RB Warrick Dunn had 106 combined yards in St. Louis and scored the winning touchdown on a 21-yard run
Something about the St. Louis Rams brings out the best in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Struggling along at a disappointing 4-5 for the first half of the season, the Bucs came into the Dome at America’s Center on Monday night reeling, desperate and practically written off. But more than anything, they were hungry for another taste of revenge against the St. Louis Rams.
They got it.
In a game that fell somewhere between the defensively-dominated, 11-6 loss to St. Louis in the 1999 NFC Championship game and the wild, offensive shootout won last December by Tampa Bay, 38-35, the Bucs created enough turnovers and enough offense to prevail, 24-17.
This game fell right in line with the last two, however, in terms of fingernail damage. The win was not secured until the final two minutes, when FB Mike Alstott’s nine-yard run from midfield effectively ran out the clock and kept the ball away from the potent Rams offense. Safety John Lynch’s interception of a pass tipped by linebacker Derrick Brooks with just over two minutes remaining.
The third-largest crowd in the Dome’s history (66,198) saw the Buccaneers follow perhaps the only sure plan for victory in St. Louis: turnovers and ball possession. Holding the ball for just over 35 minutes, the Bucs recovered three fumbles, intercepted two passes and blocked a punt, while Tampa Bay’s offense only turned the ball over once.
That one giveaway, a rare mistake in a brilliant day for QB Brad Johnson, nearly breathed new life into the Rams. After Rabih Abdullah’s block of a John Baker punt with 7:37 remaining gave the Bucs possession at the St. Louis 19, Johnson’s sideline pass to TE Dave Moore was picked off by DT Brian Young.
One 37-yard reception by Torry Holt later, the Rams were just over midfield, and what could have been a two-score lead for the Buccaneers looked to be in danger of turning into a tie. However, CB Donnie Abraham jumped a slant intended for WR Isaac Bruce for third interception of the season. It was also the 28th pick of Abraham’s illustrious career, tying him with Mike Washington for second place on the Bucs’ all-time list, one behind Cedric Brown’s record of 29.
Those turnovers helped preserve the seven point lead Tampa Bay had taken on Warrick Dunn’s 21-yard touchdown run four minutes into the fourth quarter. Dunn, who finished the game with 106 combined rushing and receiving yards, appeared on replay to have stepped out of bounds at the five before diving into the pylon, but the Rams had used both of their replay challenges in the first half and were unable to make the officials take a second look.
Dunn’s run capped an impressive, 90-yard touchdown drive on which the Bucs converted two third downs. Long scoring drives in the fourth quarter have been a trademark for the Tampa Bay offense this season.
The team’s 68-yard drive to begin the second half might have been even more impressive, actually. Johnson threw completions on three straight third downs, two to TE Dave Moore and one to WR Jacquez Green. The seven-minute march ended on Mike Alstott’s eight-yard touchdown run, on which he started left but cut inside a great block by rookie tackle Kenyatta Walker.
That touchdown was the 47th of Alstott’s career, making him the Bucs’ career leader in that category. He had tied the mark in the second quarter with a seven-yard run that ended a 54-yard touchdown drive. In all, the Bucs converted on seven of 16 third downs while holding the Rams to an uncharacteristic four-of-12 in that situation.
And, although the Rams outgained the Bucs, 345 to 264, in total yards, there were other uncharacteristic numbers forced by Tampa Bay’s defense. QB Kurt Warner, who came into the game completing 68.9% of his passes, hit on just 19 of 39 against Tampa Bay, less than half. RB Marshall Faulk, who scored on a two-point conversion late in the third quarter to tie the game at 17-17 after a fourth-down touchdown reception by tight end Brandon Manumaleuna, was held to just 66 total yards on 12 carries and two receptions. As a result, St. Louis was held to just one touchdown for the first time since Week 13 of the 2000 season.
That defensive effort was led by the Bucs’ big three of Lynch, Brooks and DT Warren Sapp. Sapp consistently beat the Rams’ interior lineman, sacking Warner twice, hitting him on several other occasions and stopping Faulk in the backfield on a few other occasions. Brooks turned in a game-high 10 tackles and two passes defensed and Lynch had three tackles, the game-ending pick and two passes defensed.
