The swarming Bucs' defense is a virtual lock to break the team's single-season sack record
Each week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' communications department prepares a lengthy release for distribution to local and national members of the media. The release previews the team's upcoming game and keeps an eye on team notes, stats and trends.
This comprehensive document is now available to the team's fans on Buccaneers.com. Each week, Buccaneers.com will post this release as a front-page story, sharing directly with the fans what used to be filtered through the media covering the team. The release for the Bucs critical Sunday afternoon (October 29) têtê-a-têtê with Minnesota follows below.
TAMPA BAY (3-4) FACES MINNESOTA (7-0) FOR SECOND TIME IN THREE WEEKS
GAME INFORMATION Date: Sunday, October 29, 2000 Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET Site: Raymond James Stadium Records: Tampa Bay 3-4, Minnesota 7-0 National TV: Fox Play-By-Play: Pat Summerall, Color: John Madden; Sideline: D.J. Johnson National Radio: Westwood One Sports Play-by-Play: Harry Kalas, Color: Rick Walker Bucs Radio: WQYK, Flagship station (99.5 FM, 1010 AM) Play-by-Play: Gene Deckerhoff; Color: Scot Brantley; Sideline: Tom Korun Spanish Radio: Mega 96.1 FM Play-by-Play: Neil Fernandez; Color: Mike Chavez
LAST GAME Bucs Suffer Fourth Straight Loss in 28-14 Defeat by Detroit
For the first time since 1996, Tampa Bay lost its fourth straight game as Detroit came back for a 28-14 victory before 65,557 fans and a national television audience on ESPN's Thursday Night Football. The Lions, who had trailed for most of the first half, scored 14 points in the final quarter on two short touchdown runs by James Stewart after K Martin Gramatica had tied the game at 14-14 with a career-long 55-yard FG. Gramatica, who tied his single-game mark with four field goals, connected on his first two attempts and the Bucs added a safety courtesy of a blocked punt by LB Nate Webster for an 8-0 lead early in the second period. The two teams traded field goals, but Detroit evened the game at 11-11 just before the half on the first of Stewart's three TDs. Gramatica and Lions K Jason Hanson swapped field goals again after the break before Detroit took control in the final 13 minutes. DE Marcus Jones set a club record with four sacks and added a blocked field goal as the Bucs totaled seven quarterback sacks. DT Warren Sapp added two sacks and DT Anthony McFarland notched one takedown. Detroit's defense forced four Tampa Bay turnovers, including a career-worst three interceptions by QB Shaun King and a Mike Alstott fumble. The Bucs offense also was held to just 2-11 (18%) on third down attempts.
BUCS IN THE RANKINGS
Here is a look at where the Buccaneers rank after seven games in the NFC and NFL team and individual statistics:
|Team Statistic||NFC Ranking||NFL Ranking|
|Total Offense (293.1 ypg)||12th||22nd|
|Rushing Offense (111.3 ypg)||10th||18th|
|Passing Offense (181.9 ypg)||12th||24th|
|Total Defense (273.0 ypg)||2nd||5th|
|Rushing Defense (107.0 ypg)||7th||13th|
|Passing Defense (166.0 ypg)||2nd||2nd|
|Turnover Margin (0)||t6th||t15th|
|Third Downs (38.3%)||t8th||t14th|
|Third Down Defense (26.3%)||1st||1st|
|Red Zone Scoring Pct. (100%)||1st||1st|
|Red Zone TD Pct. (63.2%)||4th||5th|
|Opponent Red Zone TD Pct. (31.6%)||3rd||6th|
|First Downs (122)||12th||23rd|
|Opponent First Downs (104)||2nd||4th|
|Individual Statistic||NFC Ranking||NFL Ranking|
|Scoring - Alstott (30 points)||9th||----|
|Kicking - Gramatica (54 points)||6th||----|
|Passing - King (70.6 rating)||13th||----|
|Receiving Yards - Green (467)||13th||----|
|Receptions - Johnson (32)||t14th||t21st|
|Punting - Royals (44.4 avg.)||4th||----|
|Punt Returns - Williams (7.8 avg.)||9th||----|
|First Downs - Alstott (29)||12th||----|
|Interceptions - Abraham (3)||t4th||----|
|Sacks – Jones (10)||3rd||t3rd|
|Sacks - Sapp (9.5)||4th||5th|
|Sacks - McFarland (5.5)||8th||----|
BUCCANEERS-VIKINGS SERIES NOTES
HEAD-TO-HEAD (Regular Season): The Vikings lead the all-time series 30-15. The series started in 1977, when Tampa Bay joined the NFC Central Division. Minnesota won 9-3 at Tampa Stadium in 1977 before the Bucs upset the Vikings 16-10 at Metropolitan Stadium in 1978. The win was just the third in franchise history and the first against a division opponent. Tampa Bay also won 12-10 at the Met the following year en route to its first division title, breaking Minnesota's six-year run as NFC Central champs. The Vikings won 10 of 12 contests from 1984-1989, but the series has tightened up in recent years. Tampa Bay and Minnesota have split the season series in each of the previous seven seasons.
