PACKERS-BUCS SERIES PUNCTUATED WITH HISTORIC HAPPENINGS
The Packers' rivalry with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, now in its 29th year, has been punctuated by historical happenings from the beginning.
In fact, a surprising number of them occurred during the first decade of the Green and Gold's relationship with their former fellow members of the NFC Central, a series launched in 1977 when the Buccaneers were in the second year of their NFL existence --and one in which the Packers currently lead 29-18-1.
The Bucs, who Sunday visit Lambeau Field for a 49th meeting with the Green and Gold (50 including playoffs), were barely 3 years old when the first major historical accomplishment -- at least from the Packers' perspective -- lit up their mutual horizon.
It was a sunny Sabbath afternoon in Tampa Stadium, Oct. 12, 1980, when Packers quarterback Lynn Dickey exhibited what remains the hottest hand in team annals. The big man from little Osawatomie, Kan., passed for 418 yards -- still a club record -- while posting a then-record 35 completions in 51 attempts.
Regrettably, despite the strong-armed Kansan's heroics, the Packers had to settle for a 14-14 tie with the Bucs -- the only tie, incidentally, to have been played in the series.to date.
Despite Dickey's record-breaking aerial assault, coupled with a monumental bulge in time of possession -- 50 minutes, 12 seconds to the Bucs' 24 minutes, 48 seconds -- the Packers were unable to convert those bountiful yards into a "proportionate" number of points.
And, as might be expected, it proved costly in the end. Twice, left-footed placekicker Tom Birney was in position to send Green Bay home a winner, but he couldn't find the range -- despite being blessed with calm, warm and sunny conditions on that occasion, patently ideal for kicking a football.
Birney initially was wide left on a 24-yard field goal attempt with 1:05 remaining in regulation, pushing the game into overtime.
Then, in the subsequent, sudden death period, he was wide right from 36 yards on the final play of the overtime, closing the books on the 14-14 stalemate.
As the '80s continued to unfold, the Packers proceeded to make different levels of history with the Buccaneers' assistance. For example:
-The 1983 season was marked was marked by two significant happenings -- one of them a 49-point first half eruption by the Packers, which to this day remains the highest point total ever amassed in the first half of any game in NFL annals...registered on the way to a 55-14 triumph on Oct. 2.
-The other saw Green Bay placekicker Jan Stenerud kick the Packers to a 12-9 victory in the first Monday night game ever with the Bucs, accounting for all of his team's points with four field goals and taking temporary possession of the league's career field goal record while surpassing ex-Raider George Blanda. The 55-point effusion, only 2 points shy of the Packers' all-time single game record, was ignited by Phillip Epps, who returned a Buccaneer punt 90 yards for the first touchdown of the afternoon, arriving in the Tampa Bay end zone at 4:01 of the opening period.
And, quickly, it was 14-0...the score with which the first quarter subsequently ended... when running back Jesse Clark pulled in an up-the-middle pass from Dickey and cantered 75 yards for a touchdown with just 8:35 elapsed.
Then, just 8 seconds into the second period, it was 21-0, after running back Harlan Huckleby bolted over right guard from 1 yard out to cap an 8-play, 80-yard drive to launch the quarter's 35-point barrage.
The Packers, in an explosive rhythm, went on to amass 28 additional points before halftime. The Bucs, however, did manage to intervene with a tally of their own, registered by linebacker Hugh Green, who returned a Dickey interception 21 yards for a score.
Dickey promptly initiated the Green Bay "response," hitting tight end Paul Coffman with a 1-yard toss in the right corner of the end zone.
Next, linebacker Mike Douglass separated Buccaneer quarterback Jack Thompson from the football with a lusty hit, then scooped up the fumble and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.
On the Bucs' following possession, linebacker John Anderson waylaid a Thompson pass and returned it 27 yards for Green Bay's sixth touchdown of the afternoon -- with 4:31 still remaining in the first half.
The Packers climaxed their second quarter runaway 161 seconds later when Dickey lofted a third-down bomb to wide receiver James Lofton, streaking up the middle, for a 57-yard touchdown. Stenerud then added his seventh conversion, and the Packers' record 49th point of the first half.
