This week, though, the outcome was more to Tampa Bay's liking, but it wasn't easy. The Buccaneers moved to 2-1 on the season with a heart-stopping 14-10 win over the previously undefeated Green Bay Packers in front of 65,510 loyal supporters at Raymond James Stadium on a humid October afternoon where the temperature at kickoff 82 degrees, but was 120 degrees on the field.
The outcome of the game was in doubt until late in the fourth quarter when Buccaneers running back Mike Alstott, who rumbled for 77 yards on 15 carries, went 39 yards around left end to put Tampa Bay up for good. The fireworks though were far from over. Just like last week, the Bucs offense secured a late fourth quarter lead and it was up to the defense to make a critical stop. This time they did.
On the first play after Tampa Bay scored the go-ahead touchdown, Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who was 20-for-35 for 258 yards and a touchdown plus three interceptions, went for all the marbles. He sent wide receiver Corey Bradford on a streak pattern down the left sidelines. Tampa Bay free safety Dexter Jackson read the play perfectly and picked off the pigskin to set the Bucs offense up at their 32-yard line.
The Pewter Pirates offense was stymied and, after three plays, was forced to punt the ball back to the Packers. Punter Mark Royals, who averaged 44.7 yards on four punts, pinned the Green and Gold at their own 16-yard line.
Now it was up to Favre to attempt one of his patented fourth quarter comebacks with only 84 yards of real estate to cover and 4:17 left in regulation to accomplish a feat, which he's done too many in the past against the Bucs. It was time to sit back and watch the maestro at work and he almost finished the symphony with a crescendo for the Packers.
The Kiln, Mississippi native methodically moved the Pack down the field. Coming out of the timeout at the two-minute warning, he converted a huge third-and-2 at his own 34-yard line with a perfect strike to tight end David Martin, who had two catches for 33 yards in the game, to move the chains.
A 12-yard aerial to wide receiver Bill Schroeder, who led Green Bay with 119 yards on four receptions and had the Packers' only touchdown, preceded two catches by running back Ahman Green, who lugged the leather 15 times for 59 yards, for seven yards and 25 yards. Green led the Packers with seven snares for 65 yards on the day.
After running back Dorsey Levens, who had two rushes for five yards and the exact same number of catches and yards receiving, went up the middle for five yards to the Bucs 8-yard line.
That set Favre up with a first down at the Buccaneers 8-yard line and it looked like the magician from Southern Mississippi University was going to pull another victory rabbit out of his hat.
On the next play, Tampa Bay recorded its only sack of the afternoon, by defensive tackle Anthony McFarland, pushing the ball back to the 13. A third down pass to Bradford went out of the end zone and the fourth down toss to wide receiver Donald Driver in the end zone was batted down by strong safety John Lynch as time expired. The only negative on the game-winning play was that Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks sprained his left ankle and had to be helped off the field.
After a stirring opening game ceremony where a combined contingent of military, police and fire units stretched out an American flag combined with a flyover by a squadron of Air Force jets, the Bucs took the opening kickoff and marched immediately into Packers territory.
Three third down conversion via the pass were made with quarterback Brad Johnson, who went 23-for-29 for 184 yards, connecting with wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who led the Pewter Pirates in receiving with nine catches for 82 yards, running back Aaron Stecker's only catch of the game and wide receiver Reidel Anthony, who had his first three catches of the 2001 season for a combined 40 yards, respectively.
Tight end Dave Moore, with two receptions on the opening drive and three for the game, ended his catchless slump as well.
The Packers defense clamped down on the drive and a 53-yard field goal attempt by Martin Gramatica from the left hash was wide right.
Green Bay also had an inauspicious beginning. After a 10-yard run by Green on the opening play, Favre attempted to hit Martin on a quick slant that was intercepted by cornerback Donnie Abraham but the Bucs offense couldn't muster any points as a result of the turnover.
The Bucs were the first to dent the scoring column although it was in a very strange manner. After a punt by Mark Royals went into the end zone, Green Bay started to matriculate down the field.
Favre hit Schroeder early in the drive for 22 yards and then he converted two third down situations. On third-and-8, Favre hit Green for 18 yards.
Missed tackles by Abraham and Lynch, who left the game after that play with a pulled groin muscle for a while, before the sticks allowed the Packers a fresh set of downs.
Then on third-and-7 later in the drive, Favre found Levens also in the left flat. The Packers running back just eluded Brooks to squirm ahead for the first down. Another Favre aerial to Martin took the ball down to the Bucs 6-yard line where Green Bay had a first-and-goal.
On the next play, which was the first of the second quarter, Favre tried to hit tight end Bubba Franks on a crossing route on the left side near the hash mark. The pass was intercepted by linebacker Shelton Quarles at the Tampa Bay 2-yard line and, after eluding Franks near the 30-yard line, had clear sailing to the end zone.
Quarles' interception return was the longest touchdown in franchise history and eclipsed the longest interception return for a touchdown in club history, previously set by Neal Colzie (82 yards). The successful Gramatica conversion gave the Bucs a 7-0 lead at 14:41 of the second quarter.
The lead did not last long as the Packers struck back with 4:46 left in the first half. On a third-and-11 from their 33-yard line, Favre hit Schroeder on a snake route up the right sideline on a 67-yard pass-and-run. Kicker Ryan Longwell's PAT knotted up the score at 7-7 with 4:58 left in the first half. The Packers drive lasted five plays and went 76 yards and took 2:55 to complete.
Green Bay took the lead after defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who had three sacks for 19 yards, sacked Johnson, causing a fumble that was recovered by defensive end John Thierry at the Buccaneers' 22-yard line.
After three plays only netted five yards, Longwell put the Packers up 10-7 with a 35-yard field goal from the right hash mark with 4:26 left in the third quarter. The four-play drive took 2:05 seconds off the clock.
After an exchange of punts, the Bucs began the winning scoring march from their own 5-yard line. A big 22-yard grab by Johnson on the left sideline got the Bucs out of the shadow of their own goal line, and Anthony converted a third-and-6 with a 16-yard snare on a deep in route.
Two plays later, Johnson turned a broken play into an improvised 11-yard run around right end that set the stage for Alstott's 39-yard run. The A-Train broke two tackles and made a nifty lateral move to his left to get to the outside and followed a block by Keyshawn Johnson into the end zone.
The Bucs dodged a huge bullet against the Packers and put themselves back into the thick of the NFC Central race. They did it with great defense and an offense that was just good enough to secure a victory once again. But as they say, winning is still the name of the game in the NFL.
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