- Bucs' longest winning streak: 2 (3 times), most recent 11/27/94-10/15/95 - Vikings' longest winning streak: 5 (3 times), most recent 11/3/91-10/10/93 - Bucs' home record: 9-13 - Vikings' home record: 17-6
LAST MEETING: Minnesota 30, Tampa Bay 23 (10/9/00) - For the second time in its last three games, Tampa Bay lost a fourth quarter lead as Minnesota rallied for a 30-23 victory before 64,162 at the Metrodome and a national television audience on Monday Night Football. The Bucs, who trailed for most of the game, took their first lead with 12:13 remaining in the game when CB Donnie Abraham returned a blocked field goal attempt 53 yards for a 23-20 Bucs lead. The block by DT Warren Sapp, his second in the last two weeks, gave Tampa Bay its first touchdown on a return of a blocked field goal since 1978. But the Vikings regained the lead on a 42-yard scoring pass from QB Daunte Culpepper to WR Randy Moss ad then extended the edge to seven on a Gary Anderson field goal with 59 seconds left in the game. Tampa Bay reached the Viking 43-yard line, but QB Shaun King's "Hail Mary" pass on the final play of regulation fell incomplete in the end zone. Minnesota scored just 24 seconds into the game after a Tampa Bay fumble gave the Vikings the ball at the 27-yard line. The Bucs tied the score on an 11-yard run by King following a fumble by Culpepper, which was recovered by SS John Lynch. Minnesota regained the lead on a field goal and a touchdown in the second period, but K Martin Gramatica hit the first of three FGs on the night to cut the halftime lead to 17-10. WR Jacquez Green set a career-high with 11 receptions and the Bucs defense registered six sacks.
SERIES HIGHLIGHTS: QB Fran Tarkenton hits RB Chuck Foreman on a 31-yard TD pass, as the Vikings escape with a 9-3 win at Tampa Stadium (9/24/77)…Bucs gain just 155 total yards but force four Minnesota turnovers en route to 16-10 road win (9/17/78)…QB Doug Williams scores on a 13-yard TD run with 19 seconds left but the ensuing PAT is blocked, giving the Vikings a 23-22 win (11/25/79)…"We blocked bad, we were terrible on defense and our kicking game made up for it by being absolutely horrible," Bucs head coach John McKay said. "We ran onto the field fairly well."…Tampa Bay would rebound to win the division crown…RB James Wilder runs for 219 yards -- including a 75-yard TD -- as Bucs earn 17-12 win (11/6/83), their first at the Metrodome…Steve Christie kicks 36-yard FG in OT to lift Bucs to 23-20 road win (9/30/90)…Tampa Bay scores 17 points in the fourth quarter en route to 24-13 win in Tampa (10/13/96), Tony Dungy's first win as head coach…Bucs open 3-0 with a 28-14 win at Minnesota (9/14/97)…QB Trent Dilfer completes 15 of 20 passes for 192 yards and two TDs...QB Shaun King makes his starting debut and leads the Bucs to a 24-17 win before a then-record crowd of 65,741 on Monday Night Football in Tampa (12/6/99).
