By Times staff
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2002
Bucs 10, Cowboys 6
(Sept. 9, Texas Stadium, Dallas)
THE BIG PICTURE: The Bucs opened the regular season in Big D the way they ended the 1-3 preseason, when they averaged less than 12 points a game. Tampa Bay rushed for only 71 yards, but quarterback Brad Johnson, in his first regular-season game for Tampa Bay, completed 26 of 35 passes for 192 yards and the Bucs controlled the ball for 36:32 to Dallas' 23:28. With the Bucs trailing 6-3, Johnson hit 5 of 6 passes and drove the Bucs 77 yards in 13 plays, scoring the only touchdown on a 1-yard sneak 2:35 into the fourth quarter. "That was too close for comfort. ... It was frustrating because we didn't take advantage of our opportunities," running back Warrick Dunn said.
KEY PLAY: Safety John Lynch intercepted Quincy Carter's fourth-down bomb and went down at the Bucs 14 with 1:15 remaining to secure the victory.
WORTH REMEMBERING: With its first possession, Dallas had a third-and-goal at the Tampa Bay 1-yard line. But as running back Emmitt Smith swept to the left, cornerback Brian Kelly grabbed the future Hall of Famer and wrestled him down. "It was like, they didn't get in then, they're not getting in the rest of the day," linebacker Derrick Brooks said.
WORTH FORGETTING: The Bucs settled for a 39-yard field goal by Martin Gramatica to end a 13-play opening drive, and a 15-play, 68-yard march ended with a fumble by Dunn.
KEY STATISTIC: Keyshawn Johnson, limping through most of the game with a deep thigh bruise, caught seven passes for 71 yards. "I think the effort Keyshawn gave us was amazing after getting that leg hurt early. ... I think he had to do it on blood and guts," offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said.
Vikings 20, Bucs 16
(Sept. 30, Metrodome, Minneapolis)
THE BIG PICTURE: After a two-week hiatus -- because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack and a scheduled third-week bye -- the Bucs returned with a loss. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper drove Minnesota 96 yards, culminating in an 8-yard touchdown run with 1:03 remaining. The Bucs had one more possession with only one timeout and moved the ball to the Minnesota 18, but cornerback Eric Kelly's interception at the 3 killed the comeback. Again, the Bucs scored just one touchdown, Warrick Dunn's run early in the fourth quarter. And that was a gift: Cornerback Kenny Wright was penalized for taunting, giving the Bucs an automatic first down at the Minnesota 6.
KEY PLAY: Culpepper bootlegged to his right and floated a pass to tight end Byron Chamberlain. Linebacker Derrick Brooks deflected the ball and cornerback Donnie Abraham leaped behind Chamberlain to intercept it, but Chamberlain made the catch. "We had Brooks, Donnie and John Lynch there," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "That's our three best players, and he still made the catch." The 37-yard pass and run play put the ball at the Bucs 2 and, after a Vikings penalty, Culpepper scored the winning touchdown.
WORTH REMEMBERING: Martin Gramatica was good on all three field-goal attempts, one a 49-yarder.
WORTH FORGETTING: Just about everything else. Dunn left the game in the fourth quarter with a foot injury. Culpepper completed 30 of 44 passes for 322 yards and led scoring drives of 11, 18, 12 and 11 plays that gave Minnesota an advantage of nearly 12 minutes in time of possession.
KEY STATISTIC: Minnesota converted 9 of 12 third downs, including the first six. The biggest: Culpepper's 4-yard run on third and 3, one play before his clutch pass to Chamberlain.
