Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Deliver Shutout, Statement

A 27-0 win over the first-place Atlanta Falcons, led by an obviously inspired Tampa Bay defense, lends credence to the Buccaneers’ belief that they are a playoff-caliber team


Were you looking for this? Simeon Rice and the Buccaneer defense took the ball away from Atlanta five times on Sunday

For a good portion of Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were whitewashing the Atlanta Falcons, 27-0, it felt like 2002 all over again.

Derrick Brooks was making Michael Vick's life miserable. A hot kicker was banging in three-pointers from all over the field. Simeon Rice was driving the Falcons' offensive line batty, Mike Alstott was providing the end-of-the-game hammer and a remarkably accurate quarterback was driving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers up and down the field.

Some of the names have changed – the kicker was not Martin Gramatica but Jay Taylor making good his first NFL game, to the delight of a nervous but appreciative crowd. The quarterback was not Brad Johnson but Brian Griese, riding his seemingly endless hot streak towards a third month. Moreover, the pecking order has changed, with Atlanta coming in with a chance to clinch the NFC South and the Bucs merely trying to stay alive in the playoff race.

But for three hours on Sunday, the Bucs validated what they have not so secretly felt all season: Despite the disparate records, they believe they are fully capable of competing with the Falcons and the rest of the league's playoff-bound teams. The Bucs are two years and three days removed from the '02 matchup that separated the Super Bowl-bound Bucs from the Falcons in the NFC South, but they don't seem at all ready to cede division dominance to their heated rivals from Atlanta.

"We're very happy with the win," said Head Coach Jon Gruden. "We're very respectful of the fans, they helped us out a lot. It was a great win by our team. We've got a lot of new guys playing. We got a good game and put it together today. It's a credit to Simeon Rice. It's a credit to our defense. I think you saw a complete Buccaneer defense today."

No one seemed more inspired for today's game than Brooks and Rice, a twin wrecking crew that combined for 15 tackles, four sacks, four passes defensed and two forced fumbles. Rice toyed with left tackle Kevin Shaffer for most of the day, to the point where he was routinely double-teamed in the second half. His two sacks didn't even tell the full story, as he routinely put Vick on his heels or sent him scrambling for room. Brooks set a career high with two sacks, forced a fumble and nearly missed putting a thrilling cap on his performance when he broke up a fourth-down pass in the fourth quarter. The ball bounced off his hands with nothing but open field in front of him, eliciting a furious doffing of his helmet. Brooks rued the missed opportunity, but there was very little else to regret on a day completely dominated by the Buccaneer defense.

Atlanta gained just 254 yards, 120 of which came in the fourth quarter, with the Bucs laying back on defense with a big lead and sticking to the ground on offense. In fact, the Bucs didn't throw a single pass in the fourth quarter. Vick completed just 13 of 27 passes for 115 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, and he was sacked five times. He did rush eight times for a game-high 81 yards, most of it on one fourth-quarter drive, but he also missed one play after a hard tackle by Brooks and was forced to fumble twice. The Bucs coverage downfield was almost as good as its pass rush; tellingly, TE Alge Crumpler, who hurt the Buccaneers with three big catches in the Falcons win at Atlanta three weeks ago, had just one catch, a five-yarder in the fourth quarter.

The end result was Tampa Bay's first shutout since October 26, 2003, a 16-0 blanking of the Dallas Cowboys, another playoff-bound team that proved unable to crack the Buccaneers.

The Buccaneers got the fast start they badly needed, taking an early lead and getting the packed Raymond James Stadium crowd into the game right away. The first eight minutes of the game, in fact, could hardly have been better: A quick three-and-out forced by the defense and a 63-yard touchdown drive on the Bucs' first offensive possession. QB Brian Griese completed five of six passes on the drive, finding five different receivers and converting two third downs. On first-and-goal from the four, RB Michael Pittman bounced a run outside and beat the Atlanta defense to the pylon to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead.

Griese wasn't needed much in the second half, but he still completed 13 of 21 passes for 131 yards, one touchdown and one interception. WR Joey Galloway led all players with four receptions for 63 yards and a touchdown.

The Falcons threatened to tie the game early in the second quarter, driving to the Bucs' one-yard line in large part due to an impressive 16-yard scramble by Vick down to the 12. However, Atlanta tried a play-action fake on first-and-goal and the Bucs guessed right, keeping several defenders in coverage, including Brooks. Brooks tipped a pass intended for WR Dez White and S Dwight Smith intercepted the deflection for a touchback.