CAREER STATISTICS VERSUS MINNESOTA:
RB Warrick Dunn - 82 carries, 383 yards, 2 TDs, 17 catches, 189 yards WR Jacquez Green - 20 catches, 250 yards, 1 TD WR Keyshawn Johnson - 14 catches, 175 yards QB Shaun King - 37-59 passing, 388 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT LB Derrick Brooks - 97 tackles, 2 sacks S John Lynch - 88 tackles, 2 INTs DT Warren Sapp - 33 tackles, 5.5 sacks
FEARSOME FRONT FOUR
Bolstered by a deep rotation that features a plethora of talented pass rushers, Tampa Bay's defensive line continued its torrid sack pace last Thursday night against Detroit. The Bucs ferocious defensive front dropped QB Charlie Batch to the Raymond James Stadium turf on seven occasions. Tampa Bay can now boast an NFL-best 35 sacks, well on its way to breaking the record of 44 set in 1997. The Buccaneers, on pace for an astounding 80 sacks, are poised to break the all-time NFL mark of 72 sacks by the 1984 Chicago Bears.
Spearheaded by a defensive front four featuring LDE Chidi Ahanotu, DT Warren Sapp, NT Anthony McFarland and RDE Marcus Jones, Tampa Bay's defensive line can boast 29.5 of the club's 35 sacks. The Bucs defense, which continues to be one of the league's most dangerous units, ranks fifth overall (second in passing, 13th in rushing).
The defensive line is anchored by Sapp, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, who has racked up 9.5 sacks in his first seven games. Sapp, who also leads the defensive line with 35 tackles and three stops for losses, had one of the finest outings of the season, racking up nine tackles and two sacks against the Lions. In addition, Sapp recorded two blocked field goals in consecutive weeks (at Washington and at Minnesota), one which resulted in CB Donnie Abraham's return for a touchdown at Minnesota.
"Warren continues to be the focal point, and that has opened it up for Anthony (McFarland) and Marcus (Jones) who have played real well and made some big play for us," head coach Tony Dungy said.
Jones, who was inserted into the starting lineup prior to the season opener, vaulted into the team lead with 10 sacks after a four-sack performance against the Lions. Fifteen Buccaneer players had notched three sacks in a contest until Jones' four-sack effort established the club record last Thursday. Prior to the 1999 season, Jones had just one sack during his first three injury-plagued NFL seasons. Injury-free for the first time in his career, coupled with a position change from tackle to end, Jones had the fresh outlook he needed by notching a then-career-high seven sacks last season.
"Marcus is really doing a solid job rushing the passer," Dungy said. "He is taking advantage of single blocking on the outside and really providing the pressure from the right side."
The other new starter on the defensive line is McFarland, who in his first season as a starter has registered 5.5 sacks along side Sapp. He racked up a career-high 2.5 sacks at Detroit and followed three weeks later with a personal-best seven-tackle effort at Minnesota. Ahanotu, the veteran leader of the defensive front, has nicely solidified the left side, posting 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Here are the top sack seasons in franchise history:
|Year||Team Sacks||Individual Leader|
|1997||44||DT Warren Sapp (10.5)|
|1999||43||DT Warren Sapp (12.5)|
|1983||42||DE Lee Roy Selmon (11.0)|
|1979||40||DE Lee Roy Selmon (11.0)|
|1987||39||DE Ron Holmes (8.0)|
|1991||39||LB Broderick Thomas (11.0)|
- This year's team, with 35 sacks in the first seven games, is on pace to shatter the team record with 80 sacks.
It all starts up front -- and for the Buccaneers they may potentially have the best sack duo in NFL history, featuring DT Warren Sapp (9.5 sacks) and DE Marcus Jones (10.0). There is still more than a half of season remaining with nine games left on the docket, but Jones and Sapp are on pace to combine for an astounding 45 sacks, which would rank first all-time for a pair of teammates. The duo of Jones and Sapp is currently first in the NFL with 19.5 sacks.
Here is a list of the top duos since sacks became an official statistic in 1982:
|1989||39 - Chris Doleman (21), Keith Millard (18)||Minnesota|
|1992||33 - Clyde Simmons (19), Reggie White (14)||Philadelphia|
|1986||32.5 - Leonard Marshall (12), Lawrence Taylor (20.5)||N.Y. Giants|
|1989||32.5 - Chris Doleman (21), Al Noga (11.5)||Minnesota|
|1983||30.5 - Dwayne Board (13), Fred Dean (17.5)||San Francisco|
- Marcus Jones (23) and Warren Sapp (22) are on pace for 45 sacks.