Bucs 14, Packers 10
(Oct. 7, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa)
THE BIG PICTURE: This time it was the Bucs offense that put together a long fourth-quarter scoring drive and the defense that protected the winning margin. The 95-yard march was capped by Mike Alstott's 39-yard touchdown run with 6:45 to play. Until then, Green Bay's No. 1-ranked defense had not allowed a point in the second half of the season. The Packers took over with 4:17 and two timeouts remaining and quarterback Brett Favre drove them from the Green Bay 16-yard line to the Tampa Bay 8 before safety John Lynch batted down a fourth-down end-zone pass as time ran out. "Brett fired in there and I could've sworn it bounced off a receiver's chest or hands or something," Packers guard Marco Rivera said. "It looked like there was 100 guys in there." With injured Warrick Dunn absent, Alstott started at running back and finished with 77 yards on 15 carries.
KEY PLAYS: Besides Lynch's? With the Packers leading 10-7 in the fourth quarter and looking for more, defensive end Simeon Rice tackled receiver Antonio Freeman for a 5-yard loss on a reverse on third and 10 at the Tampa Bay 31. After the punt, the Bucs drove 95 yards to win.
WORTH REMEMBERING: Linebacker Shelton Quarles returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter. It was the longest scoring play in Bucs history.
WORTH FORGETTING: Brad Johnson was sacked five times, three by defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who abused rookie left tackle Kenyatta Walker.
KEY STATISTIC: The Bucs intercepted Favre three times, beating him for only the fifth time in 19 starts against them.
Titans 31, Bucs 28 (OT)
(Oct. 14, Adelphia Coliseum, Nashville, Tenn.)
THE BIG PICTURE: The Bucs' fourth-quarter anguish lasted into a fifth, when the Titans' Joe Nedney kicked a 49-yard field goal 2:38 into overtime. To make it worse, he did it after Brad Johnson rallied the Bucs from two touchdowns down, throwing scoring passes of 6 yards to Jacquez Green with 5:09 remaining in regulation and 5 yards to tight end Dave Moore with 54 seconds left -- and after Tampa Bay won the coin toss to get the overtime kickoff. The Bucs went three and out and Tennessee took possession at the Tampa Bay 46. Steve McNair passed for a first down, and Nedney, who had missed from 47 yards in the fourth quarter, kicked the winner. Until then, the Bucs under coach Tony Dungy were 15-0 when scoring 28 or more points. "If 28 ain't enough for this defense, we're in trouble," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said.
KEY PLAY: A holding penalty on rookie John Howell on the overtime kickoff return forced the Bucs to start at their 9.
WORTH REMEMBERING: Brad Johnson passed for three touchdowns. Keyshawn Johnson caught eight passes for 140 yards, the third-highest yardage in a game for his career and most as a Buc. And Warrick Dunn, playing with a foot sprain, ran 5 yards for one touchdown and 26 yards with a screen pass for another.
WORTH FORGETTING: McNair was sacked twice but did damage by rushing nine times for 54 yards.
KEY STATISTIC: Tennessee entered the game having coverted on 16.7 percent of its third-down situations, but made 8 of 16, including 6 of 8 in the first half, against the Bucs.
Steelers 17, Bucs 10
(Oct. 21, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa)
THE BIG PICTURE: The Bus ran over Tampa Bay's once-feared defense, picking up 143 yards and a touchdown. Jerome Bettis, a running back, also threw a 32-yard halfback pass to tight end Jerame Tuman for a touchdown. "Right now, we're playing hard, but we're just breaking down," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "And the breakdowns are killing us. It's not like we're having wholesale breakdowns. A guy will miss an assignment or somebody else will miss a tackle. Those things will kill you." The Bucs rushed for 64 yards on 19 carries while their defense allowed 220 rushing yards, much of it coming on runs of 46 and 29 yards by Bettis, the first for a score to stake Pittsburgh to a 14-3 halftime lead. On a typical series, the Bucs had first and goal at the Pittsburgh 8 early in the second quarter, but settled for a 31-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
KEY PLAYS: Rather than take a shot into the end zone with that first and goal, offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen ran Mike Alstott twice for a total of 3 yards and Brad Johnson was sacked on third down.