Offensively, Johnson was extremely accurate, though his 21-of-34 passing day was marred somewhat by the Bucs’ one shortcoming of the day, dropped passes. WR Keyshawn caught five of those passes for 57 yards and Alstott combined 34 rushing yards with 31 yards on five receptions.
With the victory, the Bucs improve to 5-5 on the season, while the Rams drop to 8-2.
During the contest, Buccaneers.com provided quarter-by-quarter reports on the action, complete with descriptions of all the big plays. Those reports follow to offer a closer look at the Bucs’ big victory in St. Louis.
First Quarter ReportSt. Louis Drive #1:
The Rams won the toss but Martin Gramatica’s low bouncing kick bounced away from return man Trung Canidate at first, limiting the return to one yard to the 20.
RB Marshall Faulk found a hole at the line of scrimmage off left guard, but the Bucs’ defense closed quickly, with LB Shelton Quarles making the tackle after a two-yard gain.
Kurt Warner’s pass over the middle to WR Torry Holt on second down was good for nine yards and a first down at the 31.
Faulk got another big hole on first down and did more with it, zipping around left end for a gain of nine.
The Bucs brought linebackers Jamie Duncan and Shelton Quarles on a second down blitz, and Duncan got to Warner for a five-yard sack.
However, Holt moved the chains again with a seven-yard stop on the left sideline.
Warner faked a handoff on the next play and then threw a screen back to the other side of the field. The pass just got over DE Simeon Rice’s outstretched hand and into the waiting hands of TE Ernie Conwell, who turned it upfield for a gain of 32 yards to the Bucs’ 26.
After a St. Louis timeout, Warner scrambled up in the pocket to avoid pressure and threw towards an open Isaac Bruce in the end zone, but the pass was overthrown and incomplete.
Warner’s second-down pass was headed straight into LB Derrick Brooks’ hands, but Duncan cut in front of Brooks to knock the ball away.
Bruce went over the middle on a slant on third-and-ten, but Warner’s pass seemed to catch him by surprise and bounced of his left hand incomplete. The Rams settled for Jeff Wilkins’ 44-yard field goal.
Drive Results: 54 yards gained on 10 plays, field goal, St. Louis 3, Tampa Bay 0.Tampa Bay Drive #1:
After a strong kickoff return by Frank Murphy put the Bucs at their own 28, a first-down St. Louis blitz sent the Bucs backward, with DE Chidi Ahanotu recording an eight-yard sack.
Warrick Dunn’s second-down run off right guard got back only to the line of scrimmage before DT Brian Young made the stop.
On third-and-18, a screen pass to Dunn on the right side was good for five yards, with Young again making the tackle and forcing a Bucs punt.
Drive Results: 3 yards lost on 3 plays, no points, punt.Tampa Bay Drive #2:
The Bucs got the ball right back, however, as LB Jeff Gooch forced return man Az-Zahir Hakim to fumble the punt and CB Dwight Smith recovered at the Rams’ 25.
Another first-down blitz put pressure on QB Brad Johnson, forcing him to throw it away out of bounds.
Dunn got the second-down carry and used a well-timed spin move to gain four yards out of a play that didn’t appear promising.
The Rams blitzed again on third-and-six, but the Bucs had the right call on and TE Dave Moore caught a quick pass over the middle and advanced it past the first-down marker to the 13.
In a replay of Dunn’s last run, he again spun away from one tackle to pick up two yards up the middle.
Johnson found no one open on second down and threw away another pass, leading to third-and-nine from the 11.
Dunn took a screen pass to the left on third down and made a nice move upfield, but was tackled at the seven, leading to a fourth-down field goal attempt. Martin Gramatica, however, pushed his kick to the right, and the Bucs failed to score.
Drive Results: 18 yards gained on 7 plays, no points, punt.St. Louis Drive #2:
Brooks tackled Faulk on a first-down carry up the middle, but not before the Rams back darted and spun for nine yards.
RB Robert Holcombe took a short handoff on second down from the fullback position and picked up three yards up the middle for a first down at the Rams’ 31.
