- 2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season
team = Tampa Bay Buccaneers
year = 2003
record = 7-9
division_place = 3rd
Raymond James Stadium
playoffs = Did not qualifyThe 2003
Tampa Bay Buccaneersseason began with the team trying to defend its Super Bowl XXXVIItitle of 2002. Despite high expectations, several last-minute losses led to locker room tension and front-office struggles. The Buccaneers finished 7-9, and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1998. Combined with the Oakland Raiders' dismal 4-12 performance, neither Super Bowl team reached the playoffs that year.
Front office tension
Soon after the Super Bowl victory, a growing number of press reports had indicated Gruden's lack of patience with
general managerRich McKay. McKay was a major architect of the Buccaneers rebuilding effort over the previous ten years, and he, like Gruden, had long-established ties to the Tampa Bay-area. However, as the 2003 season wore on, Gruden/McKay relationship deteriorated as the Buccaneers struggled on the field. In November, Keyshawn Johnson was deactivated by the team ten games into the season for his conduct, which included sideline arguments with coaches and players. Johnson was eventually traded to the Dallas Cowboysfor wide receiver Joey Galloway.
In December, the Glazers allowed McKay to leave the Buccaneers organization before the end of the regular season. He promptly joined the
Atlanta Falconsas president and general manager. Thus, McKay watched his first game as a Falcons executive sitting next to owner Arthur Blank in a Raymond James Stadiumskybox in December 2003. The Falcons defeated the Bucs 30-28.
A demanding off season was exacerbated by a trip overseas to the
American Bowlin Tokyo, Japan. Despite the busy preseason, the Buccaneers finished their exhibition games 4-1.
Week 1: at Philadelphia Eagles (won 17-0)
The Buccaneers appeared to start the 2003 regular season where they left off. Te Buccaneers opened on Monday night, against the Eagles, at the new
Lincoln Financial Field. It was a rematch of the previous season's NFC Championship. The Buccaneers impressively beat the Eagles 17-0. Joe Jureviciusled the team with two touchdown catches. His second came via a "circus catch" in which he tipped the ball up into the air, rebounding it to himself, and making the reception.
Week 2: Carolina Panthers (lost 9-12)
The Buccaneers home opener against division foe Carolina turned into an embarrassment. A defensive-oriented game saw young Carolina quarterback
Jake Delhommeheld to only 9-for-23, 96 yards and two interceptions. Meanwhile, Brad Johnson threw for 339 yards. Unfortunately, special teams breakdowns cost the team dearly.
After two earlier botched field goal attempts, the Buccaneers trailed 9-3 late in the fourth quarter. On the last play of regulation, Brad Johnson connected to
Keenan McCardellfor a dramatic game-tying touchdown in the back of the endzone time expired. The extra point would have given Tampa Bay the win. Martin Gramatica's extra point attempt, however, was blocked. The game went to overtime tied 9-9.
Both teams traded possessions, and with just over 6 minutes left in the overtime period, Tampa Bay punted to Carolina. Steve Smith returned the punt 52 yards to the Tampa Bay 40 yard line. Five plays later, Carolina won 12-9 after a 47-yard field goal.
Week 3: at Atlanta Falcons (won 31-10)
Michael Vickwas sidelined due to an injury in the preseason. Doug Johnsontook over, and the Buccaneers dominated. They held Doug Johnson to only 95 passing yards, and three interceptions. His fourth quarter replacement, Kurt Kittnerdid not fare any better.
The Tampa Bay offense rebounded with
Warren Sappplaying tight end and scoring his first career offensive touchdown catch. Mike Alstottput the game well out of reach with two third quarter touchdown runs.
Week 4: Open date
Tampa Bay's bye week came in week 4.
Week 5: Indianapolis Colts (lost 35-38, OT)
October 6, the Buccaneers hosted the Indianapolis Coltson Monday Night Football. It marked former coach Tony Dungy's return to Tampa Bay, and he well-received by fans. Most of the game was one-sided, as the Buccaneers entered halftime leading 21-0. With 5:09 remaining in the fourth quarter, Ronde Barberreturned a Peyton Manninginterception 29 yards for a touchdown, and put the Buccaneers up 35-14.