Brooks, who has been one of the Bucs' most effective defenders against Vick for the past three years, ended Atlanta's next drive, too. Blitzing on third-and-eight near midfield, Brooks ran right over a blocker and swatted the ball out of the quarterback's hand, with DE Greg Spires recovering at the Bucs' 47.

Even better , the Bucs scored after each of those turnovers. An eight-play, 48-yard drive followed Smith's pick and concluded in perhaps the most appreciated play of the day by the Raymond James Stadium crowd. With the Bucs facing a fourth down at the Atlanta 32 – that no-man's land between punting, kicking and going for it – Head Coach Jon Gruden sent new kicker Jay Taylor out to try a 50-yard field goal. Taylor got enough leg on his first NFL kick to slide it over the crossbar and just inside the right upright, giving Tampa Bay a 10-0 lead.

Taylor made it 13-0 with a minute left in the half by knocking through a more pedestrian 30-yarder at the end of an 11-play, 41-yard drive. The Bucs got the ball down to the five but missed the end zone when DT Rod Coleman dropped Griese for losses on second and third down.

Rice was nearly lying on the ground when he recorded the 100th sack of his illustrious NFL career. He was fighting through a block by Shaffer when he pushed Shaffer towards Vick and started to fall to the ground. Rice was able to reach up with one arm and pull Vick to the ground for a loss of four early in the second quarter, thus becoming just the 22nd player in NFL history to record 100 sacks.

Rice later got number 101 in important fashion, knocking the ball out of Vick's grasp early in the third quarter. Spires recovered again for the Bucs at Atlanta's 36 and on the very next play Griese hit Galloway on a 36-yard touchdown pass up the right sideline. That gave Rice his 16th multi-sack game as a Buccaneer and his 29th overall.

For Galloway, who has battled groin and ankle injuries all season, the touchdown was his first score as a Buccaneer. That was just one addition to the Bucs' efforts to move the ball and put points on the board. RB Ian Smart played for the first time and went 25 yards on his first NFL carry, helping to set up a field goal. G Matt O'Dwyer, an offseason free agent pickup expected to start, played for the first time this season, subbing briefly at right guard. And, of course, there was Taylor.

Taylor could have hardly had a better debut in his highly-publicized replacement of Gramatica, the franchise's all-time leading scorer. A veteran of the XFL, the Arena League and several NFL training camps, Taylor turned his first regular-season opportunity into a nine-point performance, hitting on both of his field goal tries and all three of his extra points.

The Bucs preserved the shutout in the fourth quarter thanks to their fourth and fifth turnovers. Atlanta reached Tampa Bay's one-yard line again but Vick tried to hit WR Peerless Price on a rollout pass to the left and CB Brian Kelly cut in front of the play for the interception, returning it 75 yards to the Falcons' 26. Alstott then carried the ball on four straight plays, each time eliciting memories from his tackle-breaking hey-day. Runs of 14, six and five yards set up his one-yard plunge to cap the scoring.

Atlanta brought in backup QB Matt Schaub to relieve Vick for the final drive, and the Bucs brought in a host of second-team defenders. LB Ryan Nece intercepted Schaub's second pass to seal the shutout.

The Bucs improve to 5-7 with the victory and remain in the running for a Wild Card spot in the NFC. Atlanta, at 9-3, still has a four-game lead in the division with four games to play.

Notes: The Buccaneers' victory over Atlanta was their fourth win in a row at Raymond James Stadium. The four-game winning streak is the team's longest at home since they won six in a row during the 2002 season, from Sept. 29 through Dec. 8. The last win in that streak was over the Falcons. … QB Brian Griese has won each of his home starts for the Buccaneers. Griese, who took over Tampa Bay's starting job in Week Six, is now 20-6 in his last 26 home starts, including games with the Bucs, Dolphins and Broncos. … The Bucs lost the opening coin toss but probably didn't mind. Though it may be no more than a fluke, Tampa Bay has done much better over the past two seasons when they have lost the toss. In the 28 regular-season games since the beginning of 2003, the Bucs are 2-8 in games in which they've won the toss but 10-8 when they've won it. … RB Michael Pittman scored the game's first points on a four-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Though he missed the season's first three games, Pittman has 10 touchdowns on the season, making him just the fourth Buccaneer ever to reach double digits in a single season. The franchise record for a season is 13, set by RB James Wilder in 1984. The last Buc to get 10 touchdowns was Mike Alstott, who had 11 in 2001. … CB Ronde Barber made his 100th career start, all with the Buccaneers. Barber contributed four tackles and a pass defensed on the day. ... CB Brian Kelly returned his fourth-quarter interception 75 yards, tying for the longest non-scoring INT return in team history. Darryl Pollard had a 75-yarder at Chicago on Oct. 18, 1992. Those two plays tie for the fifth-longest INT return in franchise history. It was a career-long for Kelly. … Alstott's one-yard touchdown run was the Bucs' last score, but it was still an extremely good sign. In his 10 seasons as a Buccaneer, Tampa Bay is 40-9 in games in which Alstott finds the end zone. ... LB Ryan Nece's fourth-quarter interception was the second of his career. The first also came against the Falcons, at Atlanta on Sept. 21, 2003.

