A Head-To-Head History: The Giants and The Buccaneers

Larry Schmitt, who wrote for us this past summer a great series looking at matching rivals, returns with a new weekly series called "A Head-To-Head History" where each Friday we will take an in-depth look at the head-to-head history of two of the teams scheduled to meet each week.  While the most prolific head to head series, the Bears and the Packers, met last night for the 183rd time, we will begin this series today with a look back at the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (my favorite team) and the New York Giants (his).

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Infrequent meeting these days, there was a time when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants, although never in the same division, knew each other as well as their regular division foes.

Tampa Bay joined the NFL in 1976 as a member of the AFC West. A slight course correction in geography moved them a little closer to home in 1977 as they relocated to the NFC Central. In the days of the 28-team NFL, each conference had two five-team divisions and one four-team division. To balance out each teams 16-game schedule, the last place teams from the five-team divisions would face one another twice the following season.

The upstart 5-0 1979 Bucs lost
to an 0-5 Giants team in
Phil Simms' first career start
Being an expansion team prior to free agency, it was expected for Tampa Bay to struggle for wins for some time as they built their team patiently though the draft. The Giants were mired in a decade of despair in the 70's, regularly finishing with records tallying losses in double-digits. Hence, following their initial meeting in 1977 (the Buccaneers 23rd consecutive loss since joining the league), they would meet four times over the next two seasons.

After having spent their inaugural season wearing their white jerseys, Tampa Bay broke out their Florida Orange jerseys in '77 and kept them as their home choice into the mid '80's. When the 3-5 Giants arrived in Week 9 they were sporting the most atypical uniform set of their mostly conservative and traditional history. Whoever designed New York's 1975 - 79 uniforms sure did like stripes! The tone of royal blue was also brighter than in past years, which really stood out on the blue pants they wore with their white jerseys.

These non-divisional rivals
played home-and-home
series in 1978, 79, and 84
thanks to how the NFL
scheduled 5th place finishing
teams from 1978-2001
The combination of the white-helmeted Buccaneers with their Florida Orange jerseys and the Giants royal blue helmets and pants proved complimentary and works quite well. Unfortunately, both teams finish at the bottom of their divisions and would have a rematch on opening day in Tampa Stadium in 1978. In October the Buccaneers made their first trip to The Meadowlands. The red numbers on the Buccaneers nearly all white uniforms stood out in their predominantly blue surroundings. Both teams had dismal years, but things began to turn upward for Tamp Bay. The next meeting in 1979 featured the surprising 5-0 Buccaneers visiting the 0-5 Giants. This was New York QB Phil Simms first start and he would manage the Giants to a 17-14 upset victory {Simms finished the game 6-12 for 37 yards, but no turnovers}. The rematch in Tampa saw the Bucs first win over New York come in convincing fashion with a 31-3 win on their way to a 10-6 NFC Central crown and playoff birth. By this time, the Giants had mothballed their blue pants, but seemingly quadrupled their sock stripes.

The 1980 rematch saw the Giants turn the clock back as they removed the white stripes from the helmets. The blue-red-blue pants stripes and sleeve trim and solid blue socks were identical to New York's pre 1975 uniform. The on field results did not change however as Tampa Bay romped again. 1984 saw a home-and-home square off between the teams for a final time. The first meeting in New York featured Lawrence Taylor terrorizing Tampa Bay QB Steve DeBerg with four sacks, but James Wilder helped exact revenge with a 99-yard effort in Tampa Stadium.

This 1999 opening day Bucs'
loss featured Trent Dilfer
throwing a key late INT that
sealed the game for the G-Men
Since 1985 the Giants and Buccaneers have met 10 times. Nine of those meetings have featured the Giants in blue and the Bucs in white, even though only five of those games were in The Meadowlands.  They met three consecutive years beginning in 1997, the first year of the pewter and red Buccaneers. There were all defensively dominated games. Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch had the upper hand as they did not allow the Giants offense to score a single TD over 12 quarters of play! The Giants managed to win the third game of the series with two defensive returns in a 17-13 opening day win in 1999 (helped by a horrible performance by Trent Dilfer which saw him booed off the field), as the Giants wore a 75th anniversary patch on their royal blue jerseys.

This Sunday will be the eighth
meeting since the Bucs changed
colors in 1997, yet this 2003
MNF game was the only time
they've worn Red against the
Giants, going WAH in 4 day games
in Tampa.
When they met again on a Monday night in 2003, the Giants wore their white jerseys in Tampa Stadium for the first time in 19 years. Of course, the Giants had a very different by then, with the "ny" logo on the helmet, grey pants and blue-trimmed red numbers on the stripe-less white jerseys. The defending Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers handed the Giants a loss again without surrendering a touchdown defensively. The Giants lone touchdown in the 19-13 game was a 4th quarter INT return.

The 2006 meeting in Giants Stadium was hyped as the final on-field meeting between the Barber brothers as Giants HB Tiki had declared the remainder of the season would be his personal farewell tour just a week earlier. Defenses ruled yet again on this cold and blustery day - the teams combined for just 148 yards passing - but the Giants came out ahead 17-3 as their offense found the endzone twice.

The only postseason meeting in
this series was the beginning of
the Giants' run to Super Bowl XLII
The first, and so far only, post season meeting between New York and Tampa Bay occurred in the 2007 Wild Card game at Raymond James Stadium. As has been their trend since the early 90's, the Buccaneers chose white jerseys for the afternoon contest. Eli Manning, supported by the Giants ferocious pass rush, lead the Giants to their 8th consecutive road victory on their way to Super Bowl XLII.

When the teams met on a rainy day in September 2009, Tampa Bay again went white at home, but both teams changed up their pants. The Buccaneers wore their white alternates, and the Giants wore their "five-stripe" pants that had previously been worn only with their white jerseys.

This Sunday at Met Life Stadium we can be assured more of the same. The Giants will undoubtedly have on their home blues (the "five-stripe" pants are now their only set) with the Buccaneers wearing white, and defensive stars like Justin Tuck and Rhonde Barber will wreak havoc on the opposing offenses.

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