The ensuing Tampa Bay kickoff was returned 90 yards to the 11 yard line. Four plays later, with 3:37 remaining, Indianapolis scored a touchdown on a fourth down play, to narrow the lead to 35-21. Colts kicker
Mike Vanderjagtthen attempted an onside kick, which sailed airborne and was caught by Colts safety Idrees Bashirat their own 42 yard line. It was later determined by NFL officials that the onside kick was performed illegally, since it never touched the ground, nor was touched by a Tampa Bay player. The critical error by the officiating crew led by referee Johnny Grierwas overlooked, and the game continued.cite news
title =MNF officials confused by rule
accessdate = 2007-10-05]
The Colts scored another touchdown, and narrowed the margin 35-28. Another onside kick attempt was recovered instead by Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay attempted to run the clock down to the two-minute warning, but a personal foul by
Kenyatta Walkerstopped the clock at 2:04 remaining. The Buccaneers were forced to punt with 1:48 to go. Manning then led the Colts on an 87-yard touchdown drive to tie the score 35-35 with 0:35 remaining. In overtime, kicker Mike Vanderjagtmissed a 40-yard field goal, but umpire Ed Coukartcalled a penalty on Simeon Ricefor leaping, a rarely seen unsportsmanlike conduct infraction for running and jumping to block a kick and landing on other players. Vanderjagt's subsequent kick was batted and hit the upright, but fell in good, winning the game for the Colts.
It was the largest comeback in NFL history (21 points) in that little amount of time (under 4 minutes to go). With the game-winning field goal, Vanderjagt went on to become the first kicker in NFL history not to miss a kick attempt in a complete season, including the playoffs.cite news
title =A Collapse And A Comeback
accessdate = 2007-10-05] cite news
title =Dungy won't let close bond get in way of playing Tampa Bay
accessdate = 2007-10-05] cite news
title =Another Stunner
accessdate = 2007-10-05]
Week 6: at Washington Redskins (won 35-13)
The devastating loss to the Colts seemed to start a downward trend for the team. Injuries sidelined several players, including
Mike Alstottand Brian Kelly. Before the game, Warren Sappwas involved in his second "skipping" incident in two weeks, and third overall, as he bumped into an NFL referee. The incident drew a $50,000 fine.
Despite the growing trouble, the Buccaneers managed to beat
Steve Spurrier's slumping Redskins. Brad Johnsonthrew four touchdown passes, and Derrick Brooksiced the game with a 44-yard interception return touchdown.
Week 7: at San Francisco 49ers (lost 7-24)
Brad Johnsonthrew three interceptions, and the Buccaneer defense gave up 212 yards rushing, falling to the San Francisco 49ers. Tampa Bay's only highlight, and only score, was a 75-yard touchdown pass to Keenan McCardellin the first quarter.
Week 8: Dallas Cowboys (won 16-0)
In a largely defensive game, so-called "Buc ball" prevailed. Tampa Bay shut out
Bill Parcells' Dallas Cowboysby a score of 16-0. The defense forced three turnovers, and held the #4-ranked Dallas offense to just over 200 total yards and no points.
Week 9: New Orleans Saints (lost 14-17)
After a touchdown pass, and an interception return, the
New Orleans Saintsheld a 14-0 lead. With under 8 minutes to go in regulation, Brad Johnsonthrew two touchdown passes (26 and 30 yards) to Michael Pittmanand Keenan McCardellto tie the score at 14-14. With 2:08 to go New Orleans took over. The Buccaneer defense failed to hold ground, and the Saints kicked a game-winning field goal with 8 seconds left.
Week 10: at Carolina Panthers (lost 24-27)
Carolina broke out to a 20-7 lead through three quarters.
Brad Johnsonled the Buccaneers on a rally, scoring two touchdown passes of 23 yards and 36 yards. One each to Keyshawn Johnsonand Keenan McCardell, and Tampa Bay took a 21-20 lead with 4:52 remaining.
Two plays later,
Tim Wansleyintercepted Jake Delhommefor the second time in the game. The turnover led to a Martin Gramaticafield goal, and a Tampa Bay lead of 24-20 with 2:45 to go. The Buccaneer defense, however, failed to keep Carolina at bay, and Delhomme swiftly led the Panthers to a game-winning touchdown with 1:11 left.
