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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mass. Appeal

The Bucs’ first trip to Massachusetts in a dozen years resulted in a 31-21 win and uncovered much to please the coaching staff


WR Jacquez Green scored the game's first touchdown on an unusual play

The last time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in Foxboro, in 1988, they won an overtime coin toss but elected to kick.

You think that's weird?

The team's return a dozen years later had less at stake, as it was a preseason affair, but it was equally bizarre. How were touchdowns scored in Tampa Bay's 31-21 win? Let us count the ways, which just happened to occur in this order:

· A 55-yard touchdown reception by Bucs WR Jacquez Green on a pass intended for, and in and out of the hands of, TE Dave Moore; · A 58-yard TD run by Patriots RB Kevin Faulk, who went untouched right through the heart of the usually stalwart Bucs' defense; · A 20-yard fumble return by New England CB Ty Law, who scooped up a ball lost by FB Mike Alstott and ran around the Bucs offense for a touchdown; · A Jamie Duncan fumble recovery in the end zone for Tampa Bay after QB Michael Bishop lost the ball backwards trying to throw a pass; · A fairly ordinary 17-yard Eric Zeier pass to Karl Williams in the fourth quarter that joins the list because it was set up by a punt block from Bucs rookie LB Nate Webster; · A shockingly sudden burst by the Patriots, who were locked deep in their own territory on third-and-13 then were in the end zone a blink later after consecutive receptions of 51 and 32 yards by, fittingly, Shockmain Davis.

Okay, there was some conventional scoring, namely a 36-yard field goal by Martin Gramatica in the second quarter and a five-yard run by Aaron Stecker that capped a methodical fourth quarter drive. Those two scores just happened to provide the winning 10-point margin, but the final score was less important than the various points of light Tampa Bay coaches will see on the game film tomorrow.

Perhaps most importantly, the Bucs came into today's game wanting to get their running game untracked, and appeared to do so with a 2000 high of 125 ground yards. Though the final numbers of the starting backfield, FB Mike Alstott (5 for 18) and Warrick Dunn (12 for 39) were less than scintillating, they belie some fine running by both. In fact, Alstott turned in his trademark pinball runs on several occasions and Dunn found a few chances to dance and dart for extra yards among the extra wave of defenders.

Too, the Bucs' defense was opportunistic. The team came up with five takeaways, giving them 13 in three games. Meanwhile, the Bucs' offense turned it over just once and did not give up a single sack to a previously furious New England pass rush.

WR Keyshawn Johnson was silent until the second quarter, whereupon starting QB Shaun King suddenly latched onto him like a life raft. On the Bucs' second-quarter field goal drive, King converted three straight third downs by throwing Johnson's way. The Pro Bowl wideout ended up with four receptions for 59 yards, all on third downs.

His starting counterpart, WR Jacquez Green, turned in the big plays expected of the speedster, picking up 113 yards on his two catches. In addition to the aforementioned TD, Green caught a 58-yarder in the first quarter that required great concentration, reaching back to field a ball that had bounced off CB Ty Law.

Also good to see was the play of the Bucs' middle linebackers, who are looking to replace Pro Bowler Hardy Nickerson, who left for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the offseason. Duncan had five tackles, one sack for 20 yards, one pass defensed, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. His backup, Webster, had a tackle for a loss and a pass defensed in addition to his punt block.

Finally, the Bucs' offense was much more explosive tonight than it appeared to be 10 days ago in Miami. Tampa Bay racked up 19 first downs and 382 total yards, including 245 yards in the first half. reported from the game after each quarter, giving detailed accounts of every drive. Thos accounts follow to complete the game story.

First Quarter

The Bucs clearly came into today's opening period determined to run the ball, and though the early stats aren't overwhelming, there were definite signs of life. As for the scoreboard, neither team cracked it, though both tried one field goal. A drive-by-drive recap is below.

New England's First Drive:

New England won the toss, leading to a Tampa Bay kickoff to get the game rolling. Bucs kicker Martin Gramatica, who has shown marked improvement in the length of his kickoffs early in the preseason, failed to hit this one solidly, squibbing the ball out of bounds near the 10 to give New England a beginning line of the 40.

The Patriots went directly to the ground, trying to run off right tackle on first down, but Shelton Quarles wrapped up Raymont Harris after a one-yard gain. However, QB Drew Bledsoe zipped a quick pass to WR Tony Simmons on a seam route and Simmons picked up 24 yards to the Bucs' 35 before being stopped by S Shevin Smith.

