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Key plays of the season

[Times photo: James Borchuck]
Brian Kelly’s stop on Emmitt Smith in Game 1 set the tone for the defense in a 10-6 win.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2002

PHILADELPHIA -- You want to see a good play, try Miss Saigon. You want the best plays of the Bucs' season, check these out:

* * *

Top 5 defensive plays

1. Kelly stops Emmitt Smith at the goal line.

The Bucs defense was called to the rescue early this season -- like on the team's first series on defense in the opener against the Cowboys at Texas Stadium.

On third and goal from the Tampa Bay 1 yard line, all that stood between future Hall of Fame running back Smith and the end zone was cornerback Brian Kelly.

But Smith, the NFL's career leader in rushing touchdowns, couldn't elude Kelly, whose solo tackle eventually landed him a starting job and preserved a 10-6 victory.

"Brian Kelly's play is the biggest play we've had around here in a long time," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "Grab hold, daddy, and wait for the posse. Hold on tight and wait for us, we're coming."

2. Quarles returns an interception 98 yards for a TD vs. Packers.

Tampa Bay intercepted Packers quarterback Brett Favre three times in Game 3. But none was bigger than when linebacker Shelton Quarles returned one 98 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter -- the longest scoring play in team history.

The play represented a 14-point swing in a game that wasn't decided until John Lynch batted down a pass in the end zone on the final play of a 14-10 victory.

3. Lynch causes and recovers a fumble vs. Bengals.

Lynch was Johnny on the spot time and again for the Bucs. But his best save came when he caused and recovered a fumble by Cincinnati running back Corey Dillon at the Bengals 3 to set up Martin Gramatica's winning 21-yard field goal with 9:58 remaining in overtime in Tampa Bay's 16-13 win at Paul Brown Stadium.

It should have never come down to Lynch's heroic play, but the Bucs blew a 10-point lead with 6:23 remaining in regulation.

"You can count on John Lynch," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. "He closes out a lot of games for us. He might get the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year award."

4. Brooks' interception and return vs. Ravens.

Derrick Brooks read Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac like a children's book in a playoff-clinching win at home against the defending Super Bowl champs.

Grbac's second interception, a pass intended for tight end Shannon Sharpe, was returned 53 yards by the Bucs linebacker to inside the Baltimore 1-yard line.

That set up Brad Johnson's 1-yard sneak and a 16-7 halftime lead.

"It was a big play," coach Tony Dungy said of the interception. "You know it is going to be a tight game and you need big plays. That changed the field position and we got a score and got up nine points, so that was a huge play."

5. First of three Barber interceptions leads to a TD vs. Saints.

Help me Ronde became the anthem of the defense. The fifth-year cornerback responded with a team-record 10 interceptions, tying for most in the NFL. None was bigger than the first of three he had against visiting New Orleans, including one he returned for a touchdown.

Barber's first pick of an Aaron Brooks pass intended for Joe Horn helped stake the Bucs to a 14-0 lead.

* * *

Top 5 offensive plays.

1. Keyshawn's TD catch vs. Lions.

Keyshawn Johnson made the wait for his first and only touchdown of the season worthwhile, scoring on a leaping reception of a 13-yard pass from quarterback Brad Johnson with 53 seconds remaining in a dramatic 15-12 victory over winless Detroit at Raymond James Stadium.

"I wasn't trying to save a season, I was trying to save a game," the Bucs' top receiver said.

He did both.

Playing on a swollen left ankle, Johnson outjumped Lions cornerback Jimmy Wyrick for the winning touchdown.

The Bucs marched 80 yards in 15 plays for the winning score. On the drive they converted twice on fourth down as Brad Johnson completed passes to Mike Alstott and Keyshawn Johnson, who finished with 10 catches for 101 yards.

2. Alstott's 39-yard TD run vs. Green Bay.

With the Bucs trailing 10-7 late in the fourth quarter, it was Tampa Bay that mounted an impressive 95-yard, winning drive, capped by fullback Mike Alstott's 39-yard touchdown run.

It was the first touchdown since Oct. 1, 2000, against the Redskins, for Alstott, who started at tailback in place of injured starter Warrick Dunn. Alstott finished with 77 yards on 15 carries.

3. Dunn's 21-yard TD run vs. Rams.

Face it, Warrick Dunn had a tough year battling through injuries. But he hurt the Rams by snapping a 17-17 tie early in the fourth quarter at St. Louis with his 21-yard touchdown run down the right sideline.

Replays showed Dunn might not have crossed the goal line, but the Rams were out of replay challenges.

4. Alstott's 15-yard run vs. Saints.

It didn't result in a touchdown and it wasn't his longest run of the season, by far. But you can't measure its impact in yards.

The A-Train demoralized the Saints with his bruising run, breaking eight tackles and bringing Raymond James Stadium to life. Buc ball was back, under the meaty forearms of Alstott.

5. Alstott's 32-yard TD run vs. Ravens.

As had been the case all season, the Bucs had trouble putting visiting Baltimore away.

Leading 16-10, the A-Train made tracks with his 10th touchdown of the season with 1:35 remaining in the game. He finished with 80 yards on 14 carries, punctuating the 22-10 victory that propelled the Bucs into the playoffs.

The lineup

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