LB Shelton Quarles secured his first career interception on Sunday against his original NFL team
This game has been heavily anticipated since the NFL schedules came out in March, not just in Florida and Missouri but across the league.
St. Louis Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Monday Night Football. Playoff stretch run. Super Bowl Champions against the team that nearly kept them out of the big game. It was even suggested that this contest might hold the key to home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
Instead, the Vikings hold that key if they can just turn it over the next two weeks. Home field advantage is still a possibility for Tampa Bay, but both the Buccaneers and Rams are focusing on a simpler goal: qualifying for the postseason.
The Bucs and Rams are each 9-5 and surely viewing Monday's game as a must-win. In preparation for the game, as usual, the Buccaneers' communications department has prepared a lengthy release for distribution to local and national members of the media. The release previews the upcoming game and keeps an eye on team notes, stats and trends.
That release follows for direct access by Buccaneer fans without the filter of the media. Read up on what's at the forefront as the Bucs and Rams get ready for one of the most crucial NFL games of the year.
TAMPA BAY (9-5) HOSTS ST. LOUIS (9-5) WITH PLAYOFF BERTH ON THE LINE
GAME INFORMATION Date: Monday, December 18, 2000 Kickoff: 9:00 p.m. ET Site: Raymond James Stadium Records: Tampa Bay 9-5, St. Louis 9-5 Television: ABC; Play-By-Play: Al Michaels, Color: Dan Fouts, Dennis Miller, Sideline: Eric Dickerson, Melissa Stark 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 Improve Playoff Hopes With 16-13 Victory at Miami
FS Damien Robinson intercepted Miami QB Jay Fiedler at the Bucs nine-yard line with 14 seconds remaining as Tampa Bay held on for a win at rainy Pro Player Stadium. The interception was the fourth of the game for the Bucs defense. K Martin Gramatica hit two field goals in the final quarter, including a 46-yarder with 8:12 remaining, to provide the winning points. Miami K Olindo Mare gave Miami a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, but Bucs LB Jamie Duncan scored his first career touchdown on a 31-yard interception return early in the second quarter. LB Shelton Quarles grabbed his first career interception late in the first half and Gramatica followed with a 38-yard FG on the final play of the half for a 10-3 Bucs lead. Miami cut the edge to 10-6 on Mare's second field goal and then regained the lead at 13-10 on a one-yard touchdown run by Lamar Smith with 3:18 left in the third quarter. Gramatica hit a 30-yarder to tie the game early in the fourth period, which was helped in part by a 45-yard pass play from QB Shaun King to RB Warrick Dunn on a second-and-33 from the Miami 46-yard line. Duncan recovered a Fielder fumble on the first play of the Dolphins' next series, setting up Gramatica's game-winner. The Bucs took advantage of the Miami miscues, scoring 13 points off five turnovers. Tampa Bay's defense remained stingy in the final 15 minutes, adding two more interceptions to go along with the fumble recovery.
DID YOU KNOW? Tampa Bay set an all-time mark for points in a single season against Miami on Sunday. The Bucs, who surpassed the previous record of 335 points in 1984, now have 336 points through 14 games in 2000.
