New Life

Simeon Rice collects 100 career sack and the Bucs remain in the NFC playoff hunt. Red-hot San Diego is next up.

You can call the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a lot of things this season, but you can mostly call them The Team That Refused to Die. Once again, with their backs to the wall, the Bucs found a way to win, embarrassing the Atlanta Falcons, 27-0, on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. It marked the second straight game in which the Bucs have not allowed an offensive touchdown. The win also prevented the Falcons from winning the NFC South Division on Tampa turf. The Falcons need just one more win to clinch it, but it didn't happen this week. With the win, the Bucs (5-7) are remarkably still in the NFC playoff hunt as their rivals continue to stumble all over themselves. Defending NFC champion Carolina, who the Bucs face at home on Dec. 26, is the hottest of a batch of mediocre 5-7 teams, but that works to the Bucs advantage. "We have a long way to go,'' Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "We realize our status. We'll see what happens. We'll go to San Diego next week and play another great team on the road. We've had some great memories in San Diego and hopefully we can rekindle some of those. We'll see what happens.'' The Bucs defense set the tone early, shutting down Atlanta three-and-out on its first possession, then followed up with a 10-play, 63-yard drive capped off by Michael Pittman's 4-yard run around right end. The Bucs defense kept the heat on Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick who was held to just 115 yards passing. Vick spent most of the afternoon running for his life. One of the Bucs who caught up with him was Simeon Rice who notched his 100th career sack midway through the second quarter. "Our first possession we got three-and-out, started fast, then set the tempo,'' defensive end Greg Spires said. "Our offense got on the field and scored and they were moving the ball well against the Atlanta defense. After that, I knew we had a chance to win. We're still in it, but we know we have another game, a must-win game against San Diego, so we have to turn our attention to them, The newest Buccaneer, kicker Jay Taylor also had a big game. Taylor kicked two field goals, including a 50-yarder, that earned loud approval of the Tampa Bay crowd which had grown weary of former kicker Martin Gramatica. "Coming in you are never sure how people will react to you, so it was definitely a warm welcome." Taylor made two second quarter field goals to make it 13-0 at the half, and the Bucs controlled the ball and the line of scrimmage the rest of the way. Bucs quarterback Brian Griese hit receiver Joey Galloway for a 36-yard touchdown strike in the third quarter, and Mike Alstott's 5-yard burst in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach. Griese wasn't spectacular, completing 13-of-21 for 131 yards, and he was sacked three times, but he was mostly mistake-free. The Bucs offensive line was solid and committed just three penalties, a big improvement over recent weeks.

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