Game of the Century: 2008 Detroit Lions Against the 1976 Buccaneers

Bob Cunningham@BCunningham215Senior Analyst IJune 16, 2009

The 1976 Buccaneers were perhaps the most inept team that the game has ever seen.

Once asked in an interview what coach John McKay thought about the execution of his team, he replied, "I'd be all for it."

Even switching conferences after the '76 season (going from the AFC West to the NFC Central) didn't help the hapless Bucs. Well, at least not until the 13th week of the season when the Bucs finally won the franchise's very first game, ending a 26-game losing streak.

The Bucs were blessed to play the 'Aints of New Orleans to chalk up their first win against the once great coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, Hank Stram.

The next week against the Arizona Cardinals and head coach Don Coryell, the Bucs notched their second victory to close out the season 2-12, with two consecutive wins to cap the season.

Both coaches, Hank Stram and Don Coryell, were fired after their respective losses to the infamous '76-77 Buccaneers.

After another awful season in '78, the Bucs would go from worst to first in the NFC Central in '79 before losing in the NFC Championship game to the Los Angeles Rams.

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Could that be something to look forward to for the newest winless team to put a black eye on the NFL?

2008 Detroit Lions, the worst team since...

Well, since the '76 Bucs.

The first team to ever go through an entire 16-game season without winning a single game, the 2008 Lions are widely considered to be even worse than the Buccaneers of over 30 years prior.

Their memory is fresh in everyone's minds. Their ineptitude certainly rivaled that of the '76 Bucs, and may have in fact surpassed them.

Dan Orlovsky may forever be the image of these Lions when he ran out of the back of the endzone.

That's ineptitude at its highest level.

But who really is the worst team in NFL history? Considering these are the only two teams to ever go winless, it's clearly a two-horse race for the title of "Worst Team Ever."

With the help of WhatIfSports.com, we can finally see who would win.

Yes, win. Something neither of these teams could do on their own.

Who will remain winless? Which team will be able to pull of their very first and very last win? Who gets to put a notch in the "W" column?

Game of the Century: 2008 Detroit Lions at 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1st Quarter

After a 5:38 drive, the Bucs have marched down the field and scored the first touchdown of the game. Steve Spurrier hits Essex Johnson in the endzone from one yard out to go up 7-0.

The Bucs score on their very first drive, can the Lions respond?

After two incomplete passes from quarterback Dan Orlovsky, the Lions are forced to punt the ball away to the Bucs. A holding penalty earlier in the drive set the Lions back as they were unable to overcome a 3rd-and-17.

The Lions missed their opportunity to respond, can the Bucs capitalize?

A long punt return by the Bucs sets them up at Detroit's 27-yard line primed to go up by 14. Louis Carter takes a pitch up the sideline 21 yards to the Lions' six-yard line. From the six, Ed Williams takes the ball up the middle for a five-yard gain to the Lions' one-yard line.

Spurrier hits Louis Carter, again from one yard out, to put the Bucs up 14-0 after a drive lasting only 1:27.

Detroit is falling behind quickly, they'll need to score to gain some momentum.

After a seven yard pass from Orlovsky to Kevin Smith, a stuffed run on second and an incomplete pass on third down set the Lions up for their second punt in as many series.

The Bucs will get the ball at their own 37 and are primed to go up three scores.

An incomplete pass, a short four-yard gain on the ground, and a Cliff Avril sack of Spurrier allows the Lions to get the ball back.

The Lions need to do something here, or they may never get a chance to come back.

Detroit finally gets their ground game moving a little bit. Kevin Smith takes a pitch up the right side for 10 yards and a first down. Sticking with the running game, Smith gets the ball off-tackle to the left and scoots down the field for a 40-yard gain.

After an incomplete pass, Smith takes a sweep to the left for another 10 yards and another first down. Now at the five-yard line of the Bucs and ready to go in and cut the lead down to 7, the Lions are called for false start and are moved back to the 10-yard line.