Injuries: The Bucs had no injuries to report at the end of the game.

Inactives: The Buccaneers named eight players inactive for Sunday night's game: S Jermaine Phillips, CB Torrie Cox, FB Greg Comella, T Anthony Davis, G Jeb Terry, WR Charles Lee, DE Josh Savage and designated third quarterback Brad Johnson.

Quarter-by-Quarter Reports: During the game, Buccaneers.com provided updates of the action after each quarter. Those reviews of each period are below, providing a closer look at how the game unfolded.

First Quarter Review

The Bucs scored the only points of the first quarter, driving 63 yards on their first possession for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead that held to the end of the period. However, Atlanta had a first down at the Bucs' 12 when the quarter ended.

Falcons' ball…

Atlanta won the toss, meaning new Buccaneer kicker Jay Taylor started the game with his first NFL kickoff. Taylor's kick settled into Allen Rossum's hands at the three and rookie S Will Allen cut Rossum down at the 24.

FB Justin Griffith tried to run around right end on first down but S Dwight Smith knifed through the line to stop him for no gain. QB Michael Vick scrambled away from pressure and dumped a six-yard pass over the middle to TE Dwayne Blakley. On third-and-four, good coverage by the Bucs' defense forced Vick into another dumpoff, this one to Griffith, and LB Ian Gold and DT Chidi Ahanotu combined to stop Griffith after a gain of just one. Chris Mohr came on to punt and hit his kick just 32 yards, where it was fair caught by Joey Galloway at the Bucs' 37.

Bucs' ball…

A sack of QB Brian Griese was erased on first down by an offside penalty, making it first-and-five. Griese than ran a play-action fake and tossed a short pass to TE Ken Dilger, who turned it upfield for a gain of 10.

From the Falcons' 48, RB Michael Pittman headed up the middle for a gain of just two. Working from a no-huddle, the Bucs came back to the line but faced third-and-eight after an incompletion. Griese read a blitz on that play and threw a quick slant to Galloway for 10 yards and a first down at the Atlanta 36.

Another Pittman run gained only a yard, but another good call against the blitz, a screen to Pittman, picked up five. On third-and-four, Griese had time to throw and eventually threw a strike over the middle to WR Michael Clayton, who got 15 yards to the 15. A screen to Alstott worked for six yards on first down, and Pittman ran hard off right guard for five yards and a first down at the four.

It took the Bucs just one play to get it in. Pittman took a handoff towards right guard, then bounced it outside and outran the Falcon defense to the right pylon for a four-yard touchdown run.

Falcons' ball…

Atlanta's next drive began at their own 35 after a good return by Rossum. On first down, however, the Bucs defended a play-action rollout perfectly and Vick had to throw the ball away. After DE Dewayne White stopped Dunn on a three-yard run to the right, Vick scrambled on third-and-seven and dived to the ground right at the first-down line.

Vick then tried to throw a hard pass to WR Peerless Price, but CB Brian Kelly closed quickly and knocked the pass away. Dunn then ran again, for four yards, but Vick's next third-down scramble came up short, as Gold dropped him at the Bucs' 46, a yard short of the sticks. This time, Mohr hit a great punt, which was downed at the Bucs' four.

Bucs' ball…

A false start before first down pushed the ball back to the two, but a play-action rollout pass to FB Jameel Cook gained eight yards. After a one-yard run by Pittman, Griese tried to escape a collapsing pocket on third-and-three but was sacked by DE Brady Smith for a two-yard loss. The Bucs had to punt and fortunately Josh Bidwell booted a 50-yarder. A nine-yard return allowed Atlanta to start right at midfield.

