'Clutchaneers' rallied when it counted most
Tom McEwen, The Tampa Tribune, published 3 January 1983

The overtime had just began, and predictably. The Tampa Bay Bucs had lost yet another coin toss and were forced to kick off to Chicago to start the 15 extra minutes of play called for when the regulation game at Tampa Stadium ended in a tie. But, just as predictable as was the lost coin toss and possession, so was it that the Buc defense would quickly force the Bears to punt. That happened, the third-down defensive heroic being a Jim McMahon pass batted away by Mark Cotney.

Now Tampa Bay had the ball in good field position, on its 40. And Tampa Bay had the momentum, for these brinkmanship Bucs had pulled up their socks yet another time. After being down 20-6, there they were in overtime, a Super Bowl Tournament spot theirs with a tie or a win. There they were tied at 23-23 after a frustrating start, after tormenting their great fans with misdeeds that had put them in yet another deep hole.

There they were, first down on their 40, their quarterback limping, his damaged right thigh ace-bandaged, his bones aching, his earlier mistakes wiped away by the magnificence that followed two interceptions and a fumble. There Doug Williams was beneath the center, preparing for the first Buc play of the overtime. Surely it would be a forward pass. The field position, again, was excellent at the 40, the wind was to his back, and it had been the pass (367 yards, 2 TDs) that forced the overtime on the Bears, who had victory within grasp.

Surely, the Bears thought it would be a pass. The Buc running game had been virtually ineffective. For example, James Wilder had carried the ball but once during regulation and had lost 1 yard. Surely the Bucs would pass, as they had so often, on all downs, including the first. "They had their nickel defense in there," Coach John McKay would say later, meaning five Bear defensive backs. "We thought they would think pass."

In went one of the more basic Buc plays, one over which so many fans groan when it is unproductive. It is 18 EAT Pitch. EAT means End and Tackle move in opposite directions. It meant tackle Charley Hannah would move to the outside and push the linebacker out, toward the sidelines. Tight end Jimmie Giles would cross and block down on the defensive end. Quarterback Williams would turn to his right and pitch the ball to fullback Wilder. Very, very basic. The call "caught me by surprise," said Hannah. "It's a pretty basic play. We do it all the time. Giles works on the end and I take out the 'backer."

Giles was being called upon for a journeyman's job here, a blocking job. Giles, the Pro Bowl tight end, who had justified his selection earlier by catching two touchdown passes. "I am supposed to keep the defensive end from penetrating on this play," Giles said. "I looked up as the play began and couldn't believe it. The end and tackle were right together." Giles mowed them both down, toward the middle of the field, as Hannah pushed the linebacker outside. "All I know is I got a block on two people," said Giles, "then looked to the right and saw James taking off."

"I got to the line and the hole was so wide my eyes got wide," said Wilder. "I then broke one tackle and cut against the grain." Wilder was heading north toward Buffalo Avenue at quick acceleration. The blocking scheme had worked perfectly. Chicago was caught in a blitz and a pass defense. Wilder legged it to the Chicago 13, 47 yards from his starting point. It was his longest run of the year and the most important. Veteran cornerback Terry Schmidt, with the angle, finally caught the fleeing Wilder.

The ball was a tad to the east of mid-center. A field goal kicked would have to travel 33 yards. Bill Capece had, on his gray day, hit FGs of 27 and 31 in the first half, missed one (38) that loomed important at the time, then made his clutch 40-yarder with only seconds left in the regulation game. "It is written that he who wasteth field goal opportunity, loseth game," Coach McKay believes, he would say later, as he has said in the past. Plenty knowing the McKay philosophy felt he would call on Capece to kick the field goal immediately. Instead, "Coach asked me if there was anything I preferred," said Capece. "I told him I would like to have it in the center of the field. I already had the wind and my confidence."

Williams took the snap from Steve Wilson, stepped a couple of yards left (west) and fell down. Capece was up. McKay told him to relax and kick it. That was easy for the old coach on the sidelines to say. But, it also was easy for Bill Capece to do. "Excellent snap, hold and kick," said holder Larry Swider. It was a beauty for the Bucs and the place came alive with noise and orange movement, and the Bears hung their heads. One more time Capece had done what he was called upon to do.

Once more, the Bucs had found new ways to torment themselves, their coaches and their partisans. But once more, they had found a way to win, a new way this frenetic season, in overtime, with not one but two must-make Capece field goals, with repeated had-to plays, with Williams limping around and three defensive backs helped to the sidelines, with a surprise 47-yard run in an obvious passing situation.

Offensively, the Bucs were erring, pitiful in the early going, able to move the ball, but also just as able to hand it over to the Bears, just as able not to function with effectiveness inside the Chicago 15. While that was happening, the Buc defense was brutal in its treatment of the Bear backs and receivers, and when it could catch him, young quarterback Jim McMahon. The Buc defense gave the offense time and, in time, the offense responded. One more time another Buc victory was achieved and/or preserved in the dying and/or extra minutes. "There were a million reasons for us to fold out there today, but we didn't," said nose tackle David Logan.

"I am a year older," said cornerback Mike Washington, who is also once more wounded. "If it had gone eight more overtimes, we would have found a way to win," said Logan. "We just can't keep this up," said Williams, who turned boos to cheers - again - who played despite his injuries, who was a gallant man this day, as were they all, as they have been in these Sunday adventures.

Late in the season of 1979, when the Bucs had lost three in a row, when they were required to win but one of the final four for the division championship, I labelled them The Chokeneers. It was not kindly received, but the Bucs did beat Kansas City in the final game for the title. "You called them Chokeneers back then," said Richie McKay, son of Coach John. "How about calling them Clutchaneers, now?" So be it. Clutchaneers they have been and never more so than Sunday, Jan. 2 - one year to the day that they lost 38-0 in the playoffs at Dallas. A year can clearly make a lot of difference.