Cardinals 12, Bucs 7

Tampa Bay finishes the season at 5-11 after a road loss to Arizona.

Associated Press
Published January 2, 2005

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Neil Rackers' leg and Arizona's defense made the Cardinals a winner in their season finale.

Rackers kicked four field goals and the Cardinals stifled Chris Simms and the rest of the Tampa Bay offense for a 12-7 victory Sunday in a matchup of two sputtering teams out of playoff contention.

Coach Jon Gruden's team lost its fourth in a row to finish 5-11, Tampa Bay's worst record since going 5-11 under Sam Wyche in 1993.

Rookie tackle Darnell Dockett led the Arizona defense with an interception, fumble recovery and sack. The Cardinals (6-10) finished 5-3 at home in Dennis Green's first season as coach.

Simms got his second NFL start in place of Brian Griese, out with hip and foot injuries, and connected with rookie Michael Clayton on a 75-yard touchdown play that briefly gave Tampa Bay a 7-6 lead in the third quarter.

Rackers kicked field goals of 40 and 45 yards in the first half, and 39 and 31 yards in the fourth quarter. He missed from 35 and 47 yards. Adrian Wilson's interception with 56 seconds left sealed the victory.

Emmitt Smith, in perhaps his last game for the Cardinals, gained 69 yards on 23 carries.

Arizona looked to pad its 6-0 lead after Simms fumbled a snap and Dockett recovered at the Tampa Bay 19 in the third quarter. But a holding penalty on Anthony Clement pushed the Cardinals back, and Rackers' 35-yard field goal try was wide left.

On the next play, Simms threw short to Clayton, who ran to the end zone on a 75-yard scoring play to give Tampa Bay its first lead, 7-6, late in the third quarter.

The Cardinals then mounted their longest drive, 56 yards in 10 plays. Josh McCown threw 12 yards to Anquan Boldin and 16 to Larry Fitzgerald, but the drive stalled at the 21, and Rackers' 39-yard field goal put Arizona ahead 9-7 with 11:07 to play.

Michael Pittman fumbled and Duane Starks recovered for the Cardinals at the Tampa Bay 14 to set up Rackers' 31-yard field goal that boosted the lead to 12-7 with 6:12 to go.

Rackers' second field goal, which gave Arizona a 6-0 lead, followed a bizarre play in the final minute of the first half.

McCown's bad pass under pressure was intercepted by Dwight Smith with 1:46 to go. Simms drove the team to the Arizona 24.

But on second-and-three, Simms was hit as he threw by Karlos Dansby, and the ball popped into the air. Dockett intercepted it and rambled down the field. But his helmet was ripped off by Kenyatta Walker, then he fumbled the ball some 35 yards downfield, where it was recovered by the Buccaneers' Michael Pittman at the 16.

However, Walker was called for a facemask penalty, and Arizona was awarded the ball at the Tampa Bay 39 with 43 seconds left in the half. McCown threw 13 yards to Fitzgerald, then Rackers kicked a 45-yarder with 3 seconds left in the half.