WORTH REMEMBERING: The Bucs forced three turnovers, all by Barber. Brad Johnson completed 24 of 40 passes for 283 yards. Keyshawn Johnson caught 10 passes for 159 yards.
WORTH FORGETTING: Brad Johnson's 5-yard scoring pass to Frank Murphy with 28 seconds left put the Bucs down by a touchdown. They appeared to recover their onside kick, but replays showed Brian Kelly never had a firm grip on the ball and lost it in the pile to the Steelers' Mark Bruener.
KEY STATISTIC: Brad Johnson was sacked 10 times, setting a Bucs record and tying Pittsburgh's team record.
Bucs 41, Vikings 14
(Oct. 28, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa)
THE BIG PICTURE: The Bucs played a near-perfect game as coach Tony Dungy, Minnesota's defensive coordinator from 1992-95, beat his former team for the fifth time in six home games. The Bucs led 28-0 at halftime, by which time they held a 20-0 advantage in first downs, a 22:47 to 7:13 margin in time of possession and a 297-44 edge in total yards. Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who had dissected the Tampa Bay defense four weeks earlier, was limited to 150 yards passing. Tampa Bay's rushing attack, ranked 30th entering the game, rolled over the Vikings for 177 yards, 129 by Mike Alstott, who tied a team record with three touchdowns. "Those guys didn't really want to tackle him after a couple times of running into him," receiver Keyshawn Johnson said. "It was kind of like, "Nah, we don't want any part of that.' Once you sense that, you just kind of know they're in for a pretty good butt-kicking."
KEY PLAY: On the Vikings' first drive, Culpepper scrambled for a 4-yard gain but took a hit from linebacker Derrick Brooks that prompted a Minnesota timeout to stop the bleeding in the quarterback's nose, which turned out to be broken.
WORTH REMEMBERING: The Vikings' first seven possessions included five three-and-outs, a one-play drive that ended the first half and an interception.
WORTH FORGETTING: On the opening kickoff, rookie Dwight Smith fumbled and regained control just before stepping out of bounds at the Tampa Bay 4.
KEY STATISTIC: The Bucs did not allow a first down until 10:05 was left in the third quarter.
Packers 21, Bucs 20
(Nov. 4, Lambeau Field, Green Bay)
THE BIG PICTURE: The Bucs had a chance to end the Packers' dominance at Lambeau Field in their last visit there until 2005 because of realignment. Instead, Tampa Bay blew a 10-point second-half lead and was beaten by Ahman Green's 63-yard run in the third quarter and Allen Rossum's 55-yard punt return with 3:03 remaining. "We didn't play well enough," coach Tony Dungy said. "We had a chance to get way out in front. We got a (17-7) lead and to lose with two big plays that you give up, you didn't play well enough." All the Bucs' points came off turnovers. Donnie Abraham's interception led to a field goal. Warren Sapp's recovery of a Green fumble led to Brad Johnson's 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dave Moore, and Jamie Duncan's interception led to a 19-yard scoring pass to Mike Alstott.
KEY PLAY: Rossum's return was the first return of a kick for a score against the Bucs this season. Linebacker Shelton Quarles was the only Buc to lay a hand on Rossum, and he was flagged for a face-mask penalty on the play.
WORTH REMEMBERING: Moore's touchdown catch was his third in four games.
WORTH FORGETTING: Johnson was sacked seven times, Alstott was held to 30 yards on 17 carries and the Bucs had just 194 yards in total offense.
KEY STATISTIC: The Bucs gave up 352 total yards, 169 to Green.
Bucs 20, Lions 17
(Nov. 11, Silverdome, Pontiac, Mich.)