BUCS IN THE RANKINGS
Here is a look at where the Buccaneers rank in the team and individual rankings:
|Team Statistic||NFC Ranking||NFL Ranking|
|Total Offense (280.8 ypg)||13th||24th|
|Rushing Offense (128.1 ypg)||4th||10th|
|Passing Offense (152.6 ypg)||15th||30th|
|Total Defense (292.4 ypg)||3rd||7th|
|Rushing Defense (101.6 ypg)||4th||10th|
|Passing Defense (190.7 ypg)||4th||8th|
|Points Scored (336)||4th||7th|
|Points Allowed (217)||2nd||5th|
|Turnover Margin (+12)||1st||5th|
|Third Downs (34.1%)||12th||25th|
|Third Down Defense (31.8%)||1st||2nd|
|Red Zone Scoring Pct. (92.1%)||1st||2nd|
|Red Zone TD Pct. (57.9%)||3rd||4th|
|Opponent Red Zone TD Pct. (33.3%)||3rd||4th|
|First Downs (232)||11th||23rd|
|Opponent First Downs (243)||2nd||7th|
|Individual Statistic||NFC Ranking||NFL Ranking|
|Kicking - Gramatica (112 points)||1st||2nd|
|Rushing – Dunn (948 yards)||9th||----|
|Passing - King (77.0 rating)||10th||----|
|Punting - Royals (42.3 avg.)||5th||----|
|Punt Returns - Williams (9.9 avg.)||5th||----|
|Interceptions - Abraham (7)||t2nd||t2nd|
|Interceptions - Robinson (5)||t7th||----|
|Sacks – Sapp (13.5)||3rd||t4th|
|Sacks – Jones (13.0)||4th||6th|
BUCCANEERS-RAMS SERIES NOTES
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Rams lead the all-time series 8-3 in the regular season and also own victories over the Buccaneers in the 1979 and 1999 NFC Championship games. Tampa Bay has not played the Rams in the regular season since they moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995. Tampa Bay's first-ever game was against the Rams in a preseason contest at the Los Angeles Coliseum (7/31/76). The Bucs first played the Rams in regular-season action in 1977, a 31-0 Rams victory. After Los Angeles won again at home in 1978, the Bucs earned their first win of the series with a 21-6 victory in Tampa in 1979. But the Rams gained revenge later that season in the NFC title game. Tampa Bay won 10-9 the following season in a prime-time affair, but proceeded to lose six consecutive games to the Rams over an eight-year span. The Bucs ended that skid with a 24-14 win in Tampa (12/11/94). The Rams moved the following season. Prior to last season's 11-6 loss in the NFC title game in St. Louis, the Bucs' first appearance in the NFC Championship Game was also against the Rams, a 9-0 loss at Tampa Stadium (1/6/80).
- Bucs' longest winning streak: 1 (three times), last 12/11/94 - Rams' longest winning streak: 6, 11/25/84-12/6/92 - Bucs' home record: 3-4 - Rams' home record: 4-0
LAST MEETING (regular season) - Tampa Bay 24, Los Angeles 14 (12/11/94): QB Craig Erickson threw for 231 yards and two TDs, leading the Buccaneers to a 24-14 win over the Los Angeles Rams before 34,105 at Tampa Stadium. After a scoreless first quarter, Michael Husted booted a 20-yard FG early in the second quarter to give the Bucs a 3-0 lead. After a Rams punt, Erickson hooked up with WR Charles Wilson on a 71-yard scoring strike to push the lead to 10-0. Los Angeles countered when QB Chris Chandler hit TE Troy Drayton on a 22-yard TD toss. But RB Errict Rhett capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive with an eight-yard TD run to give the Bucs a 17-7 lead heading into the locker room. The Rams inched to within three points early in the fourth quarter when Chandler hit WR Jessie Hester on a 12-yard TD pass. But Tampa Bay duped Los Angeles late. The Bucs got the ball at midfield with 1:51 left and ran Rhett up the middle twice as the Rams used up two timeouts. But on 3rd and 4, Erickson faked to Rhett and lofted a 44-yard TD pass to Wilson, clinching Tampa Bay's first win over the Rams in 14 years.
SERIES HIGHLIGHTS: QB Pat Haden throws for two TDs, leading Rams to 31-0 win at the Los Angeles Coliseum (11/6/77)…RB Ricky Bell runs for 104 yards and one score, but five Bucs turnovers lead to 26-23 loss (11/5/78)…DE Lee Roy Selmon paces dominant defensive effort with two sacks in 21-6 Bucs win (9/23/79)…Frank Corral boots three FGs (19, 21, 23), leading Rams to 9-0 win in NFC title game in Tampa (1/6/80)…QB Doug Williams scores on one-yard run with 57 seconds left, lifting Bucs to 10-9 win (9/11/80)…The game was televised on ABC, Tampa Bay's first prime-time telecast…Rams RB Eric Dickerson scampers 42 yards for a score in overtime, handing Los Angeles a 26-20 victory (10/5/86)…Dickerson carries 30 times for 207 yards…Rams rally from 27-3 halftime deficit to win 31-27 (12/6/92)…Rams QB Jim Everett throws for 342 yards and three TDs.