Sticking with what works, the Lions hand off to Kevin Smith off the left tackle for a touchdown, bringing the game to 14-7 in favor of Tampa Bay.

A five play, 70 yard drive in only 2:24 may give the Lions some much-needed momentum.

A stuffed run by Morris Owens and a six-yard gain by Louis Carter on a draw play brings the first quarter to end with the Bucs leading 14-7 and retaining position into the second quarter of play.

2nd Quarter

As the teams switch sides of the field, the Bucs starting from their own 32 with a seven point lead. A run up the middle to Williams is stopped two yards behind the line-of-scrimmage, setting up a 4th-and-6. Tampa Bay punts to Detroit.

Detroit can tie the game up on this possession, but will they?

After a few dink-and-dunk passes from Orlovsky, the offense finally gets a break as Rudi Johnson pounds ahead for 28 yards. A six yard run by the fullback sets up a 2nd-and-goal from the four-yard line. Orlovsky finds John Standeford in the endzone to tie the game up at 14 halfway through the second quarter.

The Lions have brought the game even, but there's still plenty of time to mess it up.

Taking the ball from their own 22, the Bucs march methodically down the field.

A 14 yard run, a six yard pass, a 17 yard pass, a seven yard run, an 11 yard gain, and a couple short plays bring the Bucs to the Lions' 16-yard line. Spurrier drops back and hits Bob Moore for the touchdown to gain a seven point lead over the Lions.

A 10-play, 78 yard drive that took up 5:36 has the Bucs in the lead with only four minutes remaining until halftime.

The Bucs have taken the lead and with some good defense, should hold it for now.

The Lions take the ball at their own 29 and enter into the four-minute offense. A six yard pass to Furrey, an eight yard draw to Johnson, and a short gain by Jerome Felton bring us to the two minute warning.

Two-Minute Warning

Orlovsky hits Shaun McDonald who gains eight yards before ducking out of bounds. A handoff up the middle to Johnson gains one yard, and a first down. On 1st-and-10, from the Bucs' 47, Smith takes the ball up the middle, breaks free, and scampers for 47 yards to the endzone, tying the game before halftime.

Six plays go 71 yards in only 2:22.

Lions are showing some explosion, the Bucs need to key on Smith to win this game.

The Bucs get the ball at their own 31, and wouldn't hold on to it long. After a three-yard run and a timeout, two consecutive incompletions would force the Bucs to punt the ball to the Lions, giving them one last opportunity before halftime.

Detroit has a chance to put Tampa in a bad spot, can Tampa stop them?

After the punt, the Lions take the ball at their own 40. With good field position and over a minute on the clock, they're in prime position to make a real move before halftime. Unfortunately after a carry for no gain by Smith, followed by a timeout, Orlovsky's pass is intercepted by Curtis Jordan and returned to the Detroit 48.

The first turnover of the game could wind up being costly for Orlovsky & Co.

A bad series of incompletions and punt by Tampa, followed by a similar series by the Lions brings us to halftime with the score of the game 21-21. The Lions will receive the kickoff to start the second half.

Halftime

3rd Quarter

Detroit receives the kickoff and returns it to their own 21, where they will attempt to take the lead for the first time in this game.

A three-yard run by Smith and a four yard run by Johnson bring up a manageable third down, but the drive ends when the fullback is stuffed at the line and the Lions are forced to punt the ball away to Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay now has the same opportunity that the Lions had, will they blow it as well?

After a five-yard penalty for illegal motion, Williams pounds the ball up the middle for a 16-yard gain and a first down. A short five-yard pass followed by a couple minimal running plays forces the Bucs to punt the ball back to the Lions.

Can someone finally pull ahead in this battle of the inept?

The Lions get the punt at their own 15, but a holding penalty will force them back to their own seven. Two consecutive one yard losses by Aveion Cason are followed up by a Calvin Johnson 31-yard gain.

Johnson again catches a pass and takes it nine yards. After some short gains on the ground and a third-down incompletion, Detroit must again punt the ball away.

The third quarter is winding down without a score, can the Bucs change that?

