Date: Jan. 26, 2003. Site: Qualcomm Stadium
We have a winner. The voters picked Derrick Brooks' 44-yard interception return in the Buccaneers' Super Bowl XXXVII victory against the Raiders as the most memorable play in Bucs history, and I respectfully question their selection.
Barber's play against the Philadelphia Eagles came late in the fourth quarter with the Eagles driving. He returned the ball 92 yards for a score, sealing a 27-10 victory that sent the Bucs to their only Super Bowl.
His play came in the last game ever at Veterans Stadium. That place was known for raucous crowds. But Barber silenced the stadium in the final minutes.
The Bucs endured more than their share of losing in their first two decades. But Barber's interception and return seemed to make all that go away. If you're a true Tampa Bay fan, you remember exactly where you were the moment Barber's play took place.
That's the mark of the most memorable play in franchise history.
Gerald McCoy, defensive tackle
What he did in 2013: McCoy’s fourth season was the best of his career. He led the team with 9.5 sacks and had 50 tackles while earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors.
Why he’s No. 1 in 2014: McCoy was Tampa Bay’s best player last year and he should only get better in coach Lovie Smith’s defensive scheme. Former coach Greg Schiano often had his defensive linemen running stunts. Several defensive linemen have implied that tactic limited production. In Smith’s defense, the linemen will be allowed to power rush. That should play to McCoy’s strengths. Keep in mind, this is basically the same style of defense the Bucs played back in their glory days. Warren Sapp made the Hall of Fame playing in that system. The Bucs believe McCoy can be just as good.
McCoy and David are going to be good for years to come and they form a strong foundation. But the Bucs will need some complementary players to come through for this defense to be really good. Defensive end Michael Johnson was brought in as a free agent because the Bucs believe he can bring pressure from the outside. If he does, that’s only going to help McCoy and Clinton McDonald in the middle.
A strong pass rush will only help a secondary that has good potential, but hasn’t hit it yet. Alterraun Verner was brought in to be the No. 1 cornerback, but the Bucs need Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins to step up as the other cornerback and nickelback. Safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron have talent and can form a nice tandem.
Middle linebacker Mason Foster is going to get a chance to play a more significant role than he has in the past. Foster will call the defensive plays and be asked to drop into coverage more than he did in his first three seasons.
This defense will be the key factor in determining if Smith’s regime will succeed. The offense can be average, but the defense has to be special.
Lavonte David, linebacker
What he did in 2013: David had an outstanding second season and firmly established himself as one of the league’s best young linebackers. He recorded 145 tackles, seven sacks and five interceptions.
Why he’s No. 2 in 2014: Since the day he was drafted, David has been compared to Tampa Bay great Derrick Brooks. Those comparisons seemed a little unfair at first. But now it’s looking like David really might be the second coming of Brooks. David’s first two seasons were better than Brooks’ first two. The next step for David is to continue to come up with more big plays. That seems like a good possibility. The weakside linebacker is a key spot in coach Lovie Smith’s defense. Brooks thrived at that position and there’s every reason to believe David will, too.
This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in team history. In the next two days we’ll feature: Derrick Brooks’ interception return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVII, and Ronde Barber’s interception return for a touchdown in the 2002 NFC Championship Game. Please vote for your choice as the Buccaneers’ most memorable play.
Score: Buccaneers 27, Eagles 10
Date: Jan. 19, 2003 Site: Veteran’s Stadium
This was the last game ever played by the Eagles at Veteran’s Stadium, and Philadelphia held a four-game winning streak, including a pair of playoff victories, against the Buccaneers. Jurevicius would make only one catch that day, but it ended up being one of the most emotional and memorable in franchise history.
Late in the first quarter, Jurevicius ran a crossing route and got ahead of linebacker Barry Gardner. He caught Brad Johnson’s pass in stride. Jurevicius was never known for his speed and he seemed to be running forever. He was finally stopped just short of the goal line, but he set up a short touchdown run by Mike Alstott.
“When you put ... a 96-yard touchdown drive together against this defense in Veterans Stadium," Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said at the time, "you're kind of like the Lone Ranger, like you're the only person that's done it."
The catch by Jurevicius gave the Bucs an emotional lift and helped them get on a path that led to their first Super Bowl.
@PatYazESPN Joe's play wins for the reasons Ive tweeted. Emotional & memorable in equal measure for what it meant on & off the field.— Lee Bromfield (@LeeBrom) June 9, 2014
Carl Nicks, guard
What he did in 2013: A toe injury and a MRSA infection limited Nicks to only two games.
Why he’s No. 3 in 2014: The Bucs have been very quiet about Nicks’ status. Nicks has said he expects to be healthy by training camp. There are obvious questions if he can be the same player he used to be. But, if he’s anything close to that, Nicks will solidify an offensive line that was overhauled in the offseason. Prior to his health problems, Nicks arguably was the best guard in the NFL. If he can get healthy, he can once again be among the league’s elite.