CAREER STATISTICS VERSUS ST. LOUIS:
WR Keyshawn Johnson - 4 catches, 79 yards in 1 game S John Lynch - Returned Tony Zendejas' blocked field goal attempt 27 yards to setup game-winning TD
WR Reidel Anthony was a teammate of Rams DE Kevin Carter at Florida…LB Derrick Brooks and RB Warrick Dunn played at Florida State with Rams CB Devin Bush…Bucs assistant head coach/defensive backs coach Herman Edwards played with Rams DL coach Carl Hairston and Rams RB coach Wilbert Montgomery when the threesome was in Philadelphia…Edwards also served on Kansas City's staff with Rams LB coach John Bunting…T Pete Pierson played at Washington with Rams TE Ernie Conwell and DT D'Marco Farr.... DE Steve White played at Tennessee with Rams LB Leonard Little...Mike Ackerly, Rams director of pro scouting, was the Bucs west coast college scout from 1992-99..
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Here are a few things to keep an eye on this Sunday:
- Tampa Bay's offense has allowed just 31 sacks (2.2 per game), while the St. Louis defense has registered 47 sacks (3.4 per game). On the other side, the Bucs have set a club record with 52 sacks (3.7 per game) and the Rams offense has given up 39 sacks (2.8 per game).
- St. Louis has rushed for 21 touchdowns, including 13 by RB Marshall Faulk, while the Bucs defense has surrendered only seven rushing scores on the year.
SCORING MARGIN RANKS TOPS IN THE NFC
Tampa Bay's scoring margin of plus-119 (336 points scored and 217 allowed), which is on pace to shatter the team record, ranks first in the NFC and third overall in the NFL. The Bucs are looking to break the previous club mark of plus-47 in 1981 (315-268).
|Team||Points Scored||Points Allowed||Scoring Margin|
FORCING THE ISSUE
The Tampa Bay defense has been making plays all season and that was the case again last Sunday at Miami. The Bucs defensive unit forced five turnovers in the victory, including four interceptions of Dolphins QB Jay Fielder. Those miscues led to 13 points, increasing Tampa Bay's total to 116 points off turnovers for the year. The 116 points ranks first in the NFC and second only to Denver (130 points) in the NFL. For the season, the Bucs have forced 34 turnovers (20 interceptions, 14 fumbles) and have averaged 8.3 points per game from those turnovers. A year ago the Bucs defense forced 31 turnovers, which led to 90 points for an average of 5.6 points per game. Over the last two games in wins over Dallas and Miami, Tampa Bay has forced nine turnovers leading to 30 points. Over the prior three games - against Green Bay, Chicago and Buffalo - Tampa Bay's defense had forced just four turnovers, leading to three points.
DUNN ON THE RUN (AND IN THE AIR)
RB Warrick Dunn did not even gain a single yard on the play. In fact, he lost yardage on a crucial fourth quarter reception last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. But Tampa Bay may consider placing Dunn's play - a reception that netted minus one yard - on the 2000 season highlight tape. Dunn's effort alone on a screen play that went awry, along with a key 45-yard catch early in the fourth quarter was instrumental in a pivotal December road win for the Buccaneers.
QB Shaun King lobbed a screen pass to Dunn in the Bucs' end zone on a third-and-7 play from their own five-yard line. Before Dunn could even take a step, he was greeted immediately by CB Patrick Surtain, who nailed the Bucs' running back. Dunn bounced off Surtain, maintained his balance and then eluded another Dolphins defender, racing to the Buccaneers' four-yard line. Although the Bucs were forced to punt, Dunn's effort prevented a safety, which would have cut the Bucs lead to 16-15 with 2:08 left on the clock. Instead, Tampa Bay's lead remained intact and moments later the defense forced its fifth turnover of the day - S Damien Robinson's interception with 14 seconds remaining - that propelled the Bucs to their third straight win and their sixth win in seven contests.
"He been unbelievable lately and not just with the big runs," Bucs safety John Lynch said. "He does so many good things for us. When we needed big plays in the passing game, he came up with them. Probably none bigger than that one at the end."
Dunn paced the team in rushing and receiving with 59 yards on a career-high 28 carries in a driving rainstorm at Pro Player Stadium. Dunn also racked up a team-best six receptions for 84 yards, including a pivotal 45-yard grab on a crucial second-and-33 play, setting up K Martin Gramatica's game-tying 30-yard field goal. That marked the longest reception the Dolphins allowed this season and swung the momentum back in the direction of the Buccaneers in the seesaw battle.