The Rams then got back into Buc territory on the next play, as Warner escaped pressure by moving up in the pocket and throwing a 20-yard completion over the middle to Bruce.
Bruce, however, gave the ball right back to the Buccaneers on the next play, as he fumbled on an end-around. Bruce took a reverse handoff from Faulk and came around the right end, but was caught from behind by Quarles, who forced a fumble. Sapp recovered at the Bucs’ 46.
Drive Results: 33 yards gained on 4 plays, no points, ball turned over on fumble.Tampa Bay Drive #2:
Johnson had time to throw on this first down and hit FB Mike Alstott on the run for a gain of six.
A good hole opened for Dunn on the right on his next carry, but he tripped while cutting through it and picked up just four for a first down at the Rams’ 44.
After a two-yard run by Dunn, Johnson again threw to Alstott on the right sideline for a gain of eight and a first down at the 34.
Johnson took a quick, three-step drop on first down and threw an immediate slant to WR Reidel Anthony for a gain of nine.
Alstott gave the Bucs another first down with a two-yard bash over left tackle. The quarter then came to an end.
First Quarter Notes: Martin Gramatica’s misfire on a 25-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter stands as the shortest kick he has missed in his three-year career. Before tonight’s game, Gramatica was 20 for 20 on kicks of 30 yards or less. … LB Jamie Duncan’s first-quarter sack extended the Bucs’ streak of consecutive games with at least one sack to 38, the longest active run in the NFL.
Second Quarter Report
A turnover-happy Bucs defense helped the visitors control much of the first half, but missed opportunities kept Tampa Bay from building any more than a one-point lead. The Bucs held the ball for 16 of the first 30 minutes and forced three turnovers, but converted those takeaways into just 10 points. Tampa Bay went into the intermission leading 10-9.Tampa Bay Drive #1:
The Bucs started the second quarter with a first down at the Rams’ 23 and threw deep over the middle to WR Reidel Anthony on the first play. However, the pass was broken up by a Ram defender just as the ball arrived.
On second-and-ten, RB Warrick Dunn bounced a carry outside to the right sideline and made an amazingly acrobatic move to apparently pick up 11 yards and a first down. Dunn spun over a gang of tacklers but never touched the ground, stumbling forward for about seven more yards. After a replay, however, Dunn was ruled down at the Rams’ 14, setting up third-and-one.
It was third-and-six after a false start penalty on Jerry Wunsch, but QB Brad Johnson found WR Keyshawn Johnson on a crossing route, hitting him on the run for a gain of 12 to the Rams’ seven.
It took only one play for the Bucs’ offense from there, as FB Mike Alstott exploited a big hole for a seven-yard touchdown run.
Drive Results: 54 yards gained on 10 plays, touchdown, Tampa Bay 7, St. Louis 3.St. Louis Drive #1:
The Rams tried to open up with a quick slant to WR Torry Holt, but CB Ronde Barber jumped on the play quickly and broke it up.
Warner had a lot of time on second down, but couldn’t find an open man and had to scramble forward, eventually throwing too short for RB Marshall Faulk.
On third down, DE Steve White got around right end quickly and sacked Warner, resulting in a fumble that LB Shelton Quarles recovered at the Rams’ 15. However, another replay challenge overturned the call, changing it to an incomplete pass.
Drive Results: 0 yards gained on 3 plays, no points, punt.Tampa Bay Drive #2:
Johnson and Johnson hooked up on a quick pass down the line of scrimmage on first down, which the receiver pushed forward through traffic for a gain of four.
Dunn tried to get around left end on second down but was forced back inside and was tripped up for a gain of just one.
On third-and-five, Johnson tried to zip in a quick slant to Anthony, but CB Dre` Bly was flagged for interference, giving the Bucs a first down at their own 31.
DE Sean Moran zipped through the Bucs’ line on first down and caught Alstott before he could get going, leading to no gain.
Johnson threw to Johnson again on second down, but the Rams’ defense closed in after a gain of just four.
On third-and-six, Johnson threw a fade stop on target to Anthony, but the ball went through his hands, resulting in fourth down and a punt.
