1981 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season

The 1981 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season began with the team trying to improve on an 5-10-1 season. The team was considered to be superior to the 1979 team that finished the season one game shy of the Super Bowl. With the running game and special teams ineffective, the Buccaneers depended heavily on the pass, and particularly on the big play. Jimmie Giles returned to form, establishing numerous team receiving records. Doug Williams became (with Jim Zorn) the second active quarterback to need only four seasons to reach the 10,000 career passing yards mark. The defense improved over the previous season, a change that McKay attributed to less reliance on blitzes, and a general improvement in speed due to changes in the secondary and the drafting of Hugh Green. Their defense allowed the fewest touchdowns of any NFL team, and was described by opponents as "outstanding" and "almost awesome". The team was dogged by inconsistent play throughout the season. Players and coaches believed the Buccaneers to be a playoff-worthy team, but a tendency to self-destruct kept them on the edge of the playoff race, thanks in part to a failure of any other team to take control in either the NFC Central division or the NFC wild-card chase. "We make more mistakes at crucial times than any team I've ever been associated with", said ex-Buckeyes, -Raiders, and -Dolphins safety Neal Colzie. Opposing coach Dick Vermeil said, "I'm not sure they know how good they are", after his Philadelphia Eagles team beat the Buccaneers despite having been outplayed. Nevertheless, the team developed a maturity through the season which allowed them to remain competitive instead of collapsing when behind or when being outplayed.

Late-season coaching adjustments improved the effectiveness of the offense and cut down on opposing teams' ability to control the ball against the defense. This resulted in their playing with more confidence, and less predictability. It also resulted in a three-game winning streak that put them in control of the division race. The regular season culminated in a season-finale matchup between the Buccaneers and the Detroit Lions, two 8-7 teams vying for the division lead in the Pontiac Silverdome, where the Lions had gone undefeated all season. The Buccaneers won and entered the playoffs as the number three seed in the NFC, where they lost to the Dallas Cowboys in a 38-0 rout which tied the NFL record for largest margin of victory in a playoff game.

Read more about 1981 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Season:  Preseason, Regular Season

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