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Bucs pick odd day to introduce specialists

By KEITH NIEBUHR

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 13, 2000


TAMPA -- It was anything but a normal day for Tampa Bay's special teams.

The unit started by being announced during pregame introductions -- a reward for its solid play in recent weeks -- and finished with a 51-yard fourth-quarter field goal by Martin Gramatica. In between there were plenty of blunders.

The Bucs had a Green Bay punt downed at their 2, botched an onside kick attempt, had 12 men on the field during a Green Bay punt that moved the Packers into field-goal range, had one punt go 12 yards, gave up a 32-yard punt return to Allen Rossum and watched Green Bay score a touchdown from 27 yards on a fake field goal.

BRETT'S BAD DAY: Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who left the game in the third quarter and did not return after spraining his left foot, had passed for 17 touchdowns in his previous eight trips to Tampa. He failed to throw a touchdown in Tampa against the Bucs for the first time since 1992, when he made his professional debut.

RUN, BUCS, RUN: Tampa Bay rushed for 108 yards on 30 carries, giving the Bucs 386 rushing yards during their past three games, all wins. In the three games before its winning streak, Tampa Bay ran for 244 total yards.

Warrick Dunn led the Bucs with 55 yards on 14 carries. Tampa Bay is 5-1 in games in which he has rushed for 50 or more yards.

Of Tampa Bay's rushing total, 74 came in the first half.

"They did a good job of bringing down the safeties (in the second half) and we weren't ready for it," Dunn said.

Green Bay finished with 97 rushing yards, just short of the 100-yard goal Packers for which guard Ross Verba said the team was shooting.

ONE MAN'S OPINION: Packers safety LeRoy Butler, an 11-year NFL veteran, isn't sold on the Bucs and didn't mince words:

"Tampa Bay is not a Super Bowl type team. Super Bowl teams are the Oaklands, the Minnesotas. You've got to understand, I've been around this league for a long, long time. They are tough. They are physical. But they are not a Super Bowl team."

SIGN LANGUAGE: Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct in the second quarter after batting the football out of an official's hand. Freeman's foul backed the Packers up 15 yards and turned a 38-yard field-goal attempt into a 53-yarder, which Ryan Longwell missed short and to the right.

Freeman complained he was held by cornerback Ronde Barber on the play.

"We all felt like he was held on the play," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "I was trying to get the attention of the official and Antonio knocked the ball out on accident. I was very upset about the call. I can't determine what effect that call had on the game, but we missed a chance to make a field goal."

Freeman refused to talk to the media after the game.

ABOUT TIME: The win was the Bucs' first in a game that did not start at 1. They were 0-4 in two 4:15 p.m. starts, an 8:20 start and a 9 p.m. start.

BACKBREAKER: What separates a 6-4 team from a 4-6 team?

Butler said the single play that changed the outcome was Gramatica's 54-yard field goal with 10:12 left, which erased a 15-14 Packers lead.

"That (Gramatica), he's a great kicker," Butler said.

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