K Martin Gramatica is following a record-setting rookie season with an excellent sophomore campaign. Gramatica, a third-round selection out of Kansas State, has converted on seven of his last eight field goal attempts, including two from 50-plus yards against Detroit last Thursday. Gramatica, who was a perfect 4-of-4 on field goal attempts, nailed a career-long 55-yarder in the fourth quarter. His 55-yarder, which tied K Donald Igwebuike (55-yarder at Minnesota, 11/30/86) for the second-longest in club history, was the longest FG in the NFL this season. Gramatica is also one of just two kickers to nail two 50-yard FGs in a game this season, joining Cary Blanchard of Arizona. Gramatica became the lone kicker in the league to connect on two attempts of more than 50 yards in the same game twice over the past two seasons.
Quarterbacks Second-year pro Shaun King is in his first full season as the starter after starting seven games last season, including two playoff contests. He is 7-5 as a starter in the regular season. Under a new offensive scheme, King has completed 109-of-206 passes for 1,326 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions. King has also rushed for three scores. Eric Zeier is the backup QB and the Bucs also have Georgia Tech All-America QB Joe Hamilton.
Running Backs The tandem of FB Mike Alstott and RB Warrick Dunn combined for more than 1,500 yards on the ground last season. Alstott, who leads the Bucs with 339 rushing yards, already has a team-best five rushing scores and is tied for ninth in the NFC in scoring with 30 points. Dunn, who found the end zone on the ground for the first time since 1998 in Week Three at Detroit, ranks second with 277 yards. NFL Europe Offensive MVP Aaron Stecker has been Dunn's primary backup, while also serving as Tampa Bay's kickoff returner. RB Rabih Abdullah has seen action on special teams in each of the last two games.
Wide Receivers Tampa Bay signed two-time Pro Bowl WR Keyshawn Johnson to an eight-year deal just before the draft and he has not disappointed. Johnson has caught a team-best 32 passes, including 20 for first downs, with one touchdown. In four seasons with the Jets, Johnson corralled 305 passes, 31 for TDs. Jacquez Green has emerged as Tampa Bay's big-play receiver and leads the Bucs with 467 yards receiving on 26 catches. Green, who set a career-high with 11 catches (for 131 yards) at Minnesota, is on pace to become the club's first 1,000-yard receiver since Mark Carrier in 1989. Reidel Anthony (86 receptions over the last two-plus seasons), who racked up his first touchdown of the season on a 46-yard pass at Washington, Karl Williams (99 career catches) and Andre Hastings (226 career receptions with Pittsburgh and New Orleans) round out the receiving corps.
Tight Ends Dave Moore is the starter at tight end and his 18 career TD catches rank fifth on the Bucs' all-time list. Patrick Hape is in his fourth season with the club as a back-up TE and also sees action in the backfield as Alstott's backup. The Bucs also added Todd Yoder, who made the team as a rookie free agent out of Vanderbilt.
Offensive Line The Bucs have a new left side of the line in T Pete Pierson and 11-time Pro Bowler Randall McDaniel, who spent his previous 12 seasons with Minnesota, at LG. Fellow Viking Jeff Christy, a two-time Pro Bowler, is the new C. The right side remains intact with Frank Middleton at RG and Jerry Wunsch at RT. DeMarcus Curry also returns as a back-up tackle on the right side. T George Hegamin has alternated with Pierson on the left side. Todd Washington backs up Christy. Kevin Dogins and second-round pick Cosey Coleman are reserve guards. The line opened the 2000 season with a strong showing at New England, springing the running game to 140 yards and allowing just one quarterback sack. The unit followed that performance with another outstanding game versus Chicago, aiding a ground attack that gained 156 yards with two touchdowns. In Week Three at Detroit, the unit allowed no sacks and helped the offense gain 331 yards in total offense. The Bucs have allowed just 11 sacks after allowing 23 in the first seven games last season.
