When 2007 began most people expected the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to improve, but not to the extent that they did by the end of the year. A division championship was an unexpected gift to Buccaneers fans and the franchise. How did it happen?
In hindsight, there are signposts to a successful season. Here is No. 11 in our series of the most significant moments of the 2007 season and how they impacted Tampa Bay’s run to a division championship.
11. MICHEAL SPURLOCK’S 90-YARD KICKOFF RETURN FOR A TOUCHDOWN, DEC. 16
For nearly 32 years the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had gone without a touchdown on a kickoff return. Sure, they had come close. But never pay dirt.
Of all the returners the Bucs have employed, Micheal Spurlock was an unlikely candidate to snap his dubious NFL distinction.
Spurlock used to be a quarterback at Mississippi. At the time, current Bucs special teams coach Richard Bisaccia was a coach with Ole Miss and liked what he saw. He even tried to get former Rebels coach David Cutcliffe to move him to running back, but to no avail.
Fast forward a few years later to September of last year when the Arizona Cardinals released Spurlock as one of their final cuts. Bisaccia put in a good word for Spurlock with the Bucs and they made Spurlock a practice squad signee.
In late October Mark Jones’ patellar tendon injury opened up a spot on the roster and the Bucs eventually gave it to Spurlock, likely in desperation in trying to find an adequate kickoff returner.
Spurlock broke off a 50-yarder against Houston on Dec. 9, giving the Bucs an indication that he had some ability. But what he did the following week was off the charts.
The Bucs were up 7-3 in the first half when the Bucs set up for a left side return on a Falcons kickoff. Only thing was, the big hole developing to Spurlock’s right side was too much to resist. So he cut that way and made history.
He ran past Jon Gruden and a screaming Bisaccia and into team history with the first kickoff return for a touchdown in team history. The place went berserk. The players went nuts.
And the game turned.
The kick return was big enough. But where it came in the game was even bigger. The Falcons had just chipped away at Tampa Bay’s lead and Spurlock’s return slammed the door shut on any hope the Falcons had to win the game. It was just days after Bobby Petrino’s unceremonious exit from the team and the Falcons were emotionally spent.
And Spurlock’s return helped lock up a division title.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.