After 13 years of playoff drought, Bucs is hoping for his final NFC championship team

TAMPA, Fla. – He’s got this Sunday Tampa Bay privateers return to the NFC Championship game for the first time in 18 years when they play this Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field (3:05 p.m. ET, Fox), and nobody is more excited about it than the 2002 Buccaneers who came before them and were the last team in Tampa Bay to get there.

These buccaneers defeated them Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 to Win the franchise’s first and only NFC Championship on the way to a 48-21 Super Bowl XXXVII win in San Diego. They watched from afar as the team reached the playoffs this season for the first time in 13 years and then beat the playoffs last week New Orleans Saints 30-20 in the NFC division round game.

Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks beamed with pride as Devin White a catch and a fiddly recovery. He then texted former teammate Shelton Quarles, who is now Bucs’ director of football operations, “Another one! One more! “Quarles received the same text from Anthony” Booger “McFarland.

“The memories started flowing,” said Brooks, who serves as the co-chair of the Super Bowl LV Tampa hosting committee. “I’m just excited that you earned the right to be in this position. Me[…]for real, Really I can’t wait to see them play and I look forward to seeing them make history. “

While former quarterback Brad Johnson is thrilled Tom Brady plays, former Bucs full-back Mike Alstott raves about the current game.

“I am loving it. I Dig [it]”Said Alstott.” This one-two with [Leonard] Fournette and [Ronald] Jones – they run hard, they complement each other … And then the broad recipient corps is invited. … It’s a good time for the Bucs right now. “

Brooks added, “We have all waited a long time to see this.”

“They yelled at us and talked about our mothers”

Much like this season’s Bucs, which will face wintry conditions at Lambeau Field – which currently require a high of 28 degrees, a low of 12, and a 40% chance of snow – the Bucs faced freezing temperatures in the ’20s in 2002 fight in Philadelphia. They were the first and only Buccaneers team to win a sub or sub-freezing game and the first Buccaneers team to win a playoff game on the road.

Even more daunting, however, was the task of knocking out an Andy Reid-trained team of 10 pro bowlers, including quarterback Donovan McNabb. The Eagles had beaten Tampa Bay four times in a row in the past three years, including in the 2000 and 2001 playoffs.

“It was kind of a nemesis with Philadelphia for us,” said Johnson, who had been sacked five times at the last team meeting and had broken ribs. “You almost felt yourself The was our Super Bowl. “

Previous turnaround Michael Pittman recalls being in a hostile environment since the team’s buses arrived. The Bucs were forced to stay in the same hotel as an Eagles Pep Rally.

“Everyone blew us away. Little children on their parents’ shoulder turn us around, ”said Pittman. “They yelled at us and talked about our mothers, our wives … but we had an agenda. We wanted to win this game. “

They watched as the Eagles prepared a special Super Bowl farewell party during their tour on Saturday.

“They had a big banner at the top. I’ll never forget it, “said Quarles.” It [read]”The view of San Diego looks great from here.” And I think, “They think they’ve already won this game.”

‘Triple Left, 83 Double Smash, X Option’

With just under 2 minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Bucs were just 69 yards behind 7: 3. Johnson had already thrown an interception. But in third place, he found broad receiver Joe Jurevicius on a 71-yard catch-and-run that completely changed the dynamics of the game.

“Triple Left, 83 Double Smash, X Option” is how Johnson described a game with two corner routes and two flat routes in which Jurevicius stood in a row. The idea was to keep Jurevicius one on one against linebacker Barry Gardner.

Johnson almost heard it.

Five days earlier, on January 14, Jurevicius’ wife, Meagan, had given birth to their first child, Michael William. Born a month early, he was diagnosed with sialidosis, a rare metabolic disorder that affects cell function. Doctors had only given him a 2% chance of surviving even two days.

Jurevicius had missed the whole week of practice and the passage while standing guard with his wife and newborn baby. However, he joined the team late in Philadelphia and impressed his teammates by saying, “Hey, my family want me to play.”