ProFootballTalk unearthed that interesting nugget after obtaining a portion of the testimony from Graham’s recent franchise-tag grievance hearing.
“We took Mark Barron in the first round simply because of Jimmy Graham,” said Davis, who served as a special assistant to the head coach.
Davis was testifying on behalf of the position that Graham was a wide receiver. But as PFT pointed out, the testimony was actually turned against Davis on cross examination by the NFL, when Davis admitted that the Buccaneers didn’t draft a cornerback to cover Graham and that they would never have drafted a safety to cover Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.
This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in team history. In the next two days we’ll feature: Derrick Brooks’ interception return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVII, and the 71-yard catch by Joe Jurevicius in the 2003 NFC Championship Game. Please vote for your choice as the Buccaneers’ most memorable play.
Score: Buccaneers 27, Eagles 10
Date: Jan. 19, 2003 Site: Veterans Stadium
The play came with the Bucs holding a 20-10 lead, but Philadelphia was driving. The Eagles had a first-and-goal at the Tampa Bay 10-yard line. That’s when Barber crowded the line of scrimmage to fake a blitz. He then dropped into coverage against the slot receiver and came up with the interception.
"[Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb] fell for it," Barber told the Tampa Bay Times in 2011. “I don't know why. Maybe it was because he just had a great play and thought I was going to blitz. But either way, he believed I was coming and threw it right to me."
The play came with 3 minutes and 12 seconds remaining and put an end to a string of dominance by Philadelphia. The Eagles had won the previous four meetings between the two teams, including playoff losses in 2001 and 2002, the second one prompting the firing of coach Tony Dungy.
But Barber’s play ended all that and it left Veterans Stadium, one of the NFL’s most raucous venues, silent in its final moments.
@PatYazESPN no doubt Barbers int. Close game against our nemesis, at that time, in their house with them driving. That was THE moment— Jesse McGriff (@JesseMcGriff) June 9, 2014
Vincent Jackson, wide receiver
What he did in 2013: With fellow starter Mike Williams missing much of the season with an injury, Jackson was Tampa Bay’s only real receiving threat. Despite drawing heavy coverage, Jackson produced 78 catches for 1,228 yards and seven touchdowns.
Why he’s No. 4 in 2014: Williams was traded to Buffalo in the offseason and he will be replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Mike Evans. That’s an upgrade that should help Jackson. Evans and Jackson are similar in that they’re both big receivers. Evans should take some of the defensive attention away from Jackson. That could result in a big year for the veteran.
This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history. In the next two days, we’ll feature Ronde Barber’s interception return for a touchdown in the NFC Championship Game and the 71-yard catch by Joe Jurevicius in the same game. Please vote for your choice as the Buccaneers’ most memorable play.
Score: Buccaneers 48, Raiders 21
Date: Jan. 26, 2003 Site: Qualcomm Stadium
This play was about more than a simple interception return. It symbolized what the Bucs were all about. Brooks was the best player on a great defense, and that automatically made this play one of the most memorable in franchise history. Brooks had many other great plays in a Hall of Fame career, but this is the one most fans remember best because it came on the biggest of stages.
This game had a unique backstory. Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden had previously coached the Raiders and knew Oakland’s playbook and tendencies well. He spent the week leading into the Super Bowl playing the scout-team quarterback. That helped prepare the Bucs for everything Oakland threw at them.
The Bucs finished the game with five interceptions, but none was more symbolic than Brooks'.
@PatYazESPN when Gene Deckerhoff says" there's the dagger!", that is something special.— Will Hartley (@BucWillie250) June 9, 2014
Doug Martin, running back
What he did in 2013: Martin’s second NFL season wasn’t as successful as his first. A shoulder injury limited him to six games. Martin carried 127 times for 456 yards and one touchdown. That came after Martin rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie.
Why he’s No. 5 in 2014: All indications are that Martin will be back at full strength and that’s wonderful news for the Buccaneers, who are likely to rely heavily on the running game. Under former coach Greg Schiano, the Bucs handed Martin a very heavy load. New offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford has indicated he’ll use a backfield rotation. That should lighten Martin’s load and keep him fresh. Even with fewer carries, he might be more productive than in the past. The Bucs also are likely to throw to their running backs quite a bit and Martin needs to be ready to contribute in that area.
Alterraun Verner, cornerback
What he did in 2013: Verner had a Pro Bowl season for the Tennessee Titans. He had 57 tackles and five interceptions.
Why he’s No. 6 in 2014: Verner was one of the first players the Bucs went after in free agency. At 25, he may be just entering his prime. He’s a perfect fit in coach Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 defense. The Bucs parted ways with Darrelle Revis because he was expensive and not a great fit in the Tampa 2 scheme. Verner may not be as talented as Revis, but the Bucs believe he can be successful as their No. 1 cornerback.