Bucs 20 Lions 23 - The Game Report
The 1983 season ended on another losing note for John McKay's team as once again, woeful kicking cost them a chance of victory against a Lions' team that was celebrating its first division title since 1957. Jack Thompson threw for the second-highest yardage in franchise history, but could not overcome the mistakes and errors that typified the team all season long.
The 1983 Buccaneers were not just a bad team, they were snakebit from start to finish with injuries. Two years previously, when they had won the NFC Central Division crown, 18 different players had started all 16 games. In 1983, it was just three, WR Kevin House, DT David Logan and CB John Holt. 17 players finished the season on injured reserve and for this season finale, even All-Pro DE Lee Roy Selmon sat watching on the bench through injury.
Coach John McKay had announced pre-game, his intentions to scrap the kicking game following Bill Capece's awful performance on Monday Night Football against Green Bay. Capece was left back in Tampa "nursing a groin injury" and Dave Warnke, signed off the street following an impromptu try-out at One Buc Place, took his place on the roster.
And McKay was true to his word on the Bucs' opening drive as they faced 4th and inches from the Lion 12-yard line after Thompson had completed passes to both Theo and Jerry Bell. The Bucs' QB was stopped for no gain in what turned out to be a pretty poor ground game performance in spite of strenuous efforts by back-up RB Mel Carver.
Thompson completed on his first six passes and led a 65-yard drive late in the first quarter that culminated in a four-yard TD pass to TE Jerry Bell when the Detroit defense was led frozen by Thompson's play-fake. Warnke's successful extra point gave no indication of the problems that would follow.
Billy Sims tied the scores for the home team after a 66-yard, 11-play drive and then saw his team go ahead on Eddie Murray's 34-yard fieldgoal. Thompson replied with another fine passing performance drive and hit WR Kevin House for a 20-yard score on 3rd and 8. But Warnke's extra point was one of the worst possibly ever attempted in the NFL, coming closer to hitting the corner pylon than going through the uprights.
Murray levelled the scores again early in the third quarter after Thompson blindly threw the ball under heavy pressure, LB Robert Cobb intercepting and returning it to the Tampa 28. Warnke's attempt to match him with a three-pointer, following a Lion turnover inside their own 20, was even worse than his extra point attempt, and led McKay to scrap the kicking game entirely. "That was low and outside, ball four" uttered commentator Dick Vermeil trying hard not to laugh out loud at the pathetic attempt.
The Buccaneers drove once again into Lion territory following a Thompson 54-yard bomb to House, but on fourth down from the Detroit 5-yard line, McKay went for the score but Thompson's pass to TE Mark Witte was broken up when a successful fieldgoal would have tied the scores.
Fourth quarter scores by Eddie Murray and a six-yard TD pass from back-up QB Gary Danielson to Mark Chadwick gave the Lions a lead they would not relinquish, but there was still time for one last kicking moment of infamy for John McKay's unit.
Thompson's third TD pass of the day, a 13-yard slant to Gerald Carter with 1:22 to play, gave the Bucs some hope, and McKay sent in OL George Yarno for the extra point, all 6-6 and 270 pounds of him. Yarno toe-punted the ball left-footed through the uprights to mass celebrations from his fellow linemen. Warnke just stood and watched in embarrassment but his last moment in the NFL was a pitiful attem
The 1983 Buccaneers flew home at 2-14, the worst record in the NFL. But this defeat will long be remembered for a one-game wonder named Dave Warnke, and quite probably the biggest kicker in NFL history ever to make an extra point.