Expansion Bowl I
Lee Zakow, Gridiron UK, published March 1987

On October 17, 1976, the NFL's two newly minted brethren, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Seattle Seahawks tangoed in Tampa Stadium in what was dubbed "Expansion Bowl I". It was the first time in modem history that two expansion teams born in the same year squared off.

The game was interesting because of the contrast in team philosophies it presented but. other than the fact that the team that won wouldn't wind up with a 0-14 slate, the game had little else going for it. Although this space is usually reserved for epic battles and historical moments, events like the Expansion Bowl help to, well, put the really great games into perspective. Yes, it was that bad.

The Bucs' owner, Hugh Culverhouse, had signed on John McKay, one of collegiate football's greatest coaches, to steer his ship. McKay besides being known for his coaching and his cigars, was known for his soul and glib one-liners. Indeed. McKay was so under-whelmed by his new job, that when the Bucs beat Atlanta 12-3 for their first win, Ever. the reserved McKay states. "Ho-hum. another dynasty".

The veteran allocation draft to stock the two franchises saw McKay go for offense. Veteran signal caller Steve Spumer was picked up from the 49ers in a trade to run the offense. On the other side of the coin. Seattle's Head Coach, Jack Patera, had built a reputation by coaching the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome and the Vikinqs' Purple People Eaters. The Seahawks picked up ex-all pro Mike Curtis from Baltimore as well as linebackers Don Hansen from Atlanta and Ed Bradley from Pittsburgh. In the collegiate draft, the Hawks nabbed Steve Niehaus (DT from Notre Dante) and Sammy Green (LB from Florida).

Quarterback, Jim Zorn led the Seahawk attack. Zorn, Dallas' last cut in 1975. scrambled somewhat by design. and mostly to save his life. The offensive line wasn't one of: their strong points. Neither were the running backs. Of the five on the roster going into the Bucs game, four were added the week of the opener against St. Louis prompting the Seahawks to go with either one set back and four receivers or five receivers.

While the Bucs' offense was poor, the defense played well, limiting opponents to 24 points per game. Unlike Seattle whose defense gave away points faster than the offense could score them. Tampa Bay's defense allowed less points than teams like the Jets and Chiefs. But offensively, the team was shut out in three of their first five games, scoring a paltry 26 points.

Both teams came in with 0-5 records. Bucs' kicker David Green opened the scoring with a 38-yard field goal in the first quarter. Green, it should be noted, was the ream's punter, and took over for the ineffective Mino Roder, who missed all three of his field goal attempts. Jim Zorn's 15-yard strike to Sam McCullum put the visiting Seahawks up 7-3 in the second quarter. Kicker John Leypaldt's two field goals from 25 yards and 39 yards out gave the Hawke a 13-3 half-time lead. The lead looked insurmountable taking into account the Bucs' offensive history.

But the Bucs did something unusual. They scored — on a touchdown pass. The Bucs drove to Seattle's goal line. As running-back Louis Carter was stopped short by Seattle defenders, he turned and shovelled the ball to wide receiver Moms Owens who stepped into the endzone cutting the Seahawks' lead to 13-10. But that was it for Seattle, who could only muster 253 net yards on the afternoon. Ditto for the Bucs who were shut down in the fourth quarter.

But with one final chance, Tampa Bay drove into Seattle territory. With less than a minute to go, Green lined up for a 35-yard field goal attempt that would send the game into overtime. But linebacker Mike Curtis blocked the kick to save the game for Seattle, and possibly the fans, who probably couldn't take any more.

The officials, it should be noted, walked off a total of 310 yards. Seattle could gain only 253 total yards and Tampa Bay 28. Of the 41 penalties called (including 16 for holding). 35 were accepted, making the game the most penalized NFL game in 25 years and missing the all-time record by two penalties. The game was summed up best by Steve Spumer (who later went on to coach the USFLs Tampa Bay Bandits — with a much more inventive offense). "We're pretty close to being a good team, but right now, we're pretty terrible.”