The catalyst behind Tampa Bay's three-game winning streak has been Dunn. He has been extraordinary as the Bucs' feature back since FB Mike Alstott suffered a medial collateral ligament sprain to his left knee at Chicago in Game 11. Since then, Dunn has been the focal point of the Bucs offense attack, amassing 493 total yards from scrimmage (375 rushing, 118 receiving) in the last three wins. Dunn now has a team-leading 948 rushing yards on 211 carries (4.5 avg.) and is tied for first with five touchdowns. Dunn, who is just 52 yards shy of posting the second 1,000-yard rushing season of his career (1,026 rushing in 1998), would become just the third Bucs RB to reach 1,000 yards rushing in a single season twice in a career. Dunn is currently 11th in the NFC in total yards from scrimmage with 1,273, already ahead of his total of 1,205 yards from scrimmage last year (616 rushing, 589 receiving). Dunn has also paced the team in rushing in nine of 14 games this season. In the last three wins, Dunn has accounted for 70 percent of Tampa Bay's total offense, racking up 493 total yards.
Several club records are in danger of falling, or have already fallen, this season. Here is a look (team record or previous team record in parentheses):
TEAM RECORDS *Points Scored: 336 (335 in 1984) Scoring Margin: +119 (+47 in 1981) Touchdowns: 37 (40 in 1984) Rushing Touchdowns: 15 (19 in 1995) Rushing First Downs: 97 (114 in 1984) Avg. Per Rush: 4.1 (4.11 in 1998) *Team Sacks: 52 (44 in 1997) Defensive TDs: 5 (5 in 1981) *Return TDs: 7 (5 in 1981) *Blocked Kicks: 7 (5 in 1978)
INDIVIDUAL RECORDS *Individual Sacks: Sapp - 13.5 and Jones 13.0 (Lee Roy Selmon - 13 in 1977) *Individual Scoring: Gramatica - 112 pts. (Gramatica - 106 in 1999) Field Goals Made: Gramatica - 25 (Gramatica - 27 in 1999) *Field Goals (50+ yards): Gramatica - 5 (Several - Last time, Gramatica - 3 in 1999) Field Goal Percentage: Gramatica - 83.3% (Steve Christie - 85.2% in 1990) *Consecutive FGs: Gramatica - 16 (Michael Husted - 16 in 1995-96) PATs Made: Gramatica - 37 (Obed Ariri - 38 in 1984) TD Passes: King - 15 (Trent Dilfer - 21 in 1997 and 1998) *QB Rushing TDs: King - 5 (Steve Young - 5 in 1986) Best Avg. Per Rush ( min. 100): Dunn - 4.5 (James Wilder - 4.6 in 1987) Interceptions: Abraham - 7 (Cedric Brown - 9 in 1981) Forced Fumbles: Brooks - 5 (B. Thomas - 7 in 1991, Chambers - 7 in 1979) Gross Punting Average: Royals - 42.3 (Royals - 43.1 in 1999)
- Have already tied or broken record
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 13-6 as a starter in the regular season. Under a new offensive scheme, King has completed 194-of-348 passes (55.7%) for 2,276 yards with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. King has also rushed for five scores to tie the club record for rushing TDs by a Bucs quarterback in a single season. Eric Zeier is the backup QB and also have Georgia Tech All-America QB Joe Hamilton.
Running Backs With Pro Bowl FB Mike Alstott sidelined over the last month, RB Warrick Dunn has continued to see his workload increase. Dunn, who leads the Bucs with 948 yards, exploded for a career-high 210 yards two weeks against Dallas, the second-best single-game effort in club history, and then set a career-high with 28 carries last week at Miami. Tampa Bay is 8-2 this season when Dunn rushes for 50 or more yards. Alstott, who ranks second on the squad with 456 yards, is sidelined with a third degree sprain of the MCL in his left knee, an injury he sustained at Chicago two weeks ago. FB Charles Kirby has seen his playing time increase with Alstott's injury. NFL Europe Offensive MVP Aaron Stecker had been Dunn's primary backup, but has been inactive the last two weeks with a knee injury. RB Rabih Abdullah has filled in nicely, gaining 52 yards over the last two games. Abdullah also ranks fourth on the squad with 16 special teams tackles.