Harris tried the middle on the next snap but was corralled for a one-yard loss by LB Jamie Duncan. FB Tony Carter then picked up five yards on a well-designed screen pass to set up a third and six from the 31. To convert, Bledsoe tried to find Simmons on a quick in, but CB Brian Kelly jumped all over the route and broke up the pass. K Adam Vinatieri then missed a 49-yard field goal wide right.

Tampa Bay's First Drive:

Happy to have FB Mike Alstott back in the lineup, the Bucs lined him up at the running back slot and ran him off left guard on their first play from scrimmage. Looking to be in midseason form, Alstott bounced off several tacklers to gain five yards. On second down, RB Warrick Dunn danced for three yards on a carry to the right, and on third, Dunn picked up a first down with a three-yard run to the left, lowering his shoulder to pick up the last yard.

The Bucs stuck on the ground for the second series, but Dunn was stopped for no gain on first down. On second down, QB Shaun King executed a play-action fake to Alstott and lofted a deep pass to WR Jacquez Green, but Green couldn't find the ball under fine coverage. After a false-start penalty, the Bucs were unable to convert the third-and-15, as King threw the ball away under pressure.

P Mark Royals then blasted a cloudscraping kick to the Patriots' two that bounced into the end zone, but New England elected to have him kick it again rather than take it 20. It was a net gain of five yards for the Patriots when Troy Brown returned Royals' 50-yarder ten yards to the New England 25.

New England's Second Drive:

Harris got the Patriots' second drive off to a good start with a 10-yard burst up the middle on first down. On the next play, Harris did a fine job of breaking a couple of Buc tackles just to minimize a loss to three yards on a well-covered screen pass. On second down, Bledsoe was forced out of the pocket by heavy pressure from linemen Brad Culpepper and Chidi Ahanotu and picked up three yards before sliding down. That allowed him to toss a pass in the flat to Kevin Faulk on third-and-14, and Faulk dashed 13 yards to the Patriots' 49.

On first down, Harris tried right tackle again but was stuffed for no gain. On second down, FB Tony Carter took yet another screen pass at midfield, but fumbled under a Buc gang tackle, officially forced by Duncan. Culpepper covered the loose ball at the Bucs' 48 for the game's first turnover.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive:

Alstott picked up only two yards on a first-down carry to the left, but it was an impressive run nonetheless as he danced out of the way of a speeding Patriots tackler at the line of scrimmage. Dunn was stopped for no gain on a quick-hitting misdirection play on second down. On third down, King scrambled right after the original play failed to develop, threw on the run and was able to hit WR Reidel Anthony for a 15-yard gain. However, Anthony was called for leaving the field before coming back in to make the play, erasing the gain and forcing a fourth down. Rookie John Shay punted 50 yards into the end zone.

New England's Third Drive:

After the touchback, New England started at its own 20, opening with a five-wide package and getting a four-yard completion to WR Terry Glenn over the middle. Bledsoe rolled right under pressure from John Lynch and Ahanotu on second down, and his pass to Brown on the sideline was broken up by CB Ronde Barber. Before the next snap, a false start penalty led to third-and-11. Blanket coverage on third down forced Bledsoe to scramble left and out of bounds for seven yards. Lee Johnson then punted 47 yards and an illegal block penalty on Barber pushed the Bucs back to their own 23.

Tampa Bay's Third Drive:

The Bucs' recharged ground game paid off in another way to open the third drive when a play action to Dunn set up a 58-yard King-to-Jacquez Green completion. The pass was actually well-covered by CB Ty Law, but the ball bounced off Law and into Green's hands, who was then tackled at the 18.

Alstott was quickly stopped for one yard on first down, and two incompletions set up a Martin Gramatica field goal try. Gramatica's try from 35 yards out was short and wide left.

New England's Third Drive:

On first down from the 25, Harris ran to the left for two yards. Harris run right on second down was also stopped quickly, but a tripping penalty on the Patriots backed the ball up to the 16. On second down, Bledsoe was nearly sacked by Ahanotu and eventually threw incomplete. New England was able to garner 14 yards on a draw by Faulk, but Lynch ended the run violently with a bruising tackle. The quarter ran out before New England could punt.

Second Quarter

The second quarter of today's game was in stark contrast to the first. The scoreboard took a beating as both teams pulled off a series of big plays and scored twice. Tampa Bay scored first on a fluky play, but the Patriots followed with a pair of long-distance scores. The Bucs completed the scoring with a field goal, giving us a 14-10 halftime score. The details are below.

Tampa Bay's First Drive:

The Bucs opened up the second period on offense at their own 20 and began with an incompletion on first down. On second down, RB Warrick Dunn took a delayed handoff on a draw and darted and danced up the middle for 12 yards, aided by a nice block from G Frank Middleton. Dunn, who repeatedly showed the slashing style that made him a Pro Bowler as a rookie, gained two yards on a pitch on the next snap.