After two five-yard runs by Johnson resulting in a first down, the Bucs are charged with a false start penalty creating a 1st-and-15. Spurrier and the Bucs would answer with a 13-yard gain to Morris Owens, but two runs both resulting in a loss of three yards each would create a 4th-and-8, and another punting situation.

Detroit gets the ball with 1:24 left in the third as what would appear to wind up a scoreless quarter.

The Lions return the punt nearly to midfield, on their own 48-yard line. They should have a good shot of doing something with it.

A three yard run by Smith is followed by a 14-yard pounding by Felton. A first down incompletion bring the third quarter to an end with the score 21-21. Detroit retains possession into the fourth quarter.

4th Quarter

A short running gain and an incomplete pass brings up a 4th-and-8 on Tampa Bay's 34. Too far for a field goal attempt and too short to punt, the Lions decide to go for it. Their efforts go unrewarded however as an incomplete pass turns possession over to the Bucs at their own 34.

Why not send Hanson out for the field goal?

A dink-and-dunk drive by the Bucs would send them down the field to Detroit's 15-yard line. A false start penalty would send the Bucs back to the 20-yard line. On the next play, Rod McNeill would take the ball off-tackle for a 12-yard gain, putting the Bucs on Detroit's eight-yard line.

Louis Carter takes the ball up the middle from the eight and into the endzone to give the Bucs a lead halfway through the fourth quarter.

The Bucs take advantage of a tired Detroit defense, can the Lions respond?

The Lions show some explosion this drive with three plays of 18 yards or over. A 24-yard strike the Shaun McDonald, a 19-yard pass to Mike Furrey, and an 18-yard catch and run by Johnson. A failed wide receiver screen brings the game to the two-minute warning.

Two-Minute Warning

From five yards out, Orlovsky hits Calvin Johnson in the endzone to bring the game to a tie with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

An impressive 11-play, 80-yard drive taking up 5:57 has bought the Lions some time perhaps to force an overtime if their defense can hold up. The score is 28-28 heading into the last minute and a half of the game.

Time for the Bucs to end it. They have the time, all they need is field goal range.

A few short gains mixed in with an incompletion force the Bucs to punt after taking a pathetic 17 seconds off the clock. They will punt to the Lions, giving them 1:18 to march down the field for the winning field goal.

Detroit can put this away for their first win, do they have what it takes?

From their own 16, the Lions start with an impressive 15-yard run right up the middle by Kevin Smith. After a timeout, the Lions run forward four yards, then back three. Another timeout is called.

Orlovsky hits Standeford in the middle of the field for a 20 yard gain, but he is unable to get out of bounds. On the next play, Orlovsky is sacked for a six yard loss. The Lions call their third and final timeout.

Orlovsky, from the 50-yard line, heaves a hail mary attempt into the endzone, but the ball falls harmlessly to the ground and incomplete.

We've reached the end of regulation with the score tied up at 28. It's time to head into overtime to settle this one.

End of Regulation—Overtime

With the Bucs set to receive, this overtime may end quickly.

The Bucs receive the ball and return it to their own 22. Short running gains lead to a first down, but on 3rd-and-5, an intentional grounding call on Spurrier forces to Bucs to punt the ball to the Lions.

The Lions have a shot now, but if the Bucs can stop the big play they should be fine.

Detroit starts with a short four-yard gain in the ground, followed by an incomplete pass. Orlovsky answers with a 16-yard strike to Mike Furrey for the first down. After another short gain on the ground, Orlovsky's pass is intercepted again by Curtis Jordan and is returned to Tampa Bay's 37-yard line.

Tampa Bay has decent field position, and only need a field goal to wrap this up.

On the first play of the series, Spurrier's pass is picked off by defensive lineman Dewayne White and returned to the Tampa Bay 33.

Detroit has the field position, the time, and the kicker to win this game right now.

Two run plays get stuffed back-to-back, and are then followed by an incomplete pass. The Lions bring out Jason Hanson to attempt a game-winning 49-yard field goal attempt.