Falcons' ball…

Vick rolled out right after a fake on first down and hit WR Peerless Price down the right sideline for a gain of 22. On the next play, Vick spun away from an onrushing Ahanotu and got around right end for 16 more yards to the Bucs' 12. Before the Falcons could get off another snap, the quarter came to an end.

Second Quarter Review

Thanks to two turnovers caused by LB Derrick Brooks, the Bucs repelled every Atlanta scoring threat and nearly doubled its first-quarter lead to 13-0 at halftime. QB Brian Griese completed 11 of 15 passes for 89 yards in the half and new kicker Jay Taylor hit both of his field goal tries.

Falcons' ball…

Atlanta had a first down at the Bucs' 12 to start the second quarter, but they would come up empty on the drive.

RB Warrick Dunn got nine yards on a first-down run, with LB Ian Gold making a touchdown-saving tackle, and RB T.J. Duckett converted the first down with a two-yard plunge down to the one.

However, on first-and-goal from the one the Falcons ran a play-action fake and the Bucs didn't bite. That left several defenders in the end zone to cover WR Dez White, and LB Derrick Brooks was able to get a hand on a pass intended for White. The ball was deflected into the air and intercepted in the end zone by S Dwight Smith.

Bucs' ball…

The touchback gave Tampa Bay a first down at its own 20. On first down, Griese threw a quick stop pass to WR Joey Galloway, who made it to the right sideline for a gain of nine. After LB Matt Stewart broke up another pass intended for Galloway. However, RB Michael Pittman found the corner on a third-and-one run and broke free for a gain of 14.

RB Ian Smart spelled Pittman on the next play and, on his first NFL carry, made it through a seam on a pitch to the right and exploded for 25 yards to the Falcons' 32. Pittman bobbled the handoff on the next play and failed to gain a yard. A perfectly-timed rush by Brady Smith forced Griese into a dangerous, cross-field throw toward TE Will Heller, which fell incomplete on second down. Griese had a bead on WR Joe Jurevicius on a crossing route on third down, but the ball was batted down at the line.

Thus, the Bucs brought on Taylor for his first NFL attempt and asked him to convert a 50-yard field goal. In front of a jubilant crowd, Taylor nailed it, sneaking the kick just inside the right upright to give the Bucs a 10-0 lead.

Falcons' ball…

Atlanta started at its own 26 but moved backward four yards when DE Simeon Rice sacked him on first down. It was the 100th sack of Rice's career. On the next play, however, Duckett shot up the middle for a gain of 20 to the Atlanta 42.

Duckett got four more up the gut on the next play, and Vick scrambled again on second down, getting four more yards. Vick was hurt at the end of the run and had to go to the sideline, but he returned after one play, a seven-yard run by Justin Griffith to the Bucs' 43.

Vick's first play back was a handoff to Duckett, but DT Chartric Darby stopped the runner after a gain of just two. Vick was slow to get up after the next play, too, in which DE Greg Spires jumped on him from behind just as he threw. The resulting loose ball was ruled an incompletion, but the Bucs had to wait just one more play to get the ball back. LB Derrick Brooks blitzed on third-and-eight and swatted the ball right out of Vick's hands, causing a fumble that Spires recovered at the Bucs' 47.

Bucs' ball…

Griese threw a short pass over the middle to Pittman on first down, picking up seven yards. Two plays later, on third-and-three, Griese stood in a collapsing pocket and delivered a hard crossing-route pass to Galloway, who hauled it in for a gain of eight, down to Atlanta's 38.

On first down, Pittman made a nice cut-back and gained seven yards around left end. Griese then faked a handoff to FB Mike Alstott and threw over a rusher to TE Ken Dilger, who gained eight yards to the 23.

Griese faked a handoff again on first down but saw his downfield men covered and dumped it off to Dilger for a gain of three. The Bucs then called a timeout with 3:09 left in the quarter. After the break, Alstott sealed the left corner for Pittman and the latter made it around the edge for a gain of nine yards, stiff-arming LB Chris Draft for extra yardage to the Atlanta 11.

Pittman got the carry on the next play as well, and fought hard up the middle to fall at the Atlanta five, bringing on the two-minute warning. After the break, the Bucs tried to run it but DT Rod Coleman timed his jump perfectly and shot right through the line to hit Griese before he could hand it off to Pittman. Fortunately, the loose ball was recovered by TE Will Heller, who was lying on the ground at the seven.