THE BIG PICTURE: The Bucs blew another lead, 10 points in the fourth quarter to the winless Lions. But this time they had enough time -- barely -- to rally as Brad Johnson led a 63-yard march in 1:45 climaxed by Martin Gramatica's 35-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining. "The guys did a great job of not panicking, believing we could score on the final drive," Johnson said. "And that drive, no doubt, was big for our season." Tampa Bay led 17-7 after Karl Williams returned a John Jett punt 84 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the third quarter. But that came one series after Williams' fumble of Jett's punt led to the Lions' first score -- a 1-yard run by fullback Cory Schlesinger that cut the Bucs' lead to a field goal. The Lions then tied it on a 38-yard field goal by Jason Hanson and an 8-yard pass from quarterback Charlie Batch to Reuben Droughns with 1:49 to play.
KEY PLAY: An 18-yard, third-down pass to Keyshawn Johnson during the final drive, giving the Bucs a first down at their 45. "If we didn't get that," Brad Johnson said, "we were going to hand them the ball back with a minute and a half to go. So that was a big, big play for us."
WORTH REMEMBERING: The Bucs sacked Batch a season-high five times, including two by defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
WORTH FORGETTING: Reidel Anthony, getting his second consecutive start in place of injured Jacquez Green, dropped a first-quarter touchdown pass on third down at the Lions 5. The Bucs had to settle for a field-goal attempt that failed when a bad snap resulted in Gramatica's scramble and incomplete pass intended for Dave Moore.
KEY STATISTIC: Cornerback Ronde Barber intercepted Batch twice, saving at least one touchdown.
Bears 27, Bucs 24
(Nov. 18, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa)
THE BIG PICTURE: In an 11-minute stretch to start the third quarter, Bears quarterback Jim Miller ripped apart Tampa Bay's defense with touchdown passes of 44 and 66 yards to Marty Booker. Miller also passed 28 yards to Booker for the Bears' first touchdown. "Coming into this game, they hadn't really taken the ball downfield in the passing game," safety John Lynch said. "Maybe that factored into it. We just didn't expect that out of them." The Bucs, trailing 24-16 and at their 26 with 9:37 remaining, called for a fake punt, then called it off. But punter Mark Royals never saw the latter and the play failed. It led to the Bears' winning field goal, a 40-yarder by Paul Edinger. Instead of needing a touchdown and 2-point conversion -- which they eventually got -- to tie the score, the Bucs trailed by 11. Martin Gramatica's 48-yard field-goal attempt to send the game to overtime failed.
KEY PLAY: Gramatica's attempt bounced off the right upright. WORTH REMEMBERING: Brad Johnson set a team-record with 40 completions in 56 attempts for 399 yards. He cut Chicago's lead to 24-16 early in the fourth quarter by leading a 78-yard drive capped by Mike Alstott's 1-yard run, then pulled the Bucs to within a field goal on his 1-yard scoring run and two-point conversion pass to Mike Alstott with 2:29 left.
WORTH FORGETTING: Tampa Bay's four turnovers, including an interception by safety Tony Parrish with 1:53 remaining, and the fake punt.
KEY STATISTIC: The Bucs faced fourth and 6 when Royals completed a 5-yard pass to Aaron Stecker on the fake punt.
Bucs 24, Rams 17
(Nov. 26, Dome at America's Center, St. Louis)
THE BIG PICTURE: The Bucs have had an interesting recent history with the Rams: losing the NFC Championship Game 11-6 to cap the 1999 season, then winning a Monday night thriller at Raymond James 38-35 in 2000. This season, Tampa Bay was dangerously close to falling out of contention at 4-5, meeting the host 8-1 Rams in what turned out to be another Monday night thriller. The Bucs forced five turnovers and engineered two long second-half touchdown drives. The first started with the second-half kickoff and ended 68 yards later with Mike Alstott's 8-yard run, his second touchdown of the game. The winning drive, breaking a 17-17 tie, was a 90-yarder climaxed by Warrick Dunn's 21-yard touchdown run with 11:13 left in the fourth quarter. "The only way to start a streak is to win the first one," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "That's what we did." The Bucs held the NFL's most prolific offense to one touchdown, Kurt Warner's 1-yard toss to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna midway in the third quarter.