Dunn again on third down: four yards on another pitch. On third and four, the Patriots brought about four extra rushers on an all-out blitz, but QB Shaun King calmly stood in and delivered a seven-yard first-down pass to WR Reidel Anthony.

On the next play, paydirt! Shaun King dropped quickly and zipped a quick pass to a well-covered Dave Moore. The ball went through Moore's hands but, fortunately for the Bucs, bounded directly into those of WR Jacquez Green. Green simply outran the rest of the Patriots' defense for a 55-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Bucs lead.

New England's First Drive:

P John Shay kicked off to the Patriots' 15 and J.R. Redmond returned it to the 28. QB Drew Bledsoe's first pass of the drive was incomplete, intended for Tony Simmons. On second-and-10, RB Raymont Harris picked up one yard before being stopped by S John Lynch. Bledsoe converted the third-and-nine, however, getting a quick pass over the middle to Simmons for 13 yards.

Worse for the Buccaneers than that first down was the sight of an injured CB Donnie Abraham. Abraham, however, was able to return after being diagnosed with a bruised right arm.

Bledsoe's pass attempt over the middle to WR Terry Glenn was incomplete, but RB Kevin Faulk made that irrelevant when he dashed up the gut untouched and finished 58 yards later in the end zone. The game was thus tied, 7-7.

On the play, S Shevin Smith had to be assisted off the field after dislocating the big toe on his left foot. He is the third free safety to go down for Tampa Bay this preseason, following Damien Robinson in training camp and Dexter Jackson in the game at Miami (8/10).

Tampa Bay's Second Drive:

RB Aaron Stecker originally returned the kickoff 30 yards to the Bucs' 40, but a holding penalty brought Tampa Bay back to the 10. FB Mike Alstott picked up four yards on first down and appeared to have a first down on his next carry, but a fumble ended up in Ty Law's hands and Law returned it 20 yards for the go-ahead score.

Tampa Bay's Third Drive:

The Bucs started their next drive at their own seven after a fumble and a penalty. However, Dunn quickly moved the chains to the 16 with a nine-yard dash up the middle. Dunn then was stopped for a three-yard loss trying to get around right end, but a play-action pass to WR Keyshawn Johnson picked up nine yards and a first down.

On the next snap, King threw behind Johnson cutting over the middle, and Dunn was stopped for no gain on second down. King and Johnson converted a second straight third down on the next snap when the former zipped a perfect seam pass to the latter for 25 yards over the middle. Dunn ran off the left end for nine yards on the next play.

After Dunn was stopped for no gain, it was up to King and Johnson again. This time, King scrambled right and threw a perfect pass to Johnson at the sideline at the Patriots' 34 for a pickup of 12. A roughing the passer penalty on LB Chris Slade was tacked onto the end to take the ball down to the 19.

Backup RB Rabih Abdullah came into the game and took the next snap off right guard for one yard. King's next pass was batted incomplete before it could reach Johnson. On third and nine, King tried to find Johnson again in the end zone but the coverage was perfect. On fourth down, Gramatica nailed a 36-yard field goal to close the gap to 14-10.

New England's Second Drive:

New England began at their own 25 and picked up four yards on a screen pass to FB Tony Carter. Harris slammed up the middle for six yards and a first down. On the next play, Bledsoe tried to throw deep but his arm was hit by DE Marcus Jones, causing a floater thatn was almost intercepted by Abraham. On third down, Bledsoe threw the ball away in the face of tight coverage.

Tampa Bay's Fourth Drive:

The Bucs started off with fine field position after WR Karl Williams returned Lee Johnson's 47-yard punt 14 yards to the Bucs' 40. King started off in the shotgun on first down with four wideouts, but his first pass to Johnson was overthrown. On second down, King tried a pass fairly deep over the middle to Anthony but it was violently broken up by S Tebucky Jones. However, third down brought the now-expected King-Johnson connection, this time for 15 yards and a first down over the middle to the Patriots' 45.

With a new set of downs, King escaped quick pressure up the middle and scrambled to the right for four yards, getting out of bounds to stop the clock at 0:46. A four-yard completion to TE Dave Moore followed. King tried a third-down quick strike to Green, but it was batted at the line, setting up fourth down and a decision to go for it. The drive ended on an incomplete pass attempt to Moore.

New England's Third Drive:

With 39 seconds remaining, New England started at their own 37 and quickly tossed a six-yard completion to Simmons and a seven-yarder to Faulk, getting to midfield with 24 seconds left. After an illegal snap penalty took it back to the Patriots' 45, it quickly moved back to the middle stripe on an offsides call. However, the clock was down to 18 seconds.