Drive Results: 15 yards gained on 5 plays, no points, punt.St. Louis Drive #2:
Warner handed the ball to Faulk on a draw on first down, but LB Derrick Brooks sniffed it out for a loss of two.
DT Warren Sapp nearly got to Warner on second down, but the quarterback got his pass off in time, completing a 21-yarder over the middle to Holt for a first down at the Rams’ 40.
A quick pass to Holt on first down earned five more yards but was stopped there by a good tackle from CB Brian Kelly.
An enormous hole opened up at right guard for Faulk on the next play and he zipped through it for a gain of 18 before safeties John Lynch and Dexter Jackson sandwiched him at the Bucs’ 37.
WR Isaac Bruce picked up 12 more yards on the next play, taking a short pass like the one two plays before but getting around Kelly on his first move.
Warner alertly avoided a blitz on the next play, buying time to hit WR Az-Zahir Hakim over the middle for a gain of 11 and a first down at the Bucs’ 15.
Sapp got to Warner this time, sacking him for a loss of nine back to the 24.
Bruce released from the slot into the middle on second down but was unable to come up with Warner’s slightly off-target throw.
On third-and-19, DT Anthony McFarland pursued Warner out of the pocket, forcing an eventual incompletion. St. Louis settled for Jeff Wilkins’ second field goal of the day, a 42-yarder.
Drive Results: 55 yards gained on 10 plays, field goal, Tampa Bay 7, St. Louis 6.Tampa Bay Drive #3:
Starting at their own 24, the Bucs bought time for Johnson’s drop-back with a play-action fake, but a perfectly-thrown pass to TE Dave Moore was dropped.
Dunn took a handoff up the middle on second down and spun off one tackle for a gain of eight.
Johnson looked right on third-and-two, then wheeled and threw a quick slant to WR Jacquez Green, but CB Dexter McCleon knocked the ball away at the last instant.
Drive Results: 8 yards gained on 3 plays, no points, punt.St. Louis Drive #3:
Bucs LB Derrick Brooks tipped away a first-down pass on the left side intended for Bruce on first down, and Warner’s deep pass over the middle on second down was incomplete.
On third-and-ten, Sapp recorded his second sack of the quarter, forcing a fumble that DE Marcus Jones recovered at the Rams’ 22.
Drive Results: 8 yards lost on 3 plays, no points, ball turned over on fumble.Tampa Bay Drive #4:
After a first-down incompletion, Alstott picked up two yards running behind left tackle, setting up third-and-eight.
Johnson couldn’t find an open man on third down and scrambled to the right for a gain of two. The Bucs settled for Martin Gramatica’s 36-yard field goal.
Drive Results: 4 yards gained on 4 plays, field goal, Tampa Bay 10, St. Louis 6.St. Louis Drive #4:
The Rams’ first-down screen pass to Az-Zahir Hakim was turned in nicely by LB Derrick Brooks, and Jones made the tackle from behind after a gain of one.
However, Warner went deep over the middle on second down and completed a 20-yard pass to Holt for a first down at the Rams’ 44.
After DE Simeon Rice tipped away the next pass, LB Jamie Duncan limited Faulk’s second-down run to a gain of two.
After a false start penalty on Orlando Pace (which also ran 10 seconds off the clock), the Rams faced a third-and-13, but Warner picked up what was needed and much more, heaving a 42-yard completion to Bruce at the Bucs’ 17, with 17 seconds left.
After a five-yard pass to Faulk, the Rams called a timeout with 11 seconds remaining in the half.
On second down, TE Ernie Conwell released late over the middle but dropped Warner’s pass, stopping the clock with seven seconds left.
Warner’s next pass to Conwell was complete and good for a first down at the five, but with only two seconds left, the Rams had to bring in their field goal unit. Wilkins nailed another one from 24 yards out to pull St. Louis within one.
Second Quarter Notes: FB Mike Alstott’s seven-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was the 46th score of his career. That tied him with James Wilder for first place on the Bucs’ all-time list. … Mark Royals’ second punt of the game was his 379th as a Buccaneer, tying him with Frank Garcia for first place on the Bucs’ all-time list.