Defensive Line The defensive line is anchored by DT Warren Sapp, who earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors from the Associated Press last year. Sapp is fourth in the NFC with 9.5 sacks this season and is on pace to shatter the team record of 13 sacks by Lee Roy Selmon in 1977. DE Chidi Ahanotu has notched 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks thus far, while DE Steve White has one sack on the year. DE Marcus Jones, who leads the squad with 10 sacks this year (third in the NFC), has moved into a starting spot opposite Ahanotu and set a club record with four sacks last week versus Detroit. DT Anthony McFarland, who replaced Brad Culpepper, starts alongside Sapp and has totaled 5.5 sacks, eighth in the NFC. DT James Cannida, DE/DT Tyoka Jackson and DE John McLaughlin all provide solid depth on the line.
Linebackers Weak-side LB Derrick Brooks has paced the club with 84 tackles, leading or tying for the team lead in tackles in five of the first seven weeks. The three-time Pro Bowler earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after a 16-tackle performance at New England in Week One. Starting SLB Shelton Quarles is fourth on the team with 39 tackles and third-year pro Jamie Duncan has moved into the starting MLB slot, vacated by Hardy Nickerson. Third-round pick Nate Webster, who impressed the coaching staff in the preseason, backs up Duncan. Tampa Bay re-signed Al Singleton, who blocked a punt in the win over Detroit. Special teams standout Jeff Gooch also serves in a back-up capacity.
Secondary All-Pro SS John Lynch, in his fifth year as a starter, ranks second on the squad with 49 tackles on the year. FS Damien Robinson has notched 44 tackles, third-best on the squad, and his two interceptions are second-best on the defense. LCB Donnie Abraham, who is off to a great start in 2000, ranks tied for fourth in the NFC with three interceptions and also returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown at Minnesota. RCB Ronde Barber has made several big plays, including a fumble return for a score against Chicago and an interception return for a TD versus the Jets. Brian Kelly joins the unit in the nickel set. CB Floyd Young backs up Abraham. Second-year S Dexter Jackson saw his first action of the year versus the Jets after suffering a left ankle sprain against Miami in the preseason. Sixth-round draft pick David Gibson serves as a backup at safety and is a solid special teams player.
Special Teams Martin Gramatica, who set club records for single-season points (106) and FGs (27) a year ago, has made all 18 of his PATs and is 12-16 on field goals in 2000, including a game-tying 42-yarder on the final play of regulation at Washington and three FGs at Minnesota. He also booted a career-long 55-yarder last week against Detroit to tie the game early in the fourth quarter. P Mark Royals, who has averaged 44.4 yards per punt this year (fourth-best in the NFC), ranked third in the NFC in gross average (43.1 to set a Bucs' single-season mark) last season. WRs Hastings and Williams return punts, while RB Stecker is the Bucs' top kickoff returner with a 23.8 kickoff return average.
Bucs offensive assistant Wendell Avery played QB at the University of Minnesota…Vikings CB Anthony Bass went to Bethune-Cookman…Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper went to Central Florida…Bucs head coach Tony Dungy was the Vikings' defensive coordinator under Dennis Green from 1992-95...Dungy also played collegiately at Minnesota…Dungy brought strength and conditioning coach Mark Asanovich and offensive line coach Chris Foerster to Tampa from the Vikings…Dungy also played collegiately at Minnesota…Buccaneers offensive coordinator Les Steckel coached for the Vikings from 1979-1984, four seasons as special teams coach and one season as head coach…Tampa Bay's Rod Marinelli was assistant head coach and defensive line coach at California when Todd Steussie and Chidi Ahanotu were with the Golden Bears...TE Patrick Hape played at Alabama with Vikings LB Dwayne Rudd…Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin coached four seasons (1991-94) with the Vikings…S John Lynch and Vikings WR Chris Walsh played under Vikings head coach Dennis Green at Stanford…G Todd Washington and Vikings CB Antonio Banks were teammates at Virginia Tech...Former Vikings C Jeff Christy (1993-99) and G Randall McDaniel (1988-99) both came to Tampa this past offseason as free agents...Viking FB Harold Morrow and Bucs T DeMarcus Curry both attended Auburn…Buccaneer rookie LB Nate Webster and Viking rookie DE Michael Boireau were teammates at Miami…Viking LB Jim Nelson and Buccaneer DT/DE Tyoka Jackson were fellow Nittany Lions at Penn State...Minnesota TE Andrew Jordan played for the Bucs in the final two regular season games in 1997...Vikings TE John Davis played with Tampa Bay from 1997-99...Minnesota LS Mitch Palmer played for the Bucs from 1998-99.