KEY PLAYS: Donnie Abraham and John Lynch intercepted Warner on St. Louis' final two possessions to squelch threatened rallies.
WORTH REMEMBERING: Sapp sacked Warner twice, forced one fumble and recovered another.
WORTH FORGETTING: Martin Gramatica had a chance to put behind him the failed field-goal attempt that ended the loss in Chicago. Instead, his first kick against the Rams, a 26-yard chip shot in the first quarter, was wide left. It was his first miss in 21 attempts under 30 yards in his three pro seasons.
KEY STATISTIC: Running back Marshall Faulk was limited to 55 yards on 12 carries and 11 yards on two receptions.
Bucs 16, Bengals 13 (OT)
(Dec. 2, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati)
THE BIG PICTURE: All week, coach Tony Dungy told the Bucs that winning in Cincinnati would be tougher than beating the Rams. What he didn't tell them was that only 12 percent of NFL teams win a game on the road after playing a Monday night game on the road. The win wasn't just tough; it was ugly. Tampa Bay blew a 10-point lead with 6:23 remaining in regulation. It won despite Martin Gramatica's missed field-goal attempts of 43 and 51 yards, and despite failing to score an offensive touchdown. After giving up Corey Dillon's 6-yard game-tying touchdown reception from Jon Kitna with eight seconds left, the Bucs won on Gramatica's 21-yard field goal with 9:58 remaining in overtime. "A win is a win," linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "That's one thing we did ... that we didn't do in previous games, and that's finish a team off in overtime. You take it. We got on a streak last year. We didn't care how we won."
KEY PLAY: John Lynch punched the ball out of Dillon's grasp and pounced on it at the Cincinnati 3-yard line in overtime. "I said, "Just stay down, let Martin end this thing and let's get out of here with our lives,' " Lynch said. On the next play, Gramatica kicked the winner that enabled the Bucs to post back-to-back wins for the first time in nearly a year.
WORTH REMEMBERING: The only Buc to reach the end zone was tight end Todd Yoder, who scooped up a punt blocked by Ronde Barber in the second quarter and returned it 11 yards for his first career touchdown.
WORTH FORGETTING: Tampa Bay gained 65 yards on 30 rushes, a 2.2 average, and Brad Johnson was sacked six times, once in overtime that knocked the Bucs out of field-goal range.
KEY STATISTIC: The Bucs held Dillon to 79 yards on 23 carries.
Bucs 15, Lions 12
(Dec. 9, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa)
THE BIG PICTURE: Keyshawn Johnson's first touchdown catch of the season, with 45 seconds remaining, kept the Bucs in the playoff picture and the Lions winless. The 13-yard catch in the left side of the end zone, Johnson leaping over cornerback Jimmy Wyrick for the ball, capped a four-minute, 80-yard drive in which Brad Johnson completed 8 of 12 passes, four to Keyshawn Johnson for 59 yards. "The whole drive, I was the primary receiver," Keyshawn Johnson said. "I knew that and I told Coach (Tony) Dungy that before we got the ball. I went to Coach Dungy first and went to Clyde (Christensen, offensive coordinator) and said, "You've got to put the football in my hands.' Coach Dungy is not going to say much, but he said, "We are, we are, we are.' "
KEY PLAY: Two plays before the winning play, with Tampa Bay facing fourth and 8 at the Detroit 28, Johnson and Johnson teamed for a 15-yard completion.
WORTH REMEMBERING: On third and 2 at the Bucs 28, linebacker Shelton Quarles sacked Mike McMahon for 6-yard loss. The play, with 5:54 remaining, prevented the Lions from running time off the clock with a new set of downs and took them out of field-goal range.
