do a good job stopping the run or the pass."

Steve Spurrier and Washington went on to finish 7-9. The Bucs, led by one of the greatest defenses of all time, finished 12-4 and won the Super Bowl.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

The Bucs dominated a preseason game; how much does it matter? 08/30/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 30, 2016 3:41pm]
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