Here is a look at Tampa Bay's injury situation heading into the Minnesota game. LB Jeff Gooch (right shoulder sprain), G Randall McDaniel (right quad strain), LB Shelton Quarles (right groin strain), DE Steve White (right ankle sprain) and WR Karl Williams (left knee sprain) all are battling injuries and their status for this week's game will be determined later in the week.
Tampa Bay head coach Tony Dungy is in his fifth season with the Bucs, boasting a franchise-best 38-33 regular-season mark (2-2 postseason). Last year the Bucs captured their first NFC Central Division title in 18 years with a franchise-best 11-5 mark. Tampa Bay won eight of its last nine games to secure the crown, aided by a club-record 7-1 home mark. The Bucs also advanced to their second-ever NFC Championship Game. Prior to an 8-8 campaign in 1998, Dungy guided Tampa Bay to a 10-6 record in 1997 and first playoff win since 1979. For his efforts, he was named Professional Coach of the Year by the Maxwell Football Club. Dungy also won the Horrigan Award, given annually by the Pro Football Writers' Association to the NFL's most cooperative head coach. Dungy arrived in Tampa following 15 years as an NFL assistant, the last four as defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. He was the Chiefs' DBs coach from 1989-91 and spent the previous eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the last five as defensive coordinator. Dungy played two seasons for the Steelers as a DB before concluding his playing career with the San Francisco 49ers. He paced Pittsburgh with six interceptions in 1978 as the Steelers captured Super Bowl XIII, a 35-31 win over Dallas. Dungy, 45, is a 1976 graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he played QB and earned a degree in business administration.
Dennis Green is in his ninth season as Vikings head coach. He has guided Minnesota to the playoffs in seven of his first eight seasons. The Vikings posted an NFC-best 15-1 regular-season mark in 1998 as Green earned Coach of the Year honors from Sports Illustrated. Overall Green owns a 85-47 record (.644) as a head coach. He came to Minnesota after a three-year stint as the head coach at Stanford. Prior to that, he was receivers coach at San Francisco for three seasons, culminating with a victory in Super Bowl XXIII. Green's first head coaching job was at Northwestern from 1981-85.
Spoilers: Tampa Bay is primed to play the spoiler, hoping to halt Minnesota's unbeaten 7-0 streak with a victory this Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. This is the third time in three seasons, including the second time this year, that the Buccaneers clash with an undefeated Vikings club. The Buccaneers hosted a Vikings team that raced off to a 7-0 start in 1998, but Tampa Bay defeated Minnesota 27-24 at Raymond James Stadium on November 1. The loss marked the Vikings' only regular-season defeat as Tampa Bay rushed for a team-record 246 yards. Minnesota entered this year's Monday Night matchup on October 9 with the Bucs at 4-0 and came away unscathed after a 30-23 victory. Another significant victory came in 1996, when Bucs head coach Tony Dungy earned his first NFL victory as Tampa Bay defeated the Vikings 24-13.
Uncharted Waters: With Thursday's loss to the Lions, the Buccaneers have entered unfamiliar territory, dropping four consecutive games for the first time since they lost the first five games of the 1996 season. That five-game skid came to a halt with a 24-13 victory over Minnesota on October 13 in Tampa.
Jones Sets Club Single-Game Mark: DE Marcus Jones established a team single-game record and surpassed his career-high for a season with four sacks against the Lions. Jones, who had a then career-best seven sacks in 16 games last season and entered this season with only eight quarterback sacks in 53 career games, now has notched 10 sacks in just seven games in 2000. A Buccaneer player had registered three sacks in a game on 15 occasions prior to the Detroit game.
