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Time Machine: Tampa Gets Taste of 'Gritz Blitz'

Posted Nov 23, 2012

Almost exactly 35 years ago, the Falcons' first trip to Tampa Bay ended with a single-game record for fewest yards allowed as they limited the Bucs to 78 total yards.


Atlanta’s first visit to Tampa Bay and its initial game ever in this series was in the Buccaneers’ second season of existence in 1977 and comes almost 35 years to the exact day (on November 27, 1977) this Sunday.

For the second time that season, the Birds defense established a new single-game record for fewest yards allowed as they limited the Bucs to 78 total yards in this Week 11 contest. This kind of defensive dominance was evident all year and it spurned a nickname for the unit that became very popular in the South.  

The defense flexed its muscles early when CB Rolland Lawrence intercepted a QB Gary Huff pass on Tampa’s third play from scrimmage to set-up a 26 yard field goal by K Fred Steinfort.

RB Haskel Stanback added another score with a 1-yard touchdown run for a 10-0 first quarter Falcons lead. Stanback would cross the goal line on another short touchdown run to begin the second half to finish the scoring for the day for Atlanta in a 17-0 win.

The blanking marked the first time that the Birds had ever recorded two shutouts in a season in team history.

The Falcons strong defense headlined by the likes of DE’s Claude Humphrey and Jeff Merrow, DT Mike Lewis, LB’s Greg Brezina and Robert Pennywell, as well as secondary mates Lawrence and Ray Brown held the Bucs to eight first downs, one for 10 efficiency on third downs and 16 yards passing on five completed passes. (You read it right; Tampa only completed five passes out of 23 attempts for 16 yards in the entire game.)

The stingy Birds affectionately earned the moniker of the “Gritz Blitz” defense that season for their penchant for creating havoc on opposing offenses with their aggressive style of play under new head coach Leeman Bennett and his defensive coaches Doug Shively and Jerry Glanville.

The “Gritz Blitz” put a huge exclamation point on their productive season three games after the Bucs victory when they held the Saints to seven on the scoreboard. That brought their total on the year to a mere 129 points surrendered, which established a new modern-day NFL single-season record for fewest points allowed in a 14-game season.

The “Gritz Blitz” unit would gain even more momentum and set the tone the next year as the opportunistic defense helped the Falcons clinch their first playoff berth in team history in 1978 and claim the first their postseason win ever.