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The Play That Changed Bucs History

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Former Buccaneers WR Joe Jurevicius hauled in a 71-yard reception in the 2002 NFC Championship Game that forever altered the fortunes of the long struggling franchise. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.
Former Buccaneers WR Joe Jurevicius hauled in a 71-yard reception in the 2002 NFC Championship Game that forever altered the fortunes of the long struggling franchise. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.

It is always the little things in life that can, and usually do, add up to bigger end results. Such was the case on Jan. 19, 2003, when third-option wide receiver Joe Jurevicius forever changed the course of history for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With the NFC Championship Game against hated rival Philadelphia tied 7-7 midway through the first half, Bucs QB Brad Johnson stepped back and fired a 12-yard crossing route pass to Jurevicius, who then raced down the left sideline 71 yards to the Eagles five-yard line. It was a simple play by design, but its result turned out to be the deciding factor of the game. And it almost never happened.

Jurevicius joined the team late the previous night, having stayed behind in Tampa as long as he could with his wife, Meagan, and their newborn son, Michael. Young Michael was born with a nerve degenerating disease and was in critical condition. But No. 83 made the trip to the bitter cold “City of Brotherly Love” and used the inspiration of his little boy to fuel what turned out to be a 96-yard TD drive capped off by FB Mike Alstott that gave the Bucs a lead they would not relinquish.

Jurevicius went on to lead the Bucs with 78 yards receiving in their triumphant 48-21 victory against Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII. Sadly, just two months later, baby Michael lost his three-month struggle and passed away. To this day, Jurevicius still gives credit to his son for the play that inspired a franchise to trade in its historical rags for championship riches.