First Look: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers

At least the A-Train finally got out of the station. Fullback Mike Alstott had 22 carries for 56 yards Sunday in the Bucs' 22-7 win at Cleveland, his most attempts since the Super Bowl season of 2002.

At one point, the A-Train carried on four consecutive plays. While Alstott's rushing average was nothing to shout about, Bucs players believed the tough, inside yards set the tone for the game.

With Cadillac Williams at home nursing a foot injury, veteran Michael Pittman led the Bucs with 86 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. The Bucs pounded away at the Browns' run defense, which ranks 29th in the NFL.

"I got a little winded, but I had to get into the flow of things, and it felt good," Alstott said. "It really did. It felt good contributing and making some things happen."

All year long, fans have been clamoring for Alstott to get more rushing attempts. He entered Sunday's game with just 32 on the season. Alstott is well aware of his popularity and the endless attacks on Jon Gruden for not giving him the ball more. There is even a Web site -- www.givemiketheball.com -- devoted to a petition for the six-time Pro Bowl player to get the ball early and often Sunday against Seattle, which could be his final game.

Alstott already proved at Cleveland he can be productive when called upon. "Yeah, it was a power attack today, obviously," Alstott said. "Sometimes they know we're running downhill, and we've got to overcome that. They stopped us at times, but we kept on moving the ball in some critical situations, and it was effective.

"At the end of the day, we play for W's (wins). Stats don't matter. It's about going out there as a team and playing together."

Pittman also set a season high in rushing attempts. His 11-yard touchdown run gave the Bucs a double-digit lead.

"It was a toss-sweep, and (Maurice) Stovall got a good down block on the linebacker who was playing on the end," Pittman said. "Both of my guards and the tackle were wrapping around. Mike Alstott was lead blocking. I saw a cutback lane up the middle. The defensive back (was) right there in the middle -- I just tried to make him miss, and I got in the end zone."

It was the same formula the Bucs used to win the Super Bowl -- Alstott pounding away in third-down situations, Pittman using fresh legs to make some big runs. And winning.

"It felt like old times," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "You don't have to be special on offense. You just have to be efficient and not turn the ball over.

"I think everybody in the locker room begged for it."

NOTES, QUOTES

--S Jermaine Phillips went 28 games without an interception before Sunday at Cleveland, when he had two in a matter of five minutes. It was a welcome sight for the Bucs, who only had seven interceptions entering the game before picking off Derek Anderson four times.

"Jermaine couldn't catch a cold before today and he got two," CB Ronde Barber said.

--LB Derrick Brooks was snubbed for the Pro Bowl, ending his streak of nine consecutive appearances in the NFL all-star game. But Brooks made a statement by intercepting a pass Sunday and returning it for his eighth career touchdown.

"I'm going to take my own advice and not take a bite out of the bitter pie," Brooks said. "I still think I set the standard at my position."

--The Bucs' win Sunday was the 100th under the ownership of Malcolm Glazer.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Chris Simms will sign a two-year contract worth $14.5 million Tuesday. The deal includes about $10 million in signing bonus and base salary. Simms, 26, turned down a chance to become an unrestricted free agent. "I believe in the people who make the decisions in this organization, and they believe I can do it," Simms said. "And I believe in me."

--WR Maurice Stovall made his first NFL start Sunday and was credited with a key block during Michael Pittman's 11-yard touchdown run.

--DE Greg Spires had a season-high two sacks Sunday against the Browns.

--DT Chris Hovan recorded a sack and forced a fumble Sunday against the Browns.

REPORT CARD VS. BROWNS

PASSING OFFENSE: C --
Tim Rattay was solid if not spectacular in his first start with the Bucs. Five Buccaneers had at least two receptions. The Bucs blew some good scoring opportunities, but their drive to start the second half that resulted in Michael Pittman's touchdown put the game away.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B --
The Bucs had their third-highest rushing total of the season against the Browns as Mike Alstott (22 carries for 56 yards) and Pittman (16 carries, 86 yards, one touchdown) carried the load for Cadillac Williams, who was out with a foot injury.

PASSING DEFENSE: A --
The Bucs had four interceptions, including two by S Jermaine Phillips. LB Derrick Brooks returned an interception 21 yards for his eighth career touchdown. Browns QB Derek Anderson was forced to leave the game after three sacks.

RUSHING DEFENSE: C --
At times, Browns RB Reuben Droughns hurt the Bucs. But Tampa Bay buckled down in the second half and took advantage of a formidable lead to get Cleveland out of its running game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- PK Matt Bryant made all three of his field-goal attempts. His only gaffe was when the opening kickoff went out of bounds.

COACHING: B -
Despite the struggles this season, coach Jon Gruden stayed with Tim Rattay at quarterback, and he managed the game well as the Bucs won a game they should have won.


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