It’s officially Tampa time as the Buffalo Bills visit the reigning Super Bowl Champions on Sunday. But how have we matched up with them historically? It’s been a long time since we first went head-to-head. Tampa Bay has been in the NFL since 1976 and they started in the AFC initially. However, much like the Buccaneers’ division rival – and our opposition of two weeks ago – the New Orleans Saints, we’ve only met 11 times before this week.
Bills Drew First Blood
The first of those meetings took place in the Buccaneers’ inaugural season, as Buffalo travelled to Tampa. The Bucs were an expansion team and, as a general rule of thumb in professional sports, expansion teams don’t enter the league with high expectations. They would have stolen their first win of all time on that Sunday afternoon, if not for a little magic from Buffalo Bills Wall of Famer Joe Ferguson. Though not having allowed a touchdown all day, the Bills found themselves down 9-7 in the fourth quarter and unable to move the ball. On a day where they couldn’t get O.J. Simpson going, they leaned on Jeff Kinney for some diversity, and it worked. Ferguson found Rueben Gant for a late 19-yard touchdown to narrowly escape with a win. Buffalo drew first blood, but they’d lose the next four straight.
|Buf 14-9 TB||Buf 10-31 TB|
|Buf 23-24 TB||Buf 28-34 TB|
The Super Bowl Bills
In Buffalo’s ‘Golden Age’, they met the Buccaneers twice. The first of these was something of an anomaly. It was 1988 and the Bills were newly competent, ending a miserable era of early-NFL football with a whole host of quality draft picks, coaches, and free agents. They strolled into Tampa Bay with confidence, but they lost it all too soon. This was a heavyweight bout between two defenses, and the score reflected that fact.
The first half was awful. Buffalo entered the third quarter down 10-0 after a Vinny Testaverde rushing score. Testaverde opened the second half scoring as well, though not how he intended, as Bruce Smith sacked him in the end zone for a safety. Norwood’s field goal went through the uprights to cut the deficit down, but it was too late. Time ran out, and one of the stranger games in Bills history was lost.
|Buf 5-10 TB||Buf 17-10 TB|
The early drought era was not a great time to be in Buffalo. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay was flourishing down south, winning their first Super Bowl in 2002, and winning their division three times in six years. Things quickly turned sour for the Bucs, but they had their championship trophy to keep them warm as their own playoff drought loomed large.
|Buf 17-31 TB||Buf 3-19 TB||TB 20-33 Buf|
Somehow, the Buffalo Bills had gone eight straight games (spanning 37 seasons), without ever hosting the Buccaneers. Each game had been down south, on their terms and in their house. That changed in 2009. Considered by some to be a signature game for fan-favorite running back Fred Jackson, he left Buffalonians calling for more snaps as he filled in for then-suspended starter Marshawn Lynch.
His heavy workload, alongside crushing defense from the home team, were key factors in this win. The most memorable moment of the game? A 43-yard heave from quarterback Trent Edwards to Terrell Owens (in his first game with Buffalo) for the game-sealing score, beating Aqib Talib soundly on the play as the Bills cruised to victory.
|Buf 6-27 TB||TB 27-30 Buf|
Last Time We Met
The most recent time these two teams met was probably one of the most memorable of them all. This thrilling back and forth game was one for the ages, as Tyrod Taylor led his offense against a surprisingly resilient Tampa Bay team. Amidst a whole bundle of turnovers, splash plays, and more from young studs like the freshly-drafted Matt Milano, Buffalo was able to squeak out an incredible win. Check out the video below!
Another promising young rookie by the name of Tre’Davious White forced, and then recovered, a fumble with only two minutes on the clock to set up Stephen Hauschka’s game-winning field goal, pulling off a late comeback in epic fashion. That team would go on to break the Bills’ 18-year playoff drought under first-year head coach Sean McDermott.
It’s been quite some time since then, and now we look forward to an old foe. Tom Brady’s Buccaneers are a different beast to almost any team in the NFL this season, and this might be the last time we ever play him. Let’s close the book on that chapter of Buffalo Bills history the right way, returning home to Buffalo with a win on Sunday.
If you’re enjoying the series, don’t forget to read last week’s article on the Buffalo Bills’ rivalry with the New England Patriots! Check back next week as we look back at out history against the Carolina Panthers, too.