WORTH FORGETTING: Tight end Dave Moore caught a 5-yard third-down pass to the Detroit 1-yard line with five seconds remaining in the half and linebacker Clint Kriewaldt draped over him. The Bucs could take the penalty (third and goal at the 3), or decline it (fourth down on the 1). They took the penalty, figuring they could get off two plays in five seconds. Brad Johnson was supposed to throw a quick slant to Keyshawn Johnson, or throw the ball away. But Keyshawn Johnson was covered, Brad Johnson hesitated, defensive end Robert Porcher tackled him and Johnson threw a desperation left-handed, underhanded lob that fell incomplete as time expired.
KEY STATISTIC: Brad Johnson completed 31 of 54 passes for 305 yards. Going into the game, the Bucs were 0-9 for Dungy when attempting 40 or more passes.
Bears 27, Bucs 3
(Dec. 16, Soldier Field, Chicago)
THE BIG PICTURE: It wasn't just rookie Anthony Thomas' running (173 yards and a touchdown) that knocked Tampa Bay out of the chase for the NFC Central title. Neither was just it Jim Miller's passing (two touchdowns). Mostly it was the Bucs' inability to run or pass or even hold on to the ball. Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott rushed for a combined 50 yards. Quarterback Brad Johnson completed 18 of 40 passes for 191. And the Bucs turned the ball over four times (two fumbles, two interceptions). One pick came on Johnson's attempt to pass to Karl Williams in the end zone. One fumble, with the Bucs down 10-3, came after Keyshawn Johnson turned a short reception into a 47-yard gain to the Chicago 8 before being stripped by cornerback Walt Harris. "We tried to make plays and it seemed like nothing would work," Brad Johnson said. "For us, offensively, it felt like there was about 20 guys out there with about 50 different arms batting down the balls." The loss in Tampa Bay's final NFC Central game -- it moves to the new NFC South next season -- coupled with a Monday night loss by New Orleans, sent the Bucs and the Saints into Raymond James Stadium with 7-6 records, one team almost certainly heading to the playoffs, the other to oblivion.
KEY PLAYS: The Bucs took the second-half kickoff, went three and out, and the Bears took the punt and drove 69 yards for a touchdown and a 20-3 lead. "We haven't had a loss like this in a long time, where basically at 10 minutes in the third quarter, we were out of it," coach Tony Dungy said.
WORTH REMEMBERING: Nothing.
WORTH FORGETTING: Everything.
KEY STATISTIC: Thomas was held to 27 yards rushing in the first half, then helped the Bears play keep-away with 146 yards in the second half.
Bucs 48, Saints 21
(Dec. 23, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa)
THE BIG PICTURE: Aaron Stecker almost made history with the opening kickoff and by halftime the Bucs virtually made the playoffs. Stecker went 86 yards before being dragged down 14 yards short of the end zone, where no Tampa Bay player has ever taken a kickoff. The play set up the first of Brad Johnson's three touchdowns, a 14-yarder to Karl Williams. Cornerback Ronde Barber then made the first of his club-record three interceptions, on New Orleans quarterback Aaron Brooks' first pass. That led to Mike Alstott's 1-yard touchdown run, one of his 101 rushing yards. Sixty-six seconds into the game, the Bucs led 14-0. By halftime it was 30-0. The victory put Tampa Bay in control in the chase for the final NFC wild-card spot; a Game 15 victory over the Ravens and a loss by Atlanta and the Bucs were in. Or win the final two games (Baltimore and Philadelphia), and they were in. "It's a relief to know we don't have to count on somebody else winning now," coach Tony Dungy said after the Bucs tied their record for points in a game. "That's what I told the team, "It's not like the BCS where you've got to hope somebody votes you in, we can control it. Here we are, we know if we win our two games, we're in.' "
KEY PLAY: Stecker's run. "That play let the Saints know we were coming to play today," safety John Lynch said. "Plays like that lift the whole team. Those plays raise the electricity in the stadium."
WORTH REMEMBERING: What else? Stecker's run.
WORTH FORGETTING: Martin Gramatica strained the hamstring in his right (kicking) leg on the last of his four field goals.