After another timeout, the Bucs came out on third-and-six and tried to pass, but Griese was sacked at the 12 by Coleman and Patrick Kerney. The Bucs settled for a 30-yard field goal try and Taylor nailed it for a 13-0 lead.

Falcons' ball…

Atlanta, which called a timeout before the kick, was left with 1:06 to try to avoid the first-half shutout. However, a holding call on the kickoff return forced Atlanta to start at its own 21.

Vick had to dump it off to Dunn on first down, getting six yards. After throwing an eight-yard strike to Price on second down, Vick called a timeout with 28 seconds left in the half.

The Bucs dodged a bullet after the break when Price just missed making a diving catch seven yards into Tampa Bay territory. Vick started to scramble on second down but thought better of it and threw out to Dunn, who got out of bounds with three yards and 16 seconds left. Rice drew a holding call on the next play, but it was declined when S John Howell broke up a downfield pass to Price with a well-timed hit.

Bucs' ball…

A short Chris Mohr punt went out of bounds at the Bucs' 46 with one second to play, but Tampa Bay kneeled on it to end the half.

Third Quarter Review

A dominating performance by the Buccaneer defense and one big play on offense allowed the Bucs to score the only touchdown of the third quarter, pushing their lead to 20-0. Heading into the final period, Tampa Bay had gained 234 yard of offense, exactly 100 more than Atlanta. The Bucs also had three of the game's four turnovers and had scored off all three of them.

Bucs' ball…

RB Ian Smart took the kickoff to start the third quarter and got it back to the Bucs' 25. After QB Brian Griese's first-down pass was tipped at the line, an offside call gave the Bucs a free five yards. RB Michael Pittman moved the sticks by bouncing a second-down carry to the right sideline and cutting up for a gain of 10.

A completion to TE Will Heller on the next play was erased by a strange chop-block call, making it first-and-25 back at the 25, and Pittman's next carry was good for just one. Griese was forced into a throwaway on second down, and the Bucs played it safe on third-and-24, running Pittman for no gain. The Bucs had to punt and Atlanta took possession at its own 37.

Falcons' ball…

The Falcons gave it to RB Warrick Dunn on first and second downs, and Dunn's four-yard gain was followed by a one-yard loss. On third down, QB Michael Vick dropped back to pass and held onto it too long, giving DE Simeon Rice time to swat the ball out of his hand for a sack and a forced fumble. DE Greg Spires recovered for the Bucs – his second FR of the game – at Atlanta's 36.

Bucs' ball…

And from there it only took one play for the Bucs to score. WR Joey Galloway got wide open down the right sideline and Griese hit him on the run, allowing Galloway to make an inside move on the safety and run the last 10 yards into the end zone for a 36-yard score. Galloway's first touchdown as a Buc made it 20-0, Tampa Bay.

Falcons' ball…

A personal foul on the ensuing kickoff allowed Atlanta to start on its own 44, though they lost five yards right away on a false start. After a five-yard run by Dunn, Vick dropped back to pass but was absolutely flattened by Rice just as he threw. That incompletion made it third-and-10, and a big third-down blitz by the Buc defense forced Vick to settle for a six-yard pass to WR Dez White. Atlanta had to punt and the Bucs got possession again at their own 11.

Bucs' ball…

Griese threw a rollout pass to TE Ken Dilger on first down for a gain of six, and FB Mike Alstott barreled up the middle for eight more on second down. With a first down at the 25, Alstott took it again and ran around right end for a gain of seven. After Pittman's two-yard run made it third-and-one, the Bucs gambled on third-and-one. Galloway got open on a deep post, but Griese's deep throw was a few yards out of the receiver's reach.

On the plus side, Josh Bidwell followed with an enormous, 57-yard punt that return man Allen Rossum caught while backpedaling, causing him to fall to the ground at the Atlanta 9.

Falcons' ball…

Dunn got it again on first down but lost a yard when he tried to cut back to the left and was trapped by CB Ronde Barber. On the next play, Vick dropped to throw but was tripped by DE Dewayne White for a seven-yard sack just out of the end zone. Facing third-and-18 at the one, the Falcons gave it to Dunn again, who got out to the five for some breathing room.

On the ensuing punt, Galloway returned the ball 13 yards to the Atlanta 34.

Bucs' ball…

However, the Bucs' possession lasted only one play. Griese tried to hit WR Joe Jurevicius cutting right to left but LB Chris Draft intercepted the pass and returned it 33 yards to the Bucs' 46.