Third Quarter Report
The third period was dominated by two long drives, resulting in one touchdown for each team. Because the Rams tacked a two-point conversion onto the end of their score, the teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 17-17. With his second touchdown of the game, FB Mike Alstott broke the team record for career TDs.Tampa Bay Drive #1:
Tampa Bay’s first drive of the half started slowly, as two Warrick Dunn runs left the Bucs in third-and-10, the first run losing a yard and the second gaining it back.
QB Brad Johnson, however, found TE Dave Moore open over the middle on third down for a gain of 15 and a first down at the Bucs’ 45.
Johnson found WR Keyshawn Johnson on a crossing route on the next play for a gain of 18 and a first down at the Rams’ 37.
Three plays later, the Bucs faced another third down, and Johnson converted again, this time finding WR Jacquez Green open across the middle for another 13-yard pickup.
And, once again, three plays later, the Bucs were in another third down. Needing six yards, Johnson went back to Moore, who cradled the ball as he fell at the eight for a first down.
FB Mike Alstott took it in from there on first down, cutting left, then going back inside past a fine block from T Kenyatta Walker and into the end zone.
Drive Results: 68 yards gained on 11 plays, touchdown, Tampa Bay 17, St. Louis 9.St. Louis Drive #1:
Trung Canidate’s difficulty fielding the resulting kickoff allowed the Bucs to trap him at the Rams’ 15.
DT Warren Sapp fought right through the left guard on first down and met RB Marshall Faulk in the backfield for a loss of four.
After an incompletion, QB Kurt Warner converted a crucial third-and-14 by finding WR Torry Holt open over the middle. Holt broke several tackles to gain 36 yards.
Canidate got the next carry and cut it back to the middle for a gain of nine to the Bucs’ 45.
After multiple formation switches on second-and-one, Canidate took a simple sweep around the left end for a first down at the Bucs’ 41.
Canidate lost six yards on a first-down fumble, but Warner zipped a second-down pass to Az-Zahir Hakim for a gain of 17 and a first down at the Bucs’ 30.
After missing several plays with a back spasm, Faulk came back in to take a misdirection carry to the left for a gain of 18, and a personal foul on the end gave St. Louis a first down at the Bucs’ six.
A reverse run for TE Ernie Conwell got half of the needed distance, but Faulk’s second down run was stopped a yards short of the goal line by LBs Derrick Brooks and Jamie Duncan.
On third-and-goal from the one, DE Simeon Rice got to Faulk in the backfield and again stopped him short.
However, Warner faked a handoff to Faulk on fourth down and threw to a wide-open TE Brandon Manumaleuna in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. Faulk ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game.
Drive Results: 85 yards gained on 12 plays, touchdown (two-point conversion), Tampa Bay 17, St. Louis 17.Tampa Bay Drive #2:
Frank Murphy’s excellent return to the 35 was negated by a holding penalty and the Bucs instead started at their own 10.
Alstott powered ahead for four yards on first down, but an underneath screen to Dunn on second down was stopped for no gain.
Dunn did pick up the corner blitz very well on third down, giving Johnson time to throw an outlet pass to Alstott for a gain of 11 and a first down at the 25.
Fourth Quarter Report
Tampa Bay’s defense came up with two interceptions and a blocked punt in the final period, consistently thwarting St. Louis’ attempts at a comeback. That opportunistic D made the Bucs’ touchdown at the beginning of the period, a thrilling 21-yard run by RB Warrick Dunn, the game-winning score in a 24-17 final.Tampa Bay Drive #1:
The Bucs started the fourth period with a first down at their own 25 but lost three yards when RB Warrick Dunn was trapped in the backfield on a first-down run.
After a six-yard pass to FB Mike Alstott, QB Brad Johnson picked up the first down and moved the ball into St. Louis territory with a beautiful downfield throw to Dunn, who beat LB London Fletcher in man-to-man coverage.
Johnson had time to throw on the next snap and used to throw a 19-yard pass to WR Keyshawn Johnson.
After a delay-of-game penalty made it first-and-15 at the 29, Dunn found a hole behind right guard and ran through it for a pickup of eight yards.
Dunn found a similar hole on second down and this time got around the defense to the outside, tip-toeing down the sideline for a 21-yard touchdown run.