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 58 passes with five touchdowns, also tops on the team. His 58 catches are the most by a Bucs wide receiver under head coach Tony Dungy. Jacquez Green, who hauled in his 100th career reception at Atlanta, has emerged as Tampa Bay's big-play receiver and ranks second on the club with 668 yards receiving on 43 catches. Green set a career-high with 11 catches (for 131 yards) at Minnesota. Reidel Anthony is second on the team with four TD receptions on only 11 catches (a TD for every 2.75 catches). Karl Williams (99 career catches) and rookie Frank Murphy round out the receiving corps.
Tight Ends In his eighth season with the club, Dave Moore is the starter at tight end and the veteran played in his 100th straight game versus Dallas. His 20 career TD catches rank fifth on the Bucs' all-time list. Patrick Hape is in his fourth season with the club as a backup TE and also sees action in the backfield. The Bucs also have rookie free agent Todd Yoder.
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 backup 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 Bucs have started the same five in each of the first 14 games, but that streak could be in jeopardy with a left calf injury to Pierson last week. Two weeks ago against Dallas, the line paved the way for a club-record 250 yards rushing, including 210 yards by RB Warrick Dunn. The Bucs have allowed just 31 sacks after allowing 41 in the first 14 games last season. Tampa Bay has allowed two or fewer sacks in 10 of its 14 games.
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, who is tied for fourth in the NFL with 13.5 sacks this season, surpassed Lee Roy Selmon's team record of 13 sacks in 1977 with two sacks against Buffalo. His 55.5 career sacks ranks second in team history. Jones and Sapp are the top sack duo in the NFC with 26.5 sacks. DE Chidi Ahanotu has notched 56 tackles and 3.5 sacks thus far, while DE Steve White has 35 tackles and two sacks on the year. DE Marcus Jones, who ranks second on the squad with 13 sacks this year (fourth in the NFC and tied for the second-best single-season total in club history), established a club record with four sacks versus Detroit in Week 7. Jones ranks ninth in club history with 21 career sacks. DT Anthony McFarland, who replaced Brad Culpepper, starts alongside Sapp and has totaled 6.5 sacks. DT James Cannida (two sacks), DE/DT Tyoka Jackson (two sacks) and DE John McLaughlin all provide solid depth.
Linebackers Weakside LB Derrick Brooks has paced the club with 169 tackles, leading or tying for the team lead in nine of the 14 contests. The three-time Pro Bowler tied the team single-game record and set a career high with 22 tackles against Buffalo, and was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for November. He is on pace for 193 tackles, which would eclipse his career-high of 189 in 1998. Starting SLB Shelton Quarles, who grabbed his first career interception last week at Miami, has 61 tackles. Third-year pro Jamie Duncan (fifth on team with 80 tackles) has moved into the starting MLB slot, vacated by Hardy Nickerson, and scored his first career touchdown on a 31-yard interception return last week at Miami. Third-round pick Nate Webster, who has 26 tackles, backs up Duncan. Special teams standout Jeff Gooch, who leads the team with 21 special teams stops, also serves in a backup capacity, as does Don Davis (second on team with 19 special teams tackles). Al Singleton, who blocked a punt in the win over Detroit and made his first career start at Atlanta with a career-high 10 tackles, is likely sidelined for the rest of the year with a left knee injury.
Secondary All-Pro SS John Lynch, in his fifth year as a starter, ranks second on the squad with 98 tackles on the year. Lynch, who has been bothered with a left shoulder sprain, has still managed to play. FS Damien Robinson, who can also play strong safety, has notched 89 tackles, third-best on the squad, and his five interceptions are second-best on the defense and tied for seventh in the NFC. LCB Donnie Abraham ranks tied for second in the NFL with a team-high seven interceptions. Abraham also returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown at Minnesota and his 57 tackles is eighth-best on the squad. 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. Barber has added 5.5 quarterback sacks. He has also notched 84 tackles, fourth-best on the squad. Brian Kelly (45 stops), who notched his first career touchdown on an interception return last week against Dallas, joins the unit in the nickel set. CB Floyd Young backs up Abraham. Second-year S Dexter Jackson missed the first three games of the season with a left ankle sprain, but has registered 27 tackles and his 18 special teams tackles are third-best on the team. He saw significant action at free safety at Chicago, posting a career-high seven tackles. Sixth-round draft pick David Gibson serves as a backup at safety.