Brooks said to him, “Hey man, we have your back.”

Jurevicius froze Gardner with a stuttering step. Then he passed him and Carlos Emmons before Brian Dawkins overturned him at the 5-yard line in Philadelphia.

“It was well documented what they went through all week,” said Brooks. “For him to be the one who steps up in this moment and really makes a game changer at this time – it’s one of those moments.” where, ‘Hey, the stars are here for us.’ “

Two games later, Alstott stormed into the end zone to take a 10-7 lead. Jurevicius would only have one catch that day, but it was the defining moment of his career and the game in many ways.

“I’m not taking anything away from anyone, but I think it was the most important game in the game,” said Johnson.

Michael William Jurevicius fought for his life for 70 days. He died on March 24th.

“Veterans Stadium has never sounded so good to me”

The Bucs led the Eagles 3:27 in the fourth quarter 20:10, but had to finish the game.

That was when cornerback Ronde Barber faked lightning and got McNabb to throw a sloping pass for receiver Antonio Freeman. Barber jumped the route and returned the pick 92 yards for a touchdown.

“I was right next to him when I ran across the field and looked extremely quietly on the sideline,” said Brooks, who thinks it is the biggest game in team history. “The Veterans Stadium has never sounded so good to me. Because there was dead silence! It sounded so sweet because it was dead silence, of disbelief. “

“Everyone jumped on the sidelines,” said Pittman. “I was just looking for the man who had the NFC championship hats. I said, “It’s over baby! Let me get my hat!”

“You don’t get that many moments to celebrate like this,” said Johnson. “They almost felt like this was the Super Bowl when it was the actual Super Bowl because so much emotion went into it.”

Create your own legacy

The Bucs are a different team today. The 2002 Bucs had a goodbye in the first round and didn’t hit the streets until that game in Philly. This season’s team is led by Brady, who has already won six Super Bowls. These Bucs entered the postseason as a wildcard team and fifth seed, and had to win in Washington and New Orleans to get here.

Brady insisted that mental toughness would be a necessity in the face of the elements.

“We don’t go upstairs and think about how cold it is,” Quarles said. “We don’t play the cold. We play the Packers.”

But the pain with every injury intensifies in the cold, as the 2002 Bucs knew. Johnson was still recovering from a back injury. Pittman had played with a high ankle sprain for most of the season.

“It’s real. But the ability to lock yourself in is key,” said Johnson.

Alstott has a remedy for the chilly temperatures: the chicken broth at Lambeau Field, for which he developed an affinity while playing in the old NFC Central.

“They have the best chicken broth ever,” said Alstott. “Before the game, after the game, at halftime – they have the best chicken broth. I encourage them to drink this. “

His best advice? Make every game count, enjoy and stay in the moment.

“It’s the biggest game of your life,” said Alstott. “At the time you are in your career[s] – It doesn’t matter if you visited 10 Super Bowls or none – it’s the biggest game because it’s the next game. And you have an incredible opportunity, never before seen, to play in a Super Bowl game in your home stadium. “

“We’re not playing that game this week.”

Coach Bruce Arians warned his players not to look ahead, although on their practice field they can see the Raymond James Stadium redesign with Super Bowl LV signage over the past two weeks, something the team captain is Lavonte David called “surreal”.

“We’re not playing that game this week,” said Arians. “We play the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. If you start thinking about the Super Bowl, you will be beaten and [will] pack your bags on Monday. “

“I love Bruce and how forward he is. I love it. What is wrong with that? It’s called the truth, right? “Said Alstott.

Arians has received its share of congratulations from former players. David too. But they cannot sink into nostalgia. They leave that to those who came before them and can now watch a new generation of gamers follow in their footsteps.

“If the Bucs win, they win,” said Arians. “[I am] really very, very proud of the legacy they left behind. But this is about making names for us now.

“I’m sure you will enjoy it.”

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