Drive Results: 90 yards gained on 9 plays, touchdown, Tampa Bay 24, St. Louis 17.St. Louis Drive #1:
A Marshall Faulk sweep on first down looked promising for St. Louis, but LB Shelton Quarles beat a blocker to cut out Faulk’s legs after a two-yard gain.
Kurt Warner threw a floater over the middle under pressure to TE Ernie Conwell, but S John Lynch leaped to break it up at the last moment.
S Dexter Jackson came up quickly to knock WR Torry Holt off his feet on a third-down slant, keeping the gain three yards short of a first down.
Drive Results: 7 yards gained on 3 plays, no points, punt.Tampa Bay Drive #2:
Another kick-return penalty cost the Bucs’ field position, and the resulting drive began with a one-yard loss by Alstott.
Johnson appeared to want to hit Dunn on a second-down screen, but it was well-defended and his eventual pass to Dunn farther down the sideline was too hot to handle.
Tight coverage on third down again thwarted Johnson’s hopes and he threw the ball incomplete at Dunn’s feet under pressure.
Drive Results: 1 yard lost on 3 plays, no points, punt.St. Louis Drive #2:
Faulk was quickly wrapped up on first down by LB Jamie Duncan, gaining nothing.
Warner’s next two passes deep on the right side were incomplete, with the second one nearly intercepted by a diving Dexter Jackson.
RB Rabih Abdullah then turned in a huge play on special teams, blocking punter John Baker’s kick and giving the Bucs possession at the Rams’ 19.
Drive Results: 0 yards gained on 3 plays, no points, punt (blocked).Tampa Bay Drive #3:
Johnson threw towards on open TE Todd Yoder in the end zone on first down, but the pass was too high and too far.
On third-and-nine, Johnson threw a well-designed screen to Dunn, who plowed through tacklers to get to within a chain link of the first down. Johnson snuck it over the middle himself on fourth down for a new set of downs at the nine.
Johnson tried to hit Keyshawn Johnson on a down-out-and-up on first down, but CB Aeneas Williams defended the pass well.
After Johnson tripped trying to hand off on second down, he threw an ill-advised pass on third-and-14 in Moore’s direction. DE Brian Young intercepted the ball and, after a personal foul on DE Chidi Ahanotu, the Rams took over at their own 21.
Drive Results: 5 yards gained on 7 plays, no points, ball turned over on interception.St. Louis Drive #3:
The Rams immediately got into Bucs territory on first down, as Warner completed a 37-yard pass to Holt.
Good pressure caused a first-down throw-away, but Warner did find Faulk over the middle for a gain of six on second down.
A quick slant intended for WR Az-Zahir Hakim on third-and-four was thrown behind the receiver.
CB Donnie Abraham then jumped a slant on the other side intended for WR Isaac Bruce and recorded his 28th career interception. He then slid to the ground at the Bucs’ 34 to give Tampa Bay possession with 3:53 remaining.
Drive Results: 43 yards gained on 5 plays, no points, ball turned over on interception.Tampa Bay Drive #4:
After getting five yards on an offside penalty, the Bucs offense lost two back when Alstott’s sweep right was swarmed by Rams tacklers.
They went four more yards in the wrong direction on second down when Johnson smartly declined to throw under pressure, taking a sack by DE Sean Moran at the Bucs’ 37.
The Bucs did throw on third-and-11, but the screen to Alstott was quickly sniffed out, resulting in another yard lost. Tampa Bay punted as the clock rolled down under three minutes.
Drive Results: 1 yard lost on 3 plays, no points, punt.St. Louis Drive #4:
A brilliant, 28-yard punt return by Hakim put the ball at the Rams’ 44, but Tampa Bay got the ball right back. Lynch intercepted a pass that LB Derrick Brooks had tipped over Holt’s head, returning it to midfield.
Drive Results: 0 yards gained on 1 play, no points, ball turned over on interception.Tampa Bay Drive #5:
Alstott effectively iced the game on first down, outracing the coverage to the left for a gain of nine.
After Johnson snuck over the middle for the first down, Tampa Bay kneeled twice to end it.