KEY STATISTIC: By halftime Tampa Bay had outgained the Saints 269-34 while limiting them to one first down.
Bucs 22, Ravens 10
(Dec. 29, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa)
THE BIG PICTURE: The Ravens were back on the Bucs' turf where 11 months earlier they -- and former Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer -- had won Super Bowl XXXV. This was payback of sorts. "We outplayed the defending Super Bowl champions and put on a great show in our house, in front of our fans and in front of a national television audience," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "We expect to be in the playoffs (they got in the next day when Atlanta lost to Miami) and we expect to do some damage once we get in there." Tampa Bay's defense outplayed Baltimore's, one of the league's best. The Ravens didn't have a sack; the Bucs nailed Elvis Grbac five times. Brad Johnson didn't throw an interception; the Bucs picked Grbac twice, one by linebacker Derrick Brooks, who rumbled 53 yards to the Ravens 1 before being knocked out of bounds. And Doug Brien, replacing injured kicker Martin Gramatica, hit his first three field-goal attempts. Ten of the Bucs' first 16 points were set up by Todd Yoder's blocked punt (Brien's third field goal) and Brooks' interception return (Johnson's 1-yard sneak). And when the Ravens cut the lead to 16-10, the Bucs stopped them on downs and Mike Alstott put the game away with a 32-yard scoring run with 1:35 to play.
KEY PLAY: Brooks' interception and return. "You know it is going to be a tight game and you need big plays," coach Tony Dungy said. "That changed the field position and we got a score and got up nine points, so that was a huge play."
WORTH REMEMBERING: Dexter Jackson had two of Tampa Bay's five sacks with safety blitzes. Bucs rookie Dwight Smith downed a pair of punts at the Baltimore 2. And when the Ravens had a first down at the Tampa Bay 2, the defense forced them to settle for a field goal.
WORTH FORGETTING: Call this charity. Baltimore scored its only touchdown on Grbac's 14-yard pass to Travis Taylor in the second quarter. Taylor appeared to push off Donnie Abraham to get free, but no flag was thrown. Ahh, forget it.
KEY STATISTIC: Zero turnovers by the Bucs.
Eagles 17, Bucs 13
(Jan. 6, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa)
THE BIG PICTURE: Not that it mattered -- the Bucs were going to Philadelphia for a wild-card game no matter who won -- but, as cornerback Brian Kelly said afterward: "10-6 looks a lot better than 9-7. But if we win next week, it means a lot more than winning this week." This originally was the second game of the season. It was postponed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and wound up as little more than an end-of-season preseason game. Most of the starters sat out or played an obligatory one or two series. It appeared wild-card Tampa Bay and NFC East-champion Philadelphia would each carry a 10-6 record into Veterans Stadium, where the Bucs were embarrassed 21-3 in the wild-card game a year ago. Tampa Bay led 13-3 in the fourth quarter on Aaron Stecker's 4-yard touchdown run, set up by safety John Lynch's interception, and two Doug Brien field goals. Then Eagles third-string quarterback A.J. Feeley replaced second-stringer Koy Detmer (who replaced starter Donovan McNabb following a pair of game-opening handoffs). Feeley, a rookie from Oregon, threw two touchdown passes to Dameane Douglas in 26 seconds, a 2-yarder with 2:12 remaining and a 24-yarder two plays after Karl Williams fumbled the kickoff return and Rashard Williams recovered it.
KEY PLAY: Williams' fumble. "One play just cost us the game right at the end," he said. "I let all my teammates and the city of Tampa down."
WORTH REMEMBERING: Bucs receiver Keyshawn Johnson, running back Warrick Dunn and defensive tackle Warren Sapp, among others, didn't suit up. Quarterback Brad Johnson played one series and a lot of other starters not much more. Then again, the Eagles did the same with their starters.
WORTH FORGETTING: The final score. The final record.
KEY STATISTIC: The Bucs and Eagles each passed for 194 yards. Oh, wait, that didn't matter, either.
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