Same Old Story

November 4 - Tampa Bay blows a 17-7 lead in the second half and allows Green Bay to beat the Bucs for the 13th straight time at Lambeau Field, 21-20. Packers punt returner Allen Rossum scored the game-winner on a 55-yard return in the fourth

GREEN BAY - On one of the better days for playing football in the Great Upper Midwest, the Green Bay Packers came back for a 21-20 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in front of 59,861 Packer Backers at Lambeau Field.

The victory by the Packersc extended the Buccaneers' futility streak in Wisconsin to 13 straight games - 12 regular season contests and one playoff game - and dropped the Pewter Pirates to a 3-4 record while moving the Packers to 5-2.

The 13 losses in a row that the Buccaneers have had to endure will still be intact when the they come back to Green Bay's Lambeau Field in the distant future as a member of the newly formed NFC South.

For once it wasn't quarterback Brett Favre, who was 16-of-27 for 180 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions to go along with four rushes for 13 yards, who was the Buc killer. Instead it was punt returner Allen Rossum, who returned three punts for 68 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

The four-year veteran from Notre Dame University took a punt 55 yards right up the middle virtually untouched to knot the score at 20-20 with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Kicker Ryan Longwell's last of three consecutive PATs gave the Packers the lead for good.

From a statistical standpoint the game belonged to the guys in the green and gold jerseys. The Packers outgained the Buccaneers 352 yards to 194 yards in total offense.

The big discrepancy was in rushing yards where Green Bay put up 184 yards on the ground to 61 for the Pewter Pirates. The only thing that kept the Bucs in the game was their creation of three turnovers that led to 17 of their 20 points and gave Tampa Bay possession starting inside Green Bay territory on three occasions.

The Pack dented the scoreboard first on their opening possession of the game after forcing the Bucs into a three-and-out punt to start the game.

Green Bay took 3:53 to move 57 yards in seven plays with Favre hitting wide receiver Antonio Freeman, who had four grabs for 65 yards and a touchdown, with a 21-yard skinny post pattern between cornerback Ronde Barber and free safety Dexter Jackson, who had seven tackles to go along with two forced fumbles and the Bucs only sack of the game.

Barber had a rough outing and had an apparent interception in the first quarter overruled by a Packers challenge and Green Bay kept possession.

Longwell's successful extra point put the Pack up 7-0 at 9:11 of the opening period.

The big play in the drive was when running back Ahman Green, who had 169 yards rushing on 24 carries and led the Packers in receptions with six for 49 yards, converted a third-and-2 by less than the length of the pigskin at the Bucs 23- yard line.

The Bucs were able to answer that score when kicker Martin Gramatica, who finished with two field goals and the same amount of PATs, slid a 33-yard field goal from the right hash just inside the right upright at 10:57 of the second period to cut the Green Bay lead to 7-3.

The seven-play, 23-yard drive consumed 2:43 of clock time began when cornerback Donnie Abraham intercepted a Favre pass intended for Freeman at the Tampa Bay 16-yard line and returned it 46 yards to the Packers 38-yard line.

Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson, who was 18-of-30 for 177 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, connected on a pass to wide receiver Karl Williams, who had two catches for 27 yards, on a square-in pattern on third-and-4 at the Green Bay 32-yard line kept the chains moving.

Tampa Bay took the lead with 2:02 left before halftime when Johnson hit tight end Dave Moore for his only reception on an 11-yard seam pass to convert a third-and-goal situation.

The Buccaneers drive was keyed on a third-and-1 situation from the Packers 28-yard line. Green broke over the right side for 12 yards, but Jackson was able to strip the football from the Packers running back and defensive tackle Warren Sapp hustled and flopped on the ball at the Packers 41-yard line.

Another Buccaneer big play occurred when Johnson connected with wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who led the Bucs in receptions and yardage with six catches for 63 yards, on a perfectly executed crossing route for 22 yards down to the Green Bay 4-yard line.

It took the Buccaneers 4:21 to cover 41 yards in seven plays and Gramatica's successful extra point attempt put Tampa Bay up 10-7.

The Pewter Pirates increased their margin on their first possession of the second half.

Bucs middle linebacker Jamie Duncan, who had eight tackles, intercepted Favre, which gave the Packers three turnovers for the game, on their opening drive at the Tampa Bay 47-yard line and returned it nine yards down to the Green Bay 44-yard line.

After a brilliant 19-yard screen pass from Johnson to running back Warrick Dunn, who caught five passes for 30 yards and rushed three times for five yards, on a third-and 20 from their own 46-yard line, the play left the Bucs less than a foot from the first down marker.

On fourth down from the Packers 33-yard line, Johnson sneaked over the right side of line for two yards, which gave the Bucs another first down.

Two plays later Johnson hit running back Mike Alstott, who rushed 17 times for 30 yards, on a nifty swing pass for his only reception and he outraced free safety Darren Sharper, who had seven tackles, to the end zone from 19 yards out for the touchdown.

Gramatica's extra point attempt culminated a six-play, 44-yard drive that ate up 2:56 of clock time and stretched the lead to 17-7.

After an exchange of punts, the Bucs got stung for a touchdown on the first play of Green Bay's last offensive series of the third quarter.

Green went off the right side on what appeared to be a simple lead play and then, 63 yards later, ended up in the end zone leaving Simeon Rice and Ronde Barber in his dust.

It took the former University of Nebraska star all of nine seconds to cover the distance and Longwell's extra point cut the Bucs lead to 17-14 with 4:49 left in the third quarter. The momentum had began to swing the Packers' way.

The Bucs stretched the lead back to six points when Gramatica crushed a 49-field goal from the right hash that split the uprights. After the kick, Gramatica got some revenge for last year's crucial missed field goal at Lambeau for which he was taunted by the Packers. Gramatica went up to Green Bay's Tyrone Williams and started a verbal exchange of taunts before being restrained by his teammates.

His field goal increased the Bucs lead to 20-14 with 6:42 left in the contest. The big play in the four-play, 30-yard drive was a 27 yard pass interference penalty on Sharper as he tried to cover Williams on a go route.

The Packers special teams scored the final points of the contest and it was done via the punt return.

After Buccaneers punter Mark Royals was forced to punt from the Bucs' own 12-yard line, Rossum took the ball at his own 45-yard line and didn't stop running until he hit pay dirt.

Rossum's return was straight up the middle and he even shook off a tug at his facemask by Tampa Bay's Shelton Quarles and dodged Royals before scoring the game-winner.

Longwell's third PAT of the game proved to be the winning ones as the Packers took the lead for good at 21-20.

The Pewter Pirates had two final shots at pulling the football game from the jaws of defeat but came up short both times. On the first one, the Bucs were forced to punt after a three-and-out. Tampa Bay was backed up in a fourth-and-17 situation in its own territory and punting was the only option.

But on the last series of the game once Tampa Bay regained possession, the Buccaneers opted not to go for a 67-yard field goal attempt by Gramatica and were forced to go for a Hail Mary pass into the end zone. But the Bucs' prayers were not answered when the ball was knocked down by the Packers secondary in the end zone.

In hindsight, the Bucs might have been better off allowing Gramatica, who kicked an NCAA-record 65-yarder at Kansas State to take a shot at a long field goal.


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