Sack Brigade Rolls On: The Bucs continued their record-setting pace with seven quarterback sacks versus Detroit to raise their season total to 35 sacks in only seven games. Tampa Bay is well on its way to shattering the team record of 44 sacks in 1997 and is on pace to better the NFL single-season mark of 72 sacks by the 1984 Chicago Bears. DE Marcus Jones (10 sacks) and DT Warren Sapp (9.5) are both closing in on Lee Roy Selmon's franchise mark of 13 sacks in 1977.
Gramatica On Target Again: K Martin Gramatica was a perfect 4-4 on field goal attempts against Detroit, including a career-best 55-yarder in the fourth quarter. With the four three-pointers, Gramatica passed Steve Christie (38 field goals from 1990-91) into fourth place on the club's all-time list with 39 career field goals. The 55-yarder also tied Donald Igwebuike (55-yarder at Minnesota, 11/30/86) for the second-longest FG in club history (Michael Husted holds Bucs record with 57-yard FG at L.A. Raiders, 12/19/93).
Block Party: Tampa Bay has shown a propensity for blocking kicks, especially over the last three games. The Bucs blocked their first kick of the Detroit game, thanks to LB Nate Webster's second quarter punt block. DE Marcus Jones added a block of Jason Hanson's 40-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter. LB Al Singleton blocked a punt in the first matchup versus Detroit and CB Ronde Barber tipped a punt in the same game. In addition, DT Warren Sapp blocked field goal attempts at Washington and at Minnesota. Sapp had a key block of a Michael Husted attempt late in the game at Washington and a block in the third quarter at Minnesota that CB Donnie Abraham returned for a touchdown. The return for a touchdown marked the first blocked FG return for a touchdown since Sept. 24, 1978, when Mike Washington returned one 79 yards versus Atlanta in overtime. Sapp also becomes the first Buccaneer since Hardy Nickerson in 1997 to block two field goal attempts in the same season. For the season, Tampa Bay has blocked three field goals and two punts, as well as tipping one punt.
Streak Alive: With his catch for a first down on the Bucs' opening drive versus the Lions, WR Keyshawn Johnson continued his streak of at least one catch in every game (71 games, including two playoff contests) of his NFL career. Of Johnson's six catches, five went for first downs.
Safety Dance: For the second time in the last three games versus the Lions, Tampa Bay recorded a safety after LB Nate Webster's blocked punt resulted in two points for the Buccaneers. The Bucs last notched a safety against Detroit (12/12/99) when Brad Culpepper sacked Detroit's Gus Frerotte in the third quarter of that contest.
You Say Red, I Say Green: One area where the Bucs have shown great improvement on offense this season is in the red zone under new offensive coordinator Les Steckel (who calls it the Green Zone). In seven games thus far, the Buccaneers are a perfect 19-19 inside the 20, including 12 touchdowns for a scoring percentage of 100% and a touchdown rate of 63.2%. Tampa Bay is the only team in the entire NFL that has scored on every possession inside the 20 this season. Last season Tampa Bay scored points on 34 of its 45 trips inside the red zone (75.6%), but only scored a touchdown on 15 of the 45 times (33.3%). In fact, Tampa Bay's 12 touchdowns have been scored by seven different players (Alstott-4, King-3, Anthony, Dunn, Johnson, McDaniel and Moore).
Good Start: With a field goal on its opening drive against Detroit, Tampa Bay scored points on its initial possession for the first time in seven games this season. Detroit remained somewhat stingy on its opening defensive possession, however, by forcing the field goal and now has not allowed a touchdown on its opponents' first drive of a game in its last 33 regular season games, the longest current streak in the NFL.
Green Means Go: WR Jacquez Green, a third-year pro from Florida, has become the big play receiver for Tampa Bay. Green leads the club with 467 receiving yards (on 26 receptions) and an impressive 18.0 yards per catch average. He is on pace to become the club's first 1,000-yard receiver since Mark Carrier in 1989. Green set a career-high with 11 catches (for 131 yards) at Minnesota. The 11 catches in the Monday night contest are the most ever for a Buccaneer wide receiver and were just two shy of the franchise single-game mark of 13 by James Wilder against Minnesota (9/15/85). Green, who had 12 catches in Tampa Bay's first five games, nearly equaled that with his outstanding performance on Monday Night Football.
