What the heck happened to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday?

That basically sums up the topic of conversation on sports talk radio in the Tampa Bay area since the Bucs’ 27-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on September 10.

But with their loss to the Ravens behind them, the bigger question now becomes how will the Buccaneers respond to their Week 1 performance when the travel to Atlanta to take on the 1-0 Falcons in Week 2?

There’s no way to know for sure because if there were, I’d be in Las Vegas covering the game this weekend. But history sometimes helps shed some light on these types of questions, so I went digging and found a surprising trend over the past 10 seasons in Bucs history.

Now brace yourselves. I’m going to take you back to some not-so-happy places in Bucs history when the team suffered some of its worst defeats, but what comes after that might give you the hope you’re looking for to justify your belief that the Bucs could rebound from their horrific loss to the Ravens with a win in Atlanta this Sunday.

We’ll start all the way back in 1996, which was Tony Dungy’s first year as Bucs head coach. In September of that season, Tampa Bay hosted the Detroit Lions and was handed a 27-0 loss in that Week 5 contest.

Sound familiar? It should. The Bucs celebrated the 10-year anniversary of that humiliating loss by repeating it vs. the Ravens last Sunday.

So, how did the Bucs respond after that embarrassing home loss to the Lions? The following week, they defeated the Minnesota Vikings 24-13 to record their first regular season win of the Dungy era in Tampa.

As it turns out, that was the beginning of Tampa Bay’s ability to show pride and perseverance in the face of adversity.

In December of 1996, the Bucs got shut out in Carolina, 24-0. The following week, they defeated the Washington Redskins at home, 24-10.

In 1997, Tampa Bay got off to a 5-0 start but still managed to get blown out in New York by the Jets in Week 16, 31-0. The Bucs, who finished that season with a 10-6 record and made the playoffs, bounced by from that defeat with a 31-15 win over the Chicago Bears in their regular season finale.

In 1999, the Bucs lost to the Detroit Lions in Week 7 of the regular season, 20-3. The next week they defeated the New Orleans Saints, 31-6.

And in Week 15, Tampa Bay was thumped in Oakland by the Jon Gruden-led Raiders, 45-0. The Bucs responded the following week by defeating the Green Bay Packers at home, 29-10. The Bucs also went on to win their division and play in the NFC Championship Game.

Did I mention the fact that the Bucs lost their regular season opener in Tampa in ’99 and 2002? Why is that relevant to this topic? Well, the Bucs went on to play in the NFC Championship Game in both of those seasons and won Super Bowl XXXVII in ’02. With their opening-day loss to the Ravens, the Bucs are hoping the third time will continue to be the charm.

In 2001, Tampa Bay lost on the road in Chicago, 27-3. The Bucs rebounded in their next game with a 48-21 win over the Saints.

During the 2003 regular season, the San Francisco 49ers handed it to Tampa Bay at home, 24-7. One week after that disappointing defeat, the Bucs soundly defeated the Dallas Cowboys at home, 16-0.

Last season, Tampa Bay lost in embarrassing fashion to rival Carolina, 34-14. But the following week the Bucs managed to get back on track by defeating the Washington Redskins at home, 36-35.

Five weeks later, the Bucs got sent home from New England with a humiliating 28-0 loss to the Patriots. How did they respond? You guessed it – a 27-24 thrilling overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons, who just happens to be Tampa Bay’s next opponent, and one that the Bucs have produced a 7-2 record against dating back to 2000 and swept in ‘05.

There have been a few instances in which the Bucs failed to respond to embarrassing losses over the past 10 seasons, and it’s probably no coincidence that the times they didn’t rebound with a win they missed the playoffs that same year.

In 1998, Tampa Bay lost on opening day in Minnesota, 31-7. The following week the Bucs got sent home from Green Bay with a 23-15 loss. The Bucs finished that season with an 8-8 record and missed the playoffs.

One of Tampa Bay’s worst regular season losses over the past 10 seasons came in Week 17 of the 2003 season when the Bucs lost in Tennessee, 33-13. In 2004, the Bucs at home to Carolina, 37-20. The following week they lost their regular season finale in Arizona, 12-7. The Bucs missed the playoffs both of those seasons.

History shows that the Bucs have made a habit of rebounding from embarrassing losses over the last decade. Tampa Bay’s pride, and perhaps its season, could be on the line when the Bucs invade Atlanta to clash with the Falcons.

How will they respond this time? We’ll find out Sunday.

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