The kick is up, it has the distance, it could go, it is... WIDE RIGHT! Tampa Bay still has a shot at this game.

The Lions make what could turn out to be a fatal error in the final minutes of overtime.

Tampa Bay takes the ball back at their own 39. They have decent field position as long as they can avoid the turnover they should be fine. They have a little over seven minutes to drive down the field and win this game.

A medium gain here, a short run there, and the Bucs are staring at a 4th-and-7 from Detroit's 22-yard line. From here, this is a 39-yard field goal attempt to win the game and keep the 2008 Lions winless.

David Green comes out to attempt the kick. The stadium is in a hush.

The snap is good, the hold is good, the kick is up, it has the distance, it may just go, and it is... GOOD! IT'S GOOD! The '76 Bucs win the game and keep the 2008 Detroit Lions winless!

So after a hard-fought game, the '76 Bucs come out 1-14 and keep the '08 Lions winless.

Team Statistics
 2008 Detroit Lions1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
First Downs2323
- Rushing1211
- Passing1112
- Penalty00
3rd Down Eff5/135/14
4th Down Eff1/20/0
Rushes-Yards39-23743-191
Avg Rush6.14.4
Comp-Att-Int17-32-219-29-1
Passing Yards206178
Sacks-Yards2-81-4
Fumbles-Lost0-00-0
Punts-Avg5-42.88-38.5
KR-Avg5-17.86-19.0
PR-Avg8-8.45-19.8
Penalties-Yard5-334-25
Time of Possession33:3239:52
INDIVIDUAL STATS

2008 Detroit Lions
 
1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rushing
 AttYds20+LTD
'08 Kevin Smith191532472
'08 Rudi Johnson9651280
'08 Jerome Felton4210140
'08 Moran Norris43020
'08 Aveion Cason3-50-10
 
Rushing
 AttYds20+LTD
'76 Louis Carter18891211
'76 Ed Williams11660160
'76 Essex Johnson624050
'76 Rod McNeill5110120
'76 Steve Spurrier11010
'76 Morris Owens10000
'76 Charlie Davis10000
Receiving
 RecYds20+40+LTD
'08 Calvin Johnson68710311
'08 Mike Furrey45400190
'08 Shaun McDonald43910240
'08 John Standeford22710201
'08 Kevin Smith170070
 
Receiving
 RecYds20+40+LTD
'76 Morris Owens44710220
'76 Bob Moore44100161
'76 John McKay33300170
'76 Ed Williams21900100
'76 Rod McNeill11400140
'76 Essex Johnson21300121
'76 Louis Carter280071
'76 Isaac Hagins170070
Passing
 Comp.Att.YardsTDINT
'08 Dan Orlovsky173221422
 
Passing
 Comp.Att.YardsTDINT
'76 Steve Spurrier192918231
Defensive
 TacklesSacksINT
'08 Paris Lenon600
'08 Leigh Bodden600
'08 Kalvin Pearson600
'08 Ernie Sims500
'08 Daniel Bullocks500
'08 Travis Fisher400
'08 Shaun Cody300
'08 Dwight Smith200
'08 Dewayne White201
'08 Corey Smith200
'08 Brian Kelly200
'08 Alex Lewis100
'08 Ryan Nece100
'08 Ramzee Robinson100
'08 Jordon Dizon100
'08 Jared DeVries100
'08 Cory Redding100
'08 Cliff Avril110
 
Defensive
 TacklesSacksINT
'76 Bert Cooper1000
'76 Ricky Davis800
'76 Cal Peterson600
'76 Ken Stone510
'76 Mark Cotney500
'76 Mike Lemon400
'76 Danny Reece300
'76 Larry Ball310
'76 Curtis Jordan202
Field Goals
 MadeMissed
'08 Jason Hanson-49
 
Field Goals
 MadeMissed
'76 Dave Green39-

Player of the Game

'76 Bucs Curtis Jordan—2 INTs, 2 tackles

Runner-up: QB Steve Spurrier—19-29 182 yards, 3 TD 1 INT