Tampa Bay Buccaneers

INCREDIBLE COMEBACK!

Tampa Bay stuns Washington with a 14-point second half comeback, winning a trip to the NFC Championship Game

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DE Steve White forced the fumble that set up the game-winning score

It may go down as the most memorable 20 minutes in Tampa Bay Buccaneer history. The Buccaneers were trailing the Washington Redskins 13-0 in Saturday's NFC Divisional Playoff Game as time bled off the third-quarter clock. Suddenly, an interception by S John Lynch reversed the Buccaneers' sagging fortunes. Rookie QB Shaun King then took over, directing one touchdown drive in the third quarter and one in the fourth to give the Buccaneers a stunning 14-13 victory.

King, the first rookie quarterback to win an NFL playoff game since the Los Angeles Rams' Pat Haden in 1976, jumped over rushing DE Ndukwe Kalu and threw a perfect touch pass to TE John Davis in the north end zone with just under six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. That touchdown added to FB Mike Alstott's amazing two-yard scoring run with two minutes left in the third period. Alstott ran into a picket of Washington tacklers on the right side on a second-down run from the two, but avoided three Redskins, reversed field and outran the defense to the left side of the end zone.

Alstott's touchdown finished a 73-yard drive set up by Lynch's pick at the Buccaneers' 27. King's winning pass to Davis was also made possible by the Buccaneer defense, as DT Warren Sapp recovered a Brad Johnson fumble forced by DE Steve White at the Redskins' 32. Those were the only two turnovers forced by the Buccaneer defense, but the NFL's third-ranked 'D' definitely got the best of the league's second-ranked 'O'. Washington averaged over 360 yards of offense during the regular season but managed just 157 yards and two field goals against Tampa Bay's aggressive unit. The Redskins' only touchdown of the game came on RB Brian Mitchell's NFL playoff-record 100 yard kickoff return to open the second half.

Washington had a chance to pull ahead in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, but a 52-yard field goal attempt by Brett Conway never got off the ground thanks to an errant snap. It was a shocking end to a bizarre and wonderful fourth quarter. The details of that fourth quarter follow.

The Buccaneers opened the fourth quarter with a punt, giving Washington possession at its own 28. The Tampa Bay defense, operating at an incredibly intense level, overcame a surprising 15-yard facemask penalty to record its second takeaway of the game. DE Steve White provided the enormous play with a sack from behind of QB Brad Johnson, forcing a fumble that DT Warren Sapp recovered at the Washington 32. Two plays later at the 25, QB Shaun King scrambled left and was caught by LB Shawn Barber, who forced a fumble. However, fortune smiled on the Buccaneers when RB Warrick Dunn was able to scoop up the loose ball and return it all the way to the 13 for another first down.

It was obviously a drive not meant to die when FB Mike Alstott picked up five yards on fourth-and-one from the eight. After an incompletion and a two-yard run by Dunn, QB Shaun King turned in perhaps the most astounding play of the Buccaneers' 1999 season. After a play fake to Alstott, King wheeled right only to see DE Ndukwe Kalu already upon him. With only an instant to react, King leapt and threw a perfect pass to TE John Davis for the touchdown.

On the resulting extra point, which put Tampa Bay up 14-13, the Redskins were flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, allowing the Bucs to kick off from the 45. K Martin Gramatica lifted a high, short kick and the Bucs coverage team stopped RB Mike Sellers at the 11-yard line.

RB Stephen Davis picked up 10 yards and a first down on a screen pass to start the drive, but tight coverage by S John Lynch forced an incompletion on the next play. On second-and-10, Johnson tried a dumpoff to RB Larry Centers but Centers was trapped for a four-yard loss by Sapp, who had sniffed out the screen. On third-and-14, CB Donnie Abraham tipped away a medium-range pass intended for WR Michael Westbrook.

After the punt, Tampa Bay took over at its own 35 with 5:35 remaining in the game. The Bucs lined up with Mike Alstott alone in the backfield on first down, but King called a timeout when he didn't like what he saw from the Redskins' defense. After the timeout, Dunn ran up the middle for one yard and Alstott followed with a loss of four yards, setting up a third-and-13. A short pass to WR Karl Williams got the Bucs back to their original line of scrimmage. P Mark Royals lofted a high punt that kept Washington at its own 25, but a holding penalty forced the Bucs to re-kick. After a five-yard Washington encroachment penalty, Royals hit a liner that Mitchell brought back to the 37.

That set Washington up with outstanding field position and 3:05 left on the clock. RB Skip Hicks picked up six yards and got out of bounds on first down, but a deep throw down the left sideline to WR Irving Fryar was broken up by CB Ronde Barber. Centers gained the first down at the 48 with a five-yard catch over the middle.

An exact replay of Hicks' first play picked up 11 yards this time, for a first down at the 40. A quick handoff to Centers gained seven yards to the 33, but one incompletion and a one-yard loss by Hicks forced Washington to try a 52-yard field goal for the lead. However, K Brett Conway never got a chance to kick. Long-snapper Dan Turk's snap bounced several times before reaching Johnson, the holder, and Johnson couldn't get the ball in position in time. Johnson tried to throw a game-saving pass, but LB Derrick Brooks broke it up.

Tampa Bay thus took over at its own 43 needing to burn just 1:08 off the clock. Three runs by Alstott picked up 17 yards and the Bucs were headed to the NFC Championship Game.

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