Helped by a Derrick Brooks blitz, the Bucs quickly collapsed the pocket on the next snap, resulting in a Bledsoe scramble and an eventual incompletion. After a holding penalty drawn by Jones pushed New England back to the 50 and left just six seconds on the clock. The Patriots then brought in backup QB Michael Bishop, who lofted a 'Hail Mary' pass which LB Shelton Quarles intercepted to end the half.

Third Quarter

After a shootout in the second quarter, neither team generated much movement in the third period. The Bucs' however, came up with two turnovers, including the quarter's biggest defensive play, a defensive touchdown by LB Jamie Duncan. The Patriots had one scoring attempt, but missed on a 50-yard field goal, leaving the Bucs ahead 17-14 to start the final quarter.

Tampa Bay's First Drive:

Tampa Bay had the opening possession of the third quarter, starting at their own 27 after a 20-yard kickoff return by WR Yo Murphy. On first down, RB Rabih Abdullah took a quick pass in the flat and slanted over the middle for an eight-yard gain. After King scrambled for one yard on second down, Abdullah took it up the middle for two yards and a first down.

Abdullah also had the next carry, a three-yarder, but the Bucs found themselves in a second-and-17 hole after an offensive interference penalty. It got worse when a broken play resulted in a four-yard loss for a scrambling King. On third and 21, King's pass over the middle was batted down by Willie McGinest.

New England's First Drive:

After Mark Royals' 42-yard punt and J.R. Redmond's seven-yard return, the Patriots started anew at their own 38. Second-string QB Michael Bishop was under center, and he handed off to Redmond to start the drive with a two-yard run up the middle. Redmond got just two more on second down. On third-and-six, Bishop took a shotgun snap and tried a quarterback draw up the middle, but the Bucs quickly sniffed it out and the Patriots had to punt on fourth and four.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive:

QB Eric Zeier came in to direct the Bucs' next possession, and got his day started with a handoff to Abdullah, who accounted for five yards. Abdullah caught a short pass on second down and broke several tackles to gain just enough for a first down. The all-Abdullah drive continued on the next play when the third-year back picked his way through a crowd in the middle for three yards. Zeier tried to hit Abdullah on a quick shovel pass on second down but Abdullah was unaware and it fell incomplete.

On third-and-seven, Zeier tried to hit WR Keyshawn Johnson on a quick slant but it was broken up, forcing a Shay punt that Redmond caught on a run and returned hard to near midfield. However, he was hit just as hard by LB Don Davis, who forced a fumble recovered by the Bucs' Aaron Stecker at the New England 49.

Tampa Bay's Third Drive:

Thus, Tampa Bay began again just into Patriots' territory. Zeier overthrew Reidel Anthony on the right sideline, though there was also tight Patriots coverage. On second down, TE Todd Yoder provided an excellent lead block on the left side for Abdullah, who picked up half of the ten yards Tampa Bay needed. On third-and-five, Zeier tried Anthony again on the left side but threw incomplete just before hard blow from McGinest. The resulting punt by Royals landed in the end zone.

New England's Second Drive:

Starting at his own 20, Bishop threw incomplete on first down and scrambled out of DE Marcus Jones' reach to do so again on second down. At that point, a scrambling Buc defense came up with a bit of good fortune. Blitzing up the middle to put immediate pressure on Bishop, LB Jamie Duncan forced the Patriots' QB to try to throw as he was spinning in a circle. The ball slipped backwards out of Bishop's hand, which counts as a fumble, and bounced into the end zone, where Duncan recovered it for a touchdown.

That score put Tampa Bay up 17-14.

New England's Second Drive:

New England started on its own 32 and picked up two yards on a Redmond run to the right side which appeared to be destined for more before a fine open-field tackle by CB Ronde Barber. However, Bishop pulled off a fine play-action pass on second down and wheeled to hit WR Dane Looker for 13 yards. Two snaps later, a holding penalty set up third-and-18, but Bishop hit Looker again for 12 yards. On third-and-six, Bishop rolled right and threw 27 yards to Tony Simmons on the sideline.

The Patriots thus found themselves in a first down at the Bucs' 22, but they went backwards from there for two plays. On first down, Redmond was plugged up the middle for a two-yard loss. On second down, blitzing LB Alshermond Singleton sacked Bishop for eight yards. LB Jamie Duncan broke up a deep pass over the middle with a near interception, forcing a 50-yard field goal attempt that Adam Vinatieri hit short, leaving the Bucs on top by three.

