Buccaneers’ decade of futility is almost over

It’s certainly been trying times for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this decade. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2007 and are on their fifth head coach in nine seasons. If Dirk Koetter, who is headed into his second season as head coach, makes it to a third year, he’ll eclipse the tenures of his two predecessors, Lovie Smith and Greg Schiano.

It sounds like a dysfunctional mess, but things are looking up for the Bucs thanks to having the one thing that’s eluded this franchise for decades: a legitimate franchise quarterback. Jameis Winston took some noticeable steps forward as an NFL sophomore, and the Bucs were one of the league’s hotter teams once the second half of 2016 came around, winning five straight games to enter the NFC’s playoff race. They faded down the stretch but still finished 9-7, the team’s first winning record since 2010.

Remember when the Patriots were scrappy underdogs and Brady was such an unknown commodity that John Madden pleaded for him to take a knee and play for overtime rather than risk a late interception? Brady, then in his second year with only 16 career starts to his name, had 81 seconds and zero time outs to go from his own 17-yard line into field goal territory at the tail end of a 17-17 game.

He showed off the talent that will make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer in response. His only incompletions were clock-stopping spikes and blitz-avoiding heaves to the sideline. New England drove to the St. Louis 30 to set up a 48-yard field goal with seven seconds left on the clock. Vinatieri’s kick split the uprights as time expired, giving the franchise its first NFL championship.

The only thing that can top a game-winning field goal as time expires over a two-touchdown favorite? The greatest comeback in professional sports. The Patriots trailed 28-3 midway through the third quarter, and a combination of Tom Brady’s wizardry and Atlanta’s steadfast refusal to run the ball in the second half allowed for the only overtime game in Super Bowl history. In the end, Brady and Belichick teamed up for their fifth NFL title and cemented their place as the greatest duo in league history.

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