Special Teams K Martin Gramatica, who has already tied or broken three single-season records in 2000, has made all 37 of his PATs and is 25-30 on field goals. Gramatica, who was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October, has set club records for single-season points (112) and 50-plus yard FGs (5), and nailed 16 straight field goals prior to a miss last Sunday to tie the club record. The 112 points ranks tops in the NFC and second in the NFL. P Mark Royals has averaged 42.3 yards per punt this year to rank fifth-best in the NFC. WR Williams, who is fifth in the NFC with a 9.9 return average, took back a punt 73 yards for a touchdown against Buffalo. RB Stecker (22.9 avg.) and Williams (24.2 avg.) are the Bucs' top kickoff returners.
FB Mike Alstott remains sidelined with a third degree sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, as is LB Al Singleton (sprained MCL in his left knee). Alstott could return to practice this week, while Singleton is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season. Starting LT Pete Pierson suffered a left calf strain at Miami. His status for this week's game will be determined later in the week. LB Shelton Quarles sustained a left ankle sprain in the second quarter, but returned to grab his first career interception just prior to the half.
Tampa Bay head coach Tony Dungy is in his fifth season with the Bucs, boasting a franchise-best 44-34 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.
Mike Martz is in his first season as head coach of the Rams after serving as offensive coordinator for last year's Super Bowl champions. Martz joined the organization in California as a rookie NFL coach and offensive assistant in 1992. Martz coached tight ends, receivers and quarterbacks with the Rams through the 1996 season and coached quarterbacks with the Washington Redskins from 1997-98. Martz began his coaching career at Bullard High in Fresno, California, in 1973, then coached at San Diego Mesa Community College (1974, 1976-77), San Jose State (1975), Santa Ana College in Santa Ana, California (1978), Fresno State (1979), University of the Pacific (1980-81) and Minnesota (1982). Martz was quarterbacks and receivers coach at Arizona from 1983-87 and the Sun Devils' offensive coordinator in 1984 and from 1988-91. Mike is a summa cum laude graduate of Fresno State, where he played tight end in 1972. Martz also played one season at the University of California-Santa Barbara and two seasons at San Diego Mesa.
DUNGY TIES COACHING RECORD: With Sunday's victory against Miami, Bucs head coach Tony Dungy tied the record for most coaching wins in franchise history with the club's first head coach, John McKay (44-88-1 from 1976-84). In just his fifth season, Dungy has posted a franchise-best record of 44-34 (.564), with two postseason appearances and a pair of playoff wins. He has revitalized a Buccaneer franchise that, in its 10 seasons prior to his arrival, posted a 43-111 mark (.279) with nine double-digit losing seasons and no playoff appearances. Tampa Bay is aiming to reach the playoffs for the third time in the last four seasons.
SUCCESS PREDICATED ON TURNOVERS: Tampa Bay, which ranks first in the NFC in turnover margin at plus-12, has had success this season when it limits its turnovers on offense and forces opponent miscues. The Bucs are a perfect 9-0 this season in games in which they have a positive or equal turnover ratio against their opponents. In fact, since head coach Tony Dungy arrived in 1996, Tampa Bay is 30-3 in games when it has fewer turnovers than its opponent.
GRAMATICA AUTOMATICA: He continues to truly live up to his moniker. K Martin Gramatica's three field goals Sunday (38, 30, 46) propelled the Bucs to a 16-13 win over the Dolphins for a crucial December road win. The Bucs playoff hopes are alive and kicking after the NFC's top kicker drilled two crucial fourth quarter field goals. A second-year pro, Gramatica nailed the game-winning 46-yard field goal in a driving rain storm after his 30-yarder had tied the game at 13-13 moments earlier.
Gramatica, who leads the NFC and ranks second in the NFL with 112 points, missed his first field goal in 17 attempts when he was wide left on a 34-yard attempt in the second quarter. Prior to the miss, Gramatica had tied the club record with 16 consecutive field goals made (also Michael Husted in 1995-96). Gramatica also continued his climb up the career and single-season charts for points scored. Gramatica scored 10 points to give him 112 for the year, breaking the club's single-season mark which he established a year ago (106 points in 1999). He also has amassed 218 career points, placing him fifth on the Bucs' all-time list.
