Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bump in the Road

Tampa Bay’s playoff drive hits a pothole in Oakland

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Though he was the Bucs' top weapon on Sunday, RB Warrick Dunn found little room to run.

Though Tampa Bay remains in the driver's seat for the NFC Central title, the playoff celebration will have to wait at least another week. The Buccaneers could have clinched a playoff berth with a victory in Oakland today, joining the 12-2 St. Louis Rams, but those plans were put on hold by the Raiders' dominant 45-0 victory.

In terms of margin of victory, it was the worst loss in franchise history, surpassing a 42-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 5, 1976, the Buccaneers' inaugural season.

"You never like to give up 40 points," said Tampa Bay Head Coach Tony Dungy. "We don't like to give up 20 points. But you have to give the Raiders a lot of credit. They made a lot of plays, and we didn't.

"We don't like to play so poorly when so much is on the line, but it's just one game out of 16."

In the silver-lining department, the Bucs took the field in Oakland after Detroit had lost at Chicago, meaning Tampa Bay remained in first place despite its loss. In addition, NFC East leading Washington also lost, keeping the Bucs a game up in the chase for a first-round bye.

It was a game uncomfortably reminiscent of the Bucs' trip to New York in December of 1997, a 31-0 loss to the Jets that failed to derail a 10-6 playoff campaign. On that day and this one, everything that could go wrong did for Tampa Bay. The Raiders even scored a touchdown on defense with almost no effort, as an unpressured Shaun King lost the handle on a third-down pass attempt, leading to a 13-yard fumble recovery walk-in by DE Lance Johnstone.

That loss to the Jets was also the last time Tampa Bay was shut out. Though the stats in the 1997 loss were not actually lopsided, today's defeat saw the Bucs' outgained 400 yards to 137.

Though the deficit was still seemingly manageable at 17 points at halftime, the Bucs enjoyed little success in the first half. While Tampa Bay's offense was on the field for just six plays in the first quarter, a pair of three-and-outs, Oakland went 84 yards for a touchdown on its opening drive and followed with a 59-yard field goal drive. Each march was methodical, as the Raiders converted four third downs on the two drives.

Tampa Bay's defense seemed to adjust in the second quarter, as it has done repeatedly in 1999, but a turnover by the offense deepened the Bucs' hole. The Bucs had a chance to cut into the lead with six minutes remaining, beginning a drive near midfield after a strong Karl Williams punt return, but FB Mike Alstott fumbled on first down and CB Charles Woodson returned the loose ball to Tampa Bay's 30. RB Tyrone Wheatley needed just one play to zip 30 yards to the end zone for a 17-0 lead.

Johnstone's score came less than two minutes into the second half, effectively killing any Buccaneer comeback hopes. The Raiders tacked on two more third-quarter touchdown on two short drives. The first was a 49-yard drive march capped by Napoleon Kaufman's 17-yard touchdown scamper. The second, set up by a deflected interception by S Charles Mincy, went 37 yards and concluded on a three-yard Wheatley run.

In the fourth-quarter, Kaufman supplied some little-needed insurance when he turned an apparent loss into a 75-yard touchdown run by reversing field and flying down the left sideline, QB Wade Wilson providing the lead block. Kaufman joined Wheatley in triple digits with that carry, becoming the first pair of opposing backs to each surpass 100 yards in a game against Tampa Bay since Green Bay's Eddie Lee Ivery and Gerry Ellis on 12/1/85.

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