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Ranking the Bucs’ 5 playoff victories in Tampa

Home postseason triumph has remained a fleeting sensation for the local franchise.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady celebrates with his family as he clutches the Lombardi Trophy after his team's 31-9 rout of the Chiefs in Super Bowl 55 at Raymond James Stadium last February.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady celebrates with his family as he clutches the Lombardi Trophy after his team's 31-9 rout of the Chiefs in Super Bowl 55 at Raymond James Stadium last February. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jan. 11

In these parts, NFL home playoff games remain rare, surfacing roughly as often as hard freezes or Glazer news conferences. Each is to be celebrated and savored, lest it be the last one of an era — or longer.

Counting Super Bowl 55 (technically a neutral-site game, but a home game for our purposes), the Bucs have hosted eight playoff contests in their 46-year existence, winning only five. Five.

That’s one fewer than the number of Rolling Stones concerts in Tampa (six) during that same span. Seems satisfaction is fleeting for this fan base, preparing for its first true home playoff game with a capacity crowd in 14 years.

To stir your memory and stoke you for Sunday (when the Bucs host the Eagles), we’ve ranked all five Bucs home postseason wins:

5. Bucs 20, Lions 10 (Dec. 28, 1997)

NFC wild-card game

Houlihan’s Stadium

Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer (12) leaps for a first down in the first quarter against the Lions during their NFC wildcard game on Dec. 28, 1997, in Tampa. The 20-10 victory was Tampa Bay's first postseason triumph in 18 years.
Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer (12) leaps for a first down in the first quarter against the Lions during their NFC wildcard game on Dec. 28, 1997, in Tampa. The 20-10 victory was Tampa Bay's first postseason triumph in 18 years. [ Associated Press (1997) ]

A 15-year postseason drought formally ended on this chilly Sunday afternoon at the old sombrero (then known as Houlihan’s Stadium). Defense, the reason for Tampa Bay’s renaissance, owned the day as coordinator Monte Kiffin’s unit held Barry Sanders to 65 yards on 18 carries, snapping his streak of 14 consecutive 100-yard games.

The Bucs built a 20-0 lead before the Lions staged a mild rally, but Trent Dilfer (13-of-26, 181 yards) sealed things by connecting with Robb Thomas for 50 yards on a third-down crossing route late in the fourth. The Lions’ last-gasp drive stalled at midfield, giving the Bucs their first playoff win in 18 years.

4. Bucs 31, 49ers 6 (Jan. 12, 2003)

NFC division playoff

Raymond James Stadium

Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp celebrates a play against the 49ers in the second quarter of the NFC divisional playoff on Jan. 12, 2003, in Tampa. The Bucs' top-ranked defense held San Francisco without a touchdown for the first time in 50 contests in a 31-6 rout.
Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp celebrates a play against the 49ers in the second quarter of the NFC divisional playoff on Jan. 12, 2003, in Tampa. The Bucs' top-ranked defense held San Francisco without a touchdown for the first time in 50 contests in a 31-6 rout. [ Associated Press (2003) ]

The most convincing win in the Bucs’ brief postseason history ushered in a dominant three-game playoff run culminating in the franchise’s first Super Bowl triumph. The defense intercepted Jeff Garcia three times (including one by 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks) and forced five turnovers before a raucous Raymond James Stadium crowd of 65,599.

Terrell Owens, the league’s diva receiver du jour at the time, had only four catches as his team was held without a touchdown for the first time in 50 contests (including playoff games).

3. Bucs 24, Eagles 17 (Dec. 29, 1979)

NFC division playoff

Tampa Stadium

Bucs all-pro defensive end Lee Roy Selmon pressures Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski during an NFC division playoff game on Dec. 29, 1979. The Bucs won the first postseason contest in Tampa Bay history, 24-17.
Bucs all-pro defensive end Lee Roy Selmon pressures Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski during an NFC division playoff game on Dec. 29, 1979. The Bucs won the first postseason contest in Tampa Bay history, 24-17. [ Times (1979) ]
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A watershed moment in bay area sports. Barely 24 months after winning the franchise’s first game (and snapping a nationally panned 26-game losing streak), the Bucs made their postseason debut on a 60-degree Saturday afternoon.

Brandishing their ball-control brute force in front of 71,402 Tampa Stadium fans, the Bucs got 142 rushing yards from Ricky Bell while stifling Eagles all-pro tailback Wilbert Montgomery (13 carries, 35 yards). Tampa Bay set the tone immediately, opening the game with an 18-play, 80-yard drive that consumed more than nine minutes.

2. Bucs 14, Washington 13 (Jan. 5, 2000)

NFC division playoff

Raymond James Stadium

Bucs strong safety John Lynch altered the momentum of this 1999 NFC division playoff game against Washington with an interception inside his own 30 late in the third period. Tampa Bay rallied from a 13-0 deficit for a 14-13 triumph at Raymond James Stadium.
Bucs strong safety John Lynch altered the momentum of this 1999 NFC division playoff game against Washington with an interception inside his own 30 late in the third period. Tampa Bay rallied from a 13-0 deficit for a 14-13 triumph at Raymond James Stadium. [ Times (2000) ]

In terms of ebb, flow and excitement, this remains the most thrilling Bucs home playoff victory. Washington had a 13-0 lead, highlighted by Brian Mitchell’s 100-yard kick return to start the second half, when momentum made a seismic shift. John Lynch’s interception at his own 27 late in the third set up the Bucs’ first touchdown drive. The second also was created by the defense, when Steve White’s strip-sack of Brad Johnson was recovered by Warren Sapp inside the Washington 35.

Ten plays later, Bucs rookie Shaun King did a play-action bootleg to his right, where he nearly was taken down by Ndukwe Kalua before flinging a jump pass to tight end John Davis for a 1-yard TD with 7:29 to play. King, a Gibbs High alumnus, became the first rookie quarterback to win a playoff game in 23 seasons

“It certainly wasn’t artistic, it wasn’t pretty, but it was certainly one of the best wins I’ve been involved with,” Bucs coach Tony Dungy said.

1. Bucs 31, Chiefs 9 (Feb. 7, 2021)

Super Bowl 55

Raymond James Stadium

Bucs outside linebackers Jason Pierre-Paul (90) and Shaquil Barrett (58) pressure Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during Super Bowl 55 last February at Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs won, 31-9, for their second world title.
Bucs outside linebackers Jason Pierre-Paul (90) and Shaquil Barrett (58) pressure Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during Super Bowl 55 last February at Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs won, 31-9, for their second world title. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

A neutral-site contest in name only. As the first team in NFL history to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium, the Bucs spent the two-week buildup to this rematch sleeping in their own beds and practicing at their own facility. Due to COVID-19 precautions, the Chiefs were afforded the same privileges, arriving in Tampa the day before the game.

Still, Patrick Mahomes never looked so jet-lagged, thanks to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ smorgasbord of zone coverages and third-down disguises. Forced to flee the pocket all night, the Chiefs quarterback was sacked three times and posted the worst passer rating of his career to date (52.3) as the Bucs avenged a regular-season home defeat with a 31-9 romp.

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