By RICK STROUD
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 3, 2001
Here are five plays that, if they had gone in the Bucs' favor, would have given them the best record in the NFL:
1. Martin Gramatica's missed 40-yard field goal at Green Bay: Had it gone through, the Bucs would have won the NFC Central, had a bye week and hosted at least one playoff game at Raymond James Stadium. Instead, the Packers went on to win 17-14 in overtime.
2. Mike Alstott's fourth-quarter fumble against the New York Jets: The Bucs led 17-14 with 1:54 to play. A first down would have put the game away. But Alstott left his feet and was stripped of the ball. Jets linebacker Bryan Cox recovered at the Tampa Bay 24-yard line. Two plays later, running back Curtis Martin hit Wayne Chrebet in the back of the end zone with 52 seconds left for the winning touchdown. The Bucs were so staggered by blowing a 14-point led in the final two minutes, they lost their next three games.
3. Bears safety Tony Parrish returns an interception 38 yards for a touchdown, and the Bucs lose 13-10: The Bears' only touchdown came when Bucs quarterback Shaun King threw behind tight end Dave Moore and was intercepted by Parrish, who returned it for a score before halftime. The loss interrupted what would have been eight straight wins for the Bucs, enough to claim the division title.
4. Deion Sanders' 57-yard punt return to set up the Redskins' OT win: The Bucs rallied from 17-7 down in the final three minutes to force overtime. They held Washington on the first series but couldn't make a first down. Sanders returned Mark Royals' punt to the Tampa Bay 8, setting up a winning 20-yard field goal by ex-Buc Michael Husted.
5. Randy Moss' 42-yard touchdown reception from Vikings quarterback Duante Culpepper in a 30-23 Bucs loss. Warren Sapp blocked a field-goal attempt by Gary Anderson, and cornerback Donnie Abraham returned it 53 yards for a touchdown and a 23-20 lead with 12:13 remaining. The Vikings regained the lead when Moss caught another pass from Culpepper over Abraham's outstretched hands.