Early in the fourth quarter,
Simeon Ricesacked Jake Delhomme for a 9-yard loss. It marked the 69th consecutive game the Buccaneer defense registered a quarterback sack, a new all-time NFL record.
Week 11: Green Bay Packers (lost 13-20)
The longtime rival
Green Bay Packerscame to town in November, and Tampa Bay appeared to be poised for a win. A 17-play, 98-yard fourth quarter touchdown drive by the Packers wore out a tired Buccaneer defense, and Tampa Bay lost to Green Bay for the first time at Raymond James Stadium. The loss dropped Tampa Bay to 4-6, and severely hampered their playoff chances.
During the game,
Martin Gramaticabecame the franchise's all-time scoring leader. One distinction came to an end, however. The Tampa Bay defense had, one week earlier, set the all-time NFL record for consecutive game with a quarterback sack. They achieved no sacks in this game, and the streak ended at 69 games.
Keyshawn Johnsonfinished the game with only three catches for 34 yards. He was also heckled and booed by fans during the game. The following day, after several weeks of growing intra-team tension, Johnson was deactivated with pay from the playing roster for the balance of the season.
Week 12: New York Giants (won 19-13)
Monday Night Football, Tampa Bay hosted the New York Giants. Thomas Jones scored early in the second quarter, and Charles Lee scored a touchdown catch. Just when they though the season was finished a week before, the Buccaneers pulled out an important victory and moved to 5-6, snapping a three-game losing streak.
Week 13: at Jacksonville Jaguars (lost 10-17)
An uninspired performance against in-state rival Jacksonville (who had a 2-9 record going into the game) on "Sunday Night Football" saw 80 yards of penalties, turnovers, and blown chances. Tampa Bay fell to 5-7 on the season
Week 14: at New Orleans Saints (won 14-7)
The Buccaneers took on division foe New Orleans, and beat them for the first time since December 2001. The Tampa Bay defense sacked
Aaron Brooksseven times and forced three fumbles, meanwhile running back Deuce McAllisterwas held to just 88 yards.
Tampa Bay's offense performed well, with
Brad Johnsonthrowing two touchdown passes. The second of which was to tight end Warren Sapp, his second touchdown reception of his career. After losing the ball in the lights, he grabbed it and was able to pull it in as he fell to the turf.
New Orleans was in the game until the waning seconds of the first half. With 1:49 to go in the second quarter,
Joe Horndropped a sure touchdown pass in the end zone. On the next play, Aaron Brookswas sacked and fumbled. Jermaine Phillipsrecovered the fumble, and returned it 20 yards. Tampa Bay took a 14-7 lead into halftime, and neither team scored again.
Week 15: Houston Texans (won 16-3)
Tampa Bay kept their postseason hopes alive, beating the second-year Texans 16-3, and improving to 7-7 on the year. The rainy day saw
Thomas Jonestake over the primary rushing duties, and run for 134 yards and one score. Warren Sappsat out the game with a strained foot, his first game missed in 73 starts.
For the second time in five weeks, the Buccaneer defense ended a long streak. Dating back to
October 19, 2000, Tampa Bay had a streak of 54 consecutive games with a turnover (takeaway). Against the Texans, there were no forced turnovers, and the streak fell short of the all-time NFL record (71 by Philadelphia).
Week 16: Atlanta Falcons (lost 28-30)
While still mathematically alive for the playoffs, the Buccaneers scored a touchdown with 27 seconds remaining. A two-point conversion would have tied the game, and forced overtime. The pass failed, and Tampa Bay was eliminated from playoff contention, losing the game 30-28 to the Falcons.
Week 17: at Tennessee Titans (lost 13-33)
After being eliminated from the playoffs, the Buccaneers traveled to take on the Titans in a largely meaningless game. Brad Johnson and
Shaun Kingshared quarterback duties, but neither seemed able to get into a rhythm, throwing a combined 4 interceptions.
With the loss, Tampa Bay finished 7-9, and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1998.
* [http://www.bucpower.com BUCPOWER.com]
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