DONNIE ON THE SPOT: CB Donnie Abraham is the leader of a ballhawking secondary unit that has produced 15 interceptions this season. Abraham, tied for second in the NFC with seven interceptions, recorded one of five Buccaneer turnovers in the win over the Dolphins last Sunday. Abraham stepped in front of WR Tony Martin to intercept QB Jay Fielder's offering in the fourth quarter. S Damien Robinson also picked off an Fielder pass with 14 seconds left to secure the win. The pick was Robinson's fifth interception, marking the first time Tampa Bay has had a duo record five or more interceptions in a single season since 1990. Abraham's 25 career interceptions are comparable to some of the top cornerbacks after their first five NFL campaigns.
Aeneas Williams: 26 INTs, 3 INT TDs Deion Sanders: 24 INTs, 3 INT TDs Donnie Abraham: 25 INTs, 3 INT TDs (two games remaining) Darrell Green: 17 INTs, 1 INT TD
HOME SWEET HOME: Raymond James Stadium has not been friendly to Bucs opponents since it opened its doors in 1998. Tampa Bay is 18-5 at home in the regular season at RJS, including a 10-2 mark versus the NFC Central. That 10-2 mark includes wins in eight of its last nine divisional games at home.
QUARLES COMES UP BIG: LB Shelton Quarles' first career interception against the Miami Dolphins had a two-prong effect. First, it was a big play that set up a field goal on the final play of the first half. And secondly, it came against a franchise that originally signed him as a college free agent in 1994 and later released him in training camp. With the Bucs holding on to a 7-3 lead, the Dolphins opted to run the two-minute drill instead of running out the clock prior to halftime. Tampa Bay made them pay for their aggressiveness on the first play as Quarles intercepted a Jay Fielder pass that was initially tipped by LB Derrick Brooks. That big defensive play set up K Martin Gramatica's 38-yard field goal to give the Tampa Bay a 10-3 halftime advantage. Despite playing with a left ankle sprain that he sustained early in the first quarter, Quarles added four tackles and a pass defensed. In his fourth NFL season, Quarles has racked up career-highs in tackles (61), sacks (2) and fumble recoveries (2) at the strongside linebacker position.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS: The Bucs tied the team record for defensive touchdowns in a season when LB Jamie Duncan returned an interception 31 yards for a score early in the second quarter. The score marked Tampa Bay's fifth defensive TD of the season, tying the team record of five in 1981. The Bucs have already eclipsed the club mark for return touchdowns in a single-season with seven (four INTs, one fumble, one FG block, one punt), breaking the previous record of five return scores by the 1981 squad.
NOTES FROM THE MIAMI GAME: Tampa Bay set an all-time mark for points in a single season with 16 points against Miami on Sunday... The Bucs, who surpassed the previous record of 335 points in 1984, now have 336 points through 14 games for points...Tampa Bay has now held each of its last seven opponents to 17 or less points... With 10 points, K Martin Gramatica broke his own single-season scoring record (106 points in 1999) with 112 points on the year... With his interception return for a touchdown, LB Jamie Duncan scored for the first time in his career… The Tampa Bay defense set a season-high with five turnovers, leading to 13 points… The Bucs forced at least one turnover for the seventh straight game and the 13th time in 14 games this season (all but Detroit game on October 19)… With four catches, WR Keyshawn Johnson (58 catches in 2000) has now posted the most receptions by a wide receiver in a single-season since Bucs head coach Tony Dungy arrived in 1996 (WR Jacquez Green had 56 receptions in 1999)… FB Mike Alstott (65 receptions) posted the most catches under Dungy in 1996... LB Shelton Quarles grabbed his first career interception late in the first half, which led to a Gramatica field goal... RB Warrick Dunn, who accounted for 143 of Tampa Bay's 221 total yards (59 rushing, 84 receiving), set a career-high with 28 carries... DT James Cannida registered his second sack of the season, extending Tampa Bay's streak to 26 consecutive regular season games with at least one sack... The Bucs now rank second in the NFL with 52 sacks... Tampa Bay's defensive line boasts an NFL-best 42.5 sacks.
YOU SAY RED, I SAY GREEN: The Buccaneers are 35-38 inside the Red Zone under new offensive coordinator Les Steckel (who calls it the Green Zone) this season, including 22 touchdowns for a scoring percentage of 92.1% and a touchdown rate of 57.9% (third in the NFC and fourth in the NFL). In fact, Tampa Bay had opened the season a perfect 23-23, including 15 touchdowns, prior to an interception by Atlanta's Ray Buchanan in the end zone. 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%).