With a 42-point lead at the intermission (49-7), the Green and Gold contented themselves with a pair of Stenerud field goals in the second half while holding the Bucs scoreless until only 2:11 remained in the game, when Tampa Bay registered a consolation TD by way of a 2-yard run by James Owens.
Exactly two monhs later (Dec. 12, 1983), the seldom-erring Stenerud saved the day for the Packers in Tampa Stadium, where touchdowns were virtually impossible to come by on the occasion of the first overtime game in the history of the series.
It was, for example, a tightfisted 3-3 at halftime, Stenerud booting the first of his four field goals at 2:55 of the opening quarter, an opportunity provided by linebacker Randy Scott's interception of a Jack Thompson pass and 12-yard runback to the Tampa Bay 24.
There it remained until just 1:29 was left in the first half, when Buccaneers specialist Bill Capece kicked a 22-yard field goal, sending the teams into the locker room deadlocked at the intermission.
Complicating their task with a pair of turnovers in the third quarter, the Packers finally pulled ahead of the Bucs in the final minute of the period, Stenerud kicking a 32-yard field goal to put the Green and Gold up 6-3 as the fourth quarter began.
It was, however, only a temporary advantage. The Buccaneers went the distance the next time they acquired the football, moving 65 yards in 10 plays for the game's only touchdown, Thompson rolling right and hitting fullback Adger Armstrong with a 4-yard strike for the score. Capece's conversion attempt hit the crossbar and fell to the turf and it remained 9-6, Tampa Bay.
Time was definitely of the essence when the Packers regained the football, with only 2:49 remaining. But Dickey maneuvered them into field goal position, deftly presiding over a 12-play, 75-yard drive to set up a 23-yard Stenerud success with only 28 seconds left in regulation and force overtime at 9-9.
The Green and Gold won the coin toss and, following Huckleby's 25-yard return of the kickoff, Dickey again put together a productive drive. With second-and-goal at the 6, Head Coach Bart Starr called for the field goal unit and Stenerud delivered the game-winning 23-yard bullseye at 4:07 of sudden death.
In addition to being the first overtime struggle between the principals, it had two other historical elements of note.
It was the last field goal Stenerud was to kick in a Green Bay uniform. An appropriate scenario, certainly, for one then en route to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 1991 the Norwegian-born specialist became the first pure placekicker to be enshrined at Canton.
It also was Starr's last victory as Green Bay's head coach. A week later, the Packers lost their season finale to the Bears in Chicago to finish 8-8 and Starr, already a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, resigned the following day.
There is one other game from that first decade of the Packers-Bucs rivalry that will long remain in the memory of the Green Bay faithful -- the so-called "Snow Bowl" of Dec. 1, 1985, in Lambeau Field.
It is not likely to supplant the "Ice Bowl" among the memorable "weather" games in Packers history but it clearly occupies a prominent -- and permanent -- niche in team annals.
The snow began falling during the Sunday morning of the game and the game was long over before the last of it -- the total accumulation was 14 inches -- fell on "Lambeau,' which appeared to be nearly deserted by normal standards.
With driving a car a somewhat risky business because of the early and imposing buildup of the white stuff, "only" 19,856 fans were able to make it to the stadium for the game. And, in the inevitable process, the Packers reluctantly set a club record for "no-shows" with 36,000-plus counted among the missing.
The Green and Gold, meanwhile, reveled in the snow, amassing 512 yards of offense to a mere 65 for the Buccaneers en route to a 21-0 victory. The Bucs obviously were not inclined to compete. As soon as they arrived at the stadium and walked out of the tunnel onto the accumulating white "cover" of Lambeau Field, it clearly was all over.
It then remained for Alphonso Carreker, a journeyman defensive end, to put a surprising period to the "Snow Bowl" story, sacking Tampa Bay quarterback Steve Young, a future Hall of Famer, four times while enjoying the best day of his career.
Continuing an association with the team that is more than 55 years old, Lee Remmel was named the first official Team Historian of the Green Bay Packers in February 2004. The former *Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter and Packers public relations director, Remmel will write regular columns for Packers.com as part of his new assignment.
In addition to those articles, Remmel will answer fan questions in a monthly Q&A column. To submit a question to Remmel, click here. *