Defense Leads to Offense: Tampa Bay's defense has consistently made big plays to help score points for the Bucs. In the first meeting with Minnesota, SS John Lynch recovered a Daunte Culpepper fumble at the Vikings' 26-yard line, leading to a 11-yard touchdown run by QB Shaun King on the ensuing possession. The special teams even got into the act, with DT Warren Sapp blocking a field goal attempt for the second consecutive week. CB Donnie Abraham scooped up the block and ran untouched 53 yards for a touchdown and a 23-20 Bucs lead. On the year, Tampa Bay has forced 14 turnovers leading to 52 points, an average of 7.4 points per game, a pace that would better last year's impressive numbers. A year ago the Bucs defense forced 31 turnovers, which led to 90 points for an average of 5.6 points per game.
Offensive Explosion: The Bucs have set new standards for points scored with their success thus far this season. Tampa Bay has scored 164 points in the first seven games, tying with the 1987 squad for the best total to open a season in club history. In addition, the Bucs put 72 points on the board versus Chicago and Detroit, the best back-to-back performance in team history. The Bucs are on pace to score 375 points, which would shatter the team record of 335 points set by the 1984 team.
Record When: Here is a look at the Bucs' record under head coach Tony Dungy in certain situations since 1996:
Buccaneers' Record When: At Home…..24-11 On the Road…..14-22 Score first…..22-10 Opponent scores first…..16-23 Winning Coin Toss…..22-13 Losing Coin Toss…..16-20 Score 21 points or more…..23-9 Leading after 3rd quarter…..27-3 100+ Rushing Yds……32-10 Under 100 Rushing Yds……6-23
Secondary to None: The Bucs secondary, which has helped the Bucs rank second in the NFL in passing defense thus far, has been responsible for some big plays over the last few games. At Minnesota CB Donnie Abraham scooped up a block of a field goal attempt and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown. SS John Lynch also helped the Bucs offense, recovering a first quarter fumble that the offense converted into an 11-yard touchdown run by QB Shaun King. FS Damien Robinson added his second interception of the year against the Vikings, but K Martin Gramatica missed a 53-yard FG on the ensuing possession. Last month, CB Ronde Barber electrified the Raymond James faithful with a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Jets, giving the Buccaneers a 17-6 lead late in the third quarter. In addition, Barber garnered NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors in Week 2 after notching a career-high 2.5 sacks, five tackles, a forced fumble and a 24-yard fumble recovery for a TD. Barber is now the second player in club history to score a touchdown three different ways (punt return, fumble return and an interception return), joining CB Ricky Reynolds (1987-93), who reached pay dirt on a punt return, fumble return and an interception return.
Head Coach Tony Dungy
On the rest of the season: "The second half of the season we need to get back to how we know we can play. We had plenty of chances to make plays, but you are not always going to make them physically. Mentally we need to get cleaned up before it's too late. We have dug ourselves in a big, big hole. Now we have to pull ourselves out. Losing two home games is tough. It is hard to battle that, but we have to come out of it."
FB Mike Alstott
"We have been in this situation before obviously, but we will be back. It is a new system. Everyone is learning each and every week. We all have to learn about each other. It takes time, but we have to downsize that time."
On the Detroit game: "They made more adjustments and ran the ball early. If the Detroit Lions can stick around, they can win. If you give them turnovers, they do a good job capitalizing on them."
DE Marcus Jones On his four sacks: "It doesn't make me feel better, we did not win."
On the four losses: "I never would believe, but it is professional football and anything can happen."
QB Shaun King
On the Detroit game: "We have been struggling on third downs and this loss hurts. I am almost lost for words and I will just have to come in and look at the tape and see what we have to improve on. We just got to get better. I didn't play as capable as I should. I need to improve but I am confident I will be able to get better offensively. We are just a little bit off and we just have to execute better. We are not as sharp as we should be.
"It is very frustrating because we are a lot better team than has lost four in a row. If we get beat by a better team, then that's okay but we're capable of executing better and playing better. We're confident that the offense is going to click with time, but until then we have to keep working. We have to do our best and we have to stop putting ourselves in difficult situations where we don't have to drive on the final play of the fourth quarter to score and win. We are not where we should be and we are beating ourselves."