Bucs' Greatest Play Ever? "The Pick"

January 21 - From the pages of the Pewter Report publication, Scott Reynolds writes how Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber's 92-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2002 NFC Championship game, a play he calls "The Pick", has replaced "The Catch" by Bert Emanuel in the 1999 NFC Championship game as the landmark play in team history.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were so close to going to their first Super Bowl. Only four minutes away from having general manager Rich McKay think to himself, "Dad, we did it. You were so close in 1979. We were so close in 1999. We finally did it."

But that damn Donovan McNabb was driving his Philadelphia Eagles into Tampa Bay's red zone with just four minutes left in regulation, and Tampa Bay was clinging to a 20-10 lead. After a scattershot day, McNabb was 5-of-6 for 65 yards on that drive, and had the Eagles at the Bucs' 10-yard line with 3:27 left after a 14-yard throw to receiver Antonio Freeman.

Ten more yards by the Eagles and the Bucs' lead would be cut to 20-17 and everything might have changed. But Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber, who had been passed over for the Pro Bowl in favor of Philadelphia's Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, capped off a great day with the biggest play in Tampa Bay history. A play that I hope will go down in Bucs history simply known as "The Pick."

Before the snap, Barber charged the line and showed blitz, only to back out at the snap of the ball and shuffle to his right to cover Freeman. Barber had created his own interception. By showing blitz, he forced McNabb to throw a hot route, which was a quick slant to Freeman, but Barber's blitz never came.

Instead, the ball found its way into Barber's waiting arms and with each step he took as he raced 92 yards towards the end zone, and for all practical purposes, San Diego, Veterans Stadium and Philadelphia grew quieter and quieter and the Tampa Bay area grew louder and louder. Phone lines went dead from circuit overload all across the Bay area. Thousands of potato chips suddenly flew up in the air, as gallons of beer and soft drinks quickly spilt. "The Bucs are going to the Super Bowl!" millions of Bucs fans would scream in unison.

If you had any doubts that the Eagles would mount a late comeback, or were afraid that somehow, someway the curse of Doug Williams would rear its head up once again, Ronde Barber put those fears to rest with "The Pick".

"The Pick" has now replaced "The Catch" by Bert Emanuel as the franchise's landmark play. From the sourness of a controversial instant replay call in 1999, to the sweet sound of "Super Bowl Bound Bucs!" in 2002, Barber's interception return turned around the fortunes of a franchise that would never truly get nationwide respect until they made it to the Super Bowl.

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