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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Atop NFC Central

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winners of a franchise-best six consecutive games, are atop the NFC Central with a 9-4 record after defeating the Detroit Lions yesterday, 23-16. Tampa Bay has not been in first place in the month of December since 1981, the year of its last division title.

The Bucs were led by QB Shaun King, who posted career highs in completions (23), attempts (37) and yards (297). The rookie out of Tulane tossed two touchdowns, including a game-winning 22-yarder to FB Mike Alstott with 4:18 left in the contest.

"Needless to say, I'm very proud of our football team," Bucs head coach Tony Dungy said. "First of all, Detroit has a heck of a team, they're playing very well and I thought they did an excellent job controlling the tempo early in the game. We weren't as sharp as we normally are, but we made some stops in the red zone, made them kick field goals and came up with some big plays in the end. It was a huge win against a very, very fine football team."

The play that seemed to energize the Bucs was RB Warrick Dunn's career-long 68-yard reception in the second quarter that led to Tampa Bay's first score of the contest.

"I think we left a lot on the field on Monday Night," Dungy said, referring to the Bucs' 24-17 win over the Vikings, just six day prior to the Detroit game. "Warrick's run with the screen pass got us going and provided us with some energy in the stadium."

After two consecutive home games, Tampa Bay travels west to play the Oakland Raiders. The Bucs, who are 3-0 against AFC West opponents this season, would clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Raiders.


S John Lynch (left knee sprain), G Kevin Dogins (left ankle sprain), LB Don Davis (right hamstring strain) and DE Steve White (turf toe) suffered injuries during yesterday's contest. All returned to action, including Lynch who has dealt with the knee sprain over the past month.

"John has been banged up and he's had a bit of a knee sprain really the last month," Dungy said. "We're practicing two days a week and giving him a day off. He'll be a little sore tomorrow, but I would imagine, especially going back to the West Coast, that he'll be ready to play."

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