FB Mike Alstott sealed the win with two fourth-quarter touchdowns
If the question was, could the Bucs bounce back from a humbling 45-0 defeat in Oakland to win a crucial game over their arch-nemeses, the Green Bay Packers, then over 65,000 Raymond James Stadium's shared in the emphatic answer today. Tampa Bay roared back from a 10-9 halftime deficit to win 29-10, running their record to 10-5 and keeping the charging Minnesota Vikings (9-6) at bay.
As has often been the case in 1999, the Buccaneers' defense took center stage in the victory, holding QB Brett Favre and the high-powered Packers offense to just 243 total yards, 87 of those in the final quarter. However, there were reasons to smile for all three of the Bucs' units, as the offense produced its second-highest point total of the season and the special teams were consistently outstanding in bottling up Packer return man Charles Jordan.
Tampa Bay's defense was extremely stalwart against the run, allowing Green Bay just 12 yards on 12 carries, including four yards on 10 carries by standout RB Dorsey Levens. The Buccaneer record for fewest rushing yards allowed in a game is 10, surrendered to the Washington Redskins on December 4, 1994.
Rookie QB Shaun King, who suffered his first loss as a starter since his 1997 junior season at Tulane last week in Oakland, bounced back with a strong effort, completing 17 of 30 passes for 133 yards and directing three second-half touchdown drives. With Tampa Bay pulling away in the fourth quarter, the Bucs turned to their normal strategy of grinding it out with FB Mike Alstott and Alstott responded with two clinching touchdowns and a total of 79 rushing yards. RB Warrick Dunn continued to be a prime option in the passing attack, catching five King aerials, including the go-ahead eight-yard TD pass in the third quarter.
The Buccaneers appeared to have at least a six-point lead heading into halftime, but a late interception by Packer CB Tyrone Williams allowed Green Bay to turn a 9-3 deficit into a one-point lead. Though Favre was harassed through most of the game, he managed to mount one of his typical two-minute drills before halftime. Converting two long third downs to keep the drive alive, Favre then dumped a pass off to Levens in the flat and Levens danced 20 yards into the end zone to put the Packers on top.
Though the Bucs had to live through halftime with that one-point deficit, they quickly jumped back on top in the third period, moving 23 yards for a touchdown after a fumble by WR Bill Schroeder, forced by LB Hardy Nickerson, was recovered by S Damien Robinson deep in Packers territory. That play was at the middle of an outstanding and unusual effort by Robinson, who snared his first two career interceptions, set up several Buccaneer scores and also caught a 17-yard pass on a fake punt that led to another Tampa Bay field goal. This particular interception turned into Dunn's touchdown, which came just two plays after Dunn converted a critical third-and-six by taking a King pass across the middle and diving past the marker.
Tampa Bay's defense continued to crack down from there, forcing the Packers' offense off the field quickly on their next two drives of the third quarter. With three-and-half minutes left in that period, King and the Buccaneers took over at their own 37 and embarked on the team's most important drive of the afternoon. Twice, King converted on third down, firing a 13-yard slant pass to Green to get the first one and move over midfield and finding Dunn for 12 yards on a well-designed screen three plays later. The quarter ended after a short run, but King picked right back up in the fourth period, converting a third-and-eight with an 11-yard shovel pass to Dunn down to the Packers' 22.
Alstott did most of the rest of the work, running three times for 16 yards, capped by a five-yard burst up the middle on which he bounced off a tackle at the three and continued on to give the Bucs a 22-10 lead (a two-point attempt failed).
Comfortably ahead but still leery of Favre's potential comeback magic, the Buc defense helped seal the game halfway through the fourth quarter when Robinson snared his second pick and returned it 36 yards to the 28. Green Bay probably knew that Alstott was coming at that point, but they couldn't stop him. Four plays into the march, Alstott blasted through a gap at the line and broke free for a 17-yard touchdown under thunderous cannon fire in the north end zone.
Favre tried to chip away at the 19-point lead in the final five minutes, with Tampa Bay's defense allowing multiple underneath passes to protect against the big play. Even that drive fizzled in Buccaneer territory, however, when CB Ronde Barber knocked the ball from WR Corey Bradford's grasp on fourth-and-five from the 27. Four more runs by Alstott drained the final two minutes from the clock.