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Quarter by quarter

FIRST QUARTER

By JACK SHEPPARD
Published December 21, 2003

RECAP: The Falcons opened with six runs that, combined with two Bucs penalties, moved them to the Bucs 15. Michael Vick's pass to Peerless Price moved the ball to the 7. But a 4-yard run, incompletion and fumble by Vick forced the Falcons to settle for Jay Feely's 26-yard field goal. A Falcons interception in Bucs territory gave them the ball at the Tampa Bay 6. Two plays later, Vick hit Alge Crumpler in the back of the end zone. KEY PLAY: On first down from his 31, Brad Johnson overthrew a crossing Keenan McCardell and was intercepted by linebacker Keith Newman. Newman broke several tackles and returned the ball to the Tampa Bay 12. A personal foul against McCardell moved it the 6, setting up Atlanta's touchdown. STATS: Rushing yards - Bucs 17, Falcons 56; Passing yards - Bucs 27, Falcons - 22; Total yards - Bucs 44, Falcons 78; Sacks - Bucs 0, Falcons 0; Turnovers - Bucs 1, Falcons 0; Time of possession - Bucs 4:43, Falcons 10:17.

DID YOU NOTICE: Short-yardage situations continue to handcuff the Bucs with Thomas Jones stopped for no gain on third and 1 to end Tampa Bay's first possession. ... Johnson's interception was his 15th of the season.

SECOND QUARTER

RECAP: A 46-yard drive and an Atlanta mistake led to Tampa Bay's first points. A 22-yard pass from Brad Johnson to Charles Lee gave Tampa Bay first and goal at the Falcons 9. Johnson found tight end Rickey Dudley, who was not covered, for an easy 3-yard touchdown. Three more Johnson interceptions helped seal Tampa Bay's fate. Cornerback Juron Bolden returned one 41 yards for a score. Johnson threw his fourth two plays later. Gains of 10 (run) and 16 yards (reception) by Justin Griffith set up Jay Feely's 38-yard field goal as the half ended. KEY PLAYS: Consecutive plays late by the Falcons turned the game's momentum. First, safety Keion Carpenter intercepted Johnson to end a Bucs drive at the Falcons 32. Then on first down, Vick found Price behind cornerback Dwight Smith and connected for a 49-yard gain to the Bucs 32. Atlanta scored its second touchdown three plays later.

STATS: Rushing yards - Bucs 27, Falcons 29; Passing yards - Bucs 79, Falcons - 78; Total yards - Bucs 106, Falcons 107; Sacks - Bucs 0, Falcons 0; Turnovers - Bucs 3, Falcons 0; Time of possession - Bucs 9:56, Falcons 5:04.

DID YOU NOTICE: Corey Ivy pinned the Falcons at their 2, downing a 44-yard Tom Tupa punt. Tampa Bay held Atlanta to no gain on three plays, forced a punt and started its next drive at the Falcons 46. That led to its first touchdown. First boos: for Kenyatta Walker after a false start. Johnson's touchdown pass to Dudley was his team-record 23rd of the season. Loudest boos: as the Bucs headed for the tunnel trailing by 20. THIRD QUARTER

RECAP: After stopping the Bucs on their opening possession, the Falcons offense went on a 12-play, 44-yard march that not only resulted in Jay Feely's third field goal of the game (from 37 yards), but also ate 6:15 off the clock. The field goal extended Atlanta's lead to 30-7 with 3:40 left. KEY PLAYS: The Falcons converted two third downs during their scoring drive, a 1-yard gain by T.J. Duckett on third and 1 and an 11-yard pass from Michael Vick to Peerless Price on third and 7 from the Bucs 38. Feely kicked his field goal four plays later.

STATS: Rushing yards - Bucs 35, Falcons 25; Passing yards - Bucs 60, Falcons - 19; Total yards - Bucs 95, Falcons 44; Sacks - Bucs 0, Falcons 0; Turnovers - Bucs 0, Falcons 0; Time of possession - Bucs 8:45, Falcons 6:15.

DID YOU NOTICE: Tampa Bay's first possession ended after Brad Johnson's pass for Charles Lee on fourth and 7 from the Falcons 36 fell incomplete. The Bucs had marched 47 yards, but three consecutive incompletions doomed the drive. Aaron Stecker returned a kickoff to the Atlanta 40, but it was wiped out by a hold by Nate Webster.

FOURTH QUARTER

RECAP: Tampa Bay's offense put together a 16-play, 80-yard drive to trim Atlanta's lead to 30-14. The touchdown came on a 3-yard pass from Brad Johnson to Charles Lee with 11:27 remaining. The Bucs rewarded those who stayed to the end with the longest play of the season, a 76-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Keenan McCardell. The two-point conversion pass to Karl Williams left the Bucs behind 30-22 with 2:20 remaining. After Dwight Smith recovered Martin Gramatica's ensuing onside kick, the Bucs put together a seven-play, 62-yard march, culminating with Johnson's 11-yard touchdown pass to Jameel Cook to pull within 30-28. But Johnson's pass on the two-point conversion was batted down by Falcons defensive end Travis Hall, thwarting Tampa Bay's comeback and eliminating it from playoff contention. KEY PLAY: The Falcons were about to add to their 30-14 lead, driving to the Bucs 3. But a false start pushed Atlanta back to the 8, and on the ensuing play, T.J. Duckett fumbled and defensive end Greg Spires recovered at the Tampa Bay 4 with 3:45 left. McCardell's long touchdown came four plays later and positioned the Bucs for their rally.

STATS: Rushing yards - Bucs 15, Falcons 38; Passing yards - Bucs 180, Falcons - 0; Total yards - Bucs 195, Falcons 38; Sacks - Bucs 0, Falcons 0; Turnovers - Bucs 0, Falcons 1; Time of possession - Bucs 6:51, Falcons 8:09.

DID YOU NOTICE: Johnson's touchdowns to Lee, McCardell and Cook were his 24th, 25th and 26th of the season, setting a personal record. Gramatica attempted an onside kick after Lee's touchdown, but the ball rolled out of bounds and was awarded to the Falcons at the Tampa Bay 44. Feely's 43-yard field goal with less than six minutes left drifted wide right. But Ronde Barber was flagged for running into Feely, and the 5-yard penalty gave the Falcons a first down at the Tampa Bay 20. Spires recovered the fumble four plays later.

[Last modified December 21, 2003, 01:16:22]

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