Tampa Bay's Fourth Drive:

RB Rabih Abdullah opened the Bucs' next drive with a hardnosed seven-yard run to the right sideline, but the Bucs moved back five yards on a false start penalty. Abdullah picked up three yards on second down and Zeier threw incomplete on third to lead to Shay's 35-yard punt, fair-caught at the Patriots' 20. That ended the third period, Tampa Bay leading 17-14.

Fourth Quarter

The final period was by far the most explosive, as the two teams combined for three touchdowns, almost matching the output of the first three quarters. Luckily for Bucs fans, Tampa Bay started that tradeoff of touchdowns and thus scored twice to New England's one, resulting in a 31-21 final score. The details of each drive are below.

New England's first drive

The Patriots started their first possession of the final quarter with a five-yard run from J.R. Redmond and a 17-yard Michael Bishop pass to Dane Looker, who was tackled at the Patriots' 42.

Redmond then lost one yard on a failed run up the middle and Bishop threw incomplete to Looker on the right sideline. Sean Morey had a chance to convert the third down but saw Bishop's pass go through his hands.

Tampa Bay's first drive

The Bucs special teams provided QB Eric Zeier and Tampa Bay with excellent field position when rookie LB Nate Webster shot up the middle and blocked Lee Johnson's punt. The loose ball was recovered by New England at the 20.

The Bucs needed little time to convert that good fortune into a touchdown. On first down, Zeier, hit Karl Williams over the middle for a three-yard gain. On second, Zeier rolled right then found Williams slanting over the middle and hit him for the remaining 17 yards.

New England's second drive

Starting on their own 16 after a holding penalty on the kickoff, the Patriots were backed up further on first down when Webster shot through a sweep attempt and stopped Redmond for a three-yard loss. A five-yard completion to Morey set up third-and-13, which Bishop converted dramatically with a 51-yard sideline completion to Shockmain Davis, who outfought two Buc defenders to haul it in.

On the next play, Bishop zipped a 32-yarder to a streaking Davis as he entered the end zone, cutting the lead to 24-21.

Tampa Bay's second drive

The Bucs started at their own 33 and picked up five yards immediately on an offsides penalty. After Stecker got one yard up the middle, Zeier found Williams again for eight yards and first down to the Bucs' 47. The next pass was incomplete, but Stecker took a swing pass for eight yards to the Patriots' 45 on second down. On third-and-two, the Bucs lined up in a run formation but Zeier threw quickly to Hastings on a slant-in from the right, picking up 12 yards and a first down to the 33.

Stecker then swept left for three yards and picked up four more with a diving cutback near left tackle. On third-and-three, Zeier rolled out again and found TE Todd Yoder for a 13-yard completion down to the Patriots' 13. An eight-yard pass interference penalty gave the Bucs a first down at the Patriots' eight, and Stecker flashed off right tackle on the next play to push the Bucs' lead back to ten points at 31-21.

New England's third drive

After a short kickoff meant to limit the return, New England started its next drive at the 40-yard line. Bishop tried a pass over the middle but it was deflected by Webster and nearly intercepted by S David Gibson. A second down pass was dropped by Redmond and Bishop was tripped up by James Cannida trying to scramble on third down. Johnson punted 59 yards into the Bucs end zone.

Tampa Bay's third drive

The Bucs started at their own 20 after the touchback and gave the ball to rookie Ketric Sanford, who gained three yards off right guard. On the next snap, Sanford found a bigger hole in the middle and blazed through it four a 14-yard pickup to the Bucs' 37. However, Stecker picked up just one yard on two carries and an incompletion forced the Bucs to punt.

New England's fourth drive

The ball changed hands with only 16 yards picked up by Tampa Bay, when Shay's 33-yard punt was returned 17 yards to the Bucs' 44. On first down, Bishop tried to find Looker down the right sideline but it was doubly defensed when CB Earthwind Moreland knocked down the pass and S David Gibson flattened Looker.

On the next play, Bucs LB Antony Jordan foiled Bishop's attempt to scramble, locking him up for a one-yard sack, setting up third-and-11 with 1:28 remaining in the game. Bishop threw on target to Davis deep over the middle but Davis couldn't secure it as he stumbled down inside the five. Bishop tried to scramble for extra time on fourth down, but spent too much time doing so and was leveled from behind by DE Chartic Darby, credited with a sack and a fumble. Rookie DE Mawuko Tugbenyoh recovered and the Bucs ended up with a first down at the New England 47.

Tampa Bay's fourth drive

The Bucs ran out the clock from there. RB Aaron Stecker ran off the right side for six yards, fumbling at the end, but seeing WR Drew O'Connor recover. One more dive into the pack ended the game with the Bucs on top 31-21.

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