Falcons' ball…

Vick backpedaled from pressure on first down and eventually lobbed a pass to FB Justin Griffith, who was flattened immediately by LB Derrick Brooks, gaining just one yard. Dunn ran tough up the middle on second down for five yards to the Bucs' 40. On third-and-four, Vick faked a handoff and spun to his left, but Rice was right in his face and was able to tip the ball incomplete. The Falcons tried a fake punt but CB Ronde Barber stayed right with WR Michael Jenkins and Jenkins had to go out of bounds to catch Chris Mohr's pass.

Bucs' ball…

Thus, Tampa Bay got the ball back at their own 40, and Pittman ran off right guard for five yards on first down. Alstott added four on sec down, leading to a long third-and-one. That play brought the third quarter to an end.

Fourth Quarter Review

There was no let up for the Buccaneers in the fourth quarter, as they scored the only points of the period to complete a 27-0 shutout of the first-place Atlanta Falcons. The Bucs and Falcons finished with nearly identical yardage totals (247 to 255) but the Bucs forced five turnovers and allowed Michael Vick just 92 net passing yards. The Bucs improve to 5-7 on the season while Atlanta falls to 9-3 and fails in its first opportunity to clinch the NFC South.

Bucs' ball…

It was third-and-one for the Bucs at their own 49 when the fourth quarter began, but a run by FB Mike Alstott had no chance when three Falcon defenders broke immediately into the backfield. A holding call on Atlanta on the ensuing punt helped the Bucs push the Falcons back to their own 18.

Falcons' ball…

RB T.J. Duckett went up the middle for two yards on first down and a sideline pass to TE Alge Crumpler gained five. On third-and-three, QB Michael faked a screen pass to the right, then spun left and found open field for his designed run. LB Shelton Quarles dove to stop him at the Bucs' 49, 26 yards downfield, perhaps saving a touchdown.

Duckett got one yard up the middle on first down and Vick's dumpoff to Duckett under duress on second down was good for three more. Vick converted the third down again by running an option with RB Warrick Dunn and getting around the right end for seven yards.

From the Bucs' 38, Vick rolled right this time and again got free, picking up 10 yards to the 28. Duckett got just one yard and CB Ronde Barber broke up and nearly intercepted a downfield pass for FB Justin Griffith. On third-and-nine, Vick gave it to Dun, who sliced off right guard for seven yards. The Falcons went for it on fourth-and-two and LB Derrick Brooks made them pay, cutting in front of WR Peerless Price and nearly intercepting Vick's pass on the run.

Bucs' ball…

The Bucs were content to mostly run out the clock. Alstott fought for a yard on first down, as did RB Michael Pittman on second down. QB Brian Griese did try to pass on third-and-nine, but he was sacked by Travis Hall for a loss of nine.

Falcons' ball…

Atlanta got the ball back at midfield with seven minutes to play. After an incompletion downfield, Vick hit WR Michael Jenkins for a gain of 23. A Dunn run got four yards, but the Falcons lost 10 yards on a tripping call. Facing second-and-16 at the Bucs' 33, Vick fired a hard, 19-yard pass to WR Dez White for a first down at the Bucs' 14.

Vick was chased into a throwaway on the next play, then missed White in the end zone on second down. On third-and-10 from the 14, Vick found White again for a first down at the two. Vick tried to get it in himself on a first-down keeper but got just a yard. On second down, Vick rolled left and tried to throw it to Price in the front left corner of the end zone. That didn't work thanks to CB Brian Kelly, who cut in front of the play, intercepted the pass on the run and returned it 75 yards to the Falcons' 26.

Bucs' ball…

Alstott got the next three carries and simply refused to go down until he had plowed through nearly every Falcon. His first run went 14 yards into the teeth of the defense, his second went six yards and his third, perhaps the most impressive, went five yards to the one. On first-and-goal, after the two-minute warning, the Bucs gave it to Alstott again and he hammered home for a one-yard score.

Falcons' ball…

Griffith got the ensuing kickoff back to the Bucs' 46, and the Falcons brought in Matt Schaub to lead the last drive. The Bucs countered with a second-team defense and still ended the drive in two plays.

Schaub nearly completed a pass to Price on first down but rookie S Will Allen knocked the ball out of the receiver's hands with a hard hit. On the next play, LB Shelton Quarles intercepted a short pass and pitched it to CB Corey Ivy, who returned it to Atlanta's 44. The Bucs kneeled twice to end the game.

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