The first time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ever played in Denver was a doozy. It was week 9 of their inaugural 1976 season. Playing an All-AFC schedule that first season, the team went into Denver having dropped the first eight games of the season. Then all hell broke loose.
No Love Lost
There was a rivalry between John McKay and Denver coach John Ralston. It stretched all the way back to their college coaching days. John McKay the coach of USC. Ralston the coach of Stanford. “Stanford was not his favorite,” said McKay’s long-time USC assistant, Dave Levy. “He felt they were a little arrogant. Stanford gave him the needle. He used to say, `I like (Stanford coach) John Ralston when we beat them. I don’t like him when we lose to them.’ ”
McKay was not coaching USC anymore. The Buccaneers were just 8 games into a 26 game losing streak. As a result of a bad expansion draft format, Tampa Bay was made up of injured, washed up veterans, and very green rookies. The situation was perfectly set for a proud man like McKay to lose his sh__.
What Could Go Wrong
The Buccaneers were 17-point underdogs that day, at 0-8, but leading in the third quarter 13-10, there was hope. Then there wasn’t. The Broncos would score 38 unanswered points in nine minutes. Three touchdowns were scored defensively. This did not stop McKay from accusing Broncos coach Ralston of running up the score.