DT Warren Sapp is on a sack pace quite rare for defensive tackles
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 Thursday night (October 19) prime-time affair with the Detroit Lions follows below.
TAMPA BAY (3-3) FOLLOWS BYE WEEK WITH DIVISION BATTLE VS. DETROIT (4-2)
GAME INFORMATION Date: Thursday, October 19, 2000 Kickoff: 8:35 p.m. ET Site: Raymond James Stadium Records: Tampa Bay 3-3, Detroit 4-2 National TV: ESPN; Play-By-Play: Mike Patrick, Color: Paul Maguire, Joe Theisman; Sideline: Solomon Wilcots National Radio: CBS Radio Sports (Brad Sham and James Lofton) 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
FOLLOWING A BYE After playing four of their first six games on the road, the Buccaneers return to Tampa following a bye week for two straight NFC Central home games. Tampa Bay is 3-1 following a bye under head coach Tony Dungy. Here is a breakdown:
|Prior to Bye Week||After Bye Week|
|1999||at Green Bay||L, 26-23||Chicago||W, 6-3|
|1998||N.Y. Giants||W, 20-3||Carolina||W, 16-13|
|1997||Detroit||L, 27-9||Minnesota||L, 10-6|
|1996||Detroit||L, 27-0||Minnesota||W, 24-13|
LAST GAME Minnesota Hands Tampa Bay Third Straight Loss with 30-23 Victory
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, but the Bucs tied the score on an 11-yard run by King. Minnesota regained the lead on a field goal and a touchdown, but K Martin Gramatica hit the first of three FGs to cut the halftime lead to 17-10.
BUCS IN THE RANKINGS
Here is a look at where the Buccaneers rank after six games in the NFC and NFL team and individual statistics:
|Team Statistic||NFC Ranking||NFL Ranking|
|Total Offense (299.0 ypg)||12th||20th|
|Rushing Offense (111.7 ypg)||9th||15th|
|Passing Offense (187.3 ypg)||10th||21st|
|Scoring Offense (25.0 ppg)||t3rd||t6th|
|Total Defense (272.3 ypg)||3rd||6th|
|Rushing Defense (96.5 ypg)||6th||11th|
|Passing Defense (175.8 ypg)||4th||8th|
|Scoring Defense (16.2 ppg)||4th||9th|
|Turnover Margin (+4)||2nd||t8th|
|Third Downs (41.0%)||5th||9th|
|Third Down Defense (23.2%)||1st||1st|
|Red Zone Scoring Pct. (100%)||t1st||t1st|
|Red Zone TD Pct. (66.7%)||3rd||4th|
|Opponent Red Zone TD Pct. (21.4%)||1st||3rd|
|First Downs (110)||t5th||t8th|
|Opponent First Downs (83)||2nd||t5th|
|Individual Statistic||NFC Ranking||NFL Ranking|
|Scoring - Alstott (30 points)||t3rd||t5th|
|Kicking - Gramatica (42 points)||t4th||t5th|
|Passing - King (79.5 rating)||7th||15th|
|Receiving Yards - Green (440)||5th||9th|
|Receptions - Johnson (26)||t13th||t21st|
|Punting - Royals (44.3 avg.)||4th||t10th|
|Kickoff Returns - Stecker (24.2 avg.)||7th||11th|
|Punt Returns - Williams (7.8 avg.)||9th||t17th|
|First Downs - Alstott (27)||t7th||t15th|
|Interceptions - Abraham (3)||t3rd||t4th|
|Sacks - Sapp (7.5)||3rd||4th|
|Sacks - Jones (6)||t4th||t6th|
|Sacks - Barber (4.5)||t7th||t11th|
|Sacks - McFarland (4.5)||t7th||t11th|
BUCCANEERS-LIONS SERIES NOTES
HEAD-TO-HEAD (Regular Season): The Lions lead the all-time series 25-20, but the Bucs have won each of the last two meetings, including a 31-10 victory at the Silverdome last month. The Bucs own more wins over the Lions than any other team in the league. Detroit has won six of nine regular season games since Tony Dungy assumed Tampa Bay's head coaching reins. The teams first met in 1977, a 16-7 Lions victory at the Silverdome. The Bucs' first win over the Lions came in the 1979 season opener, a 31-16 triumph that propelled Tampa Bay to its first NFC Central title. Two years later, the Bucs captured their second division crown with a 20-17 win at Detroit on the season's final Sunday. The series see-sawed throughout the 1980s, with the Lions holding a 10-9 edge. Detroit went on a five-game tear starting in 1994. The Bucs ended the streak in 1997 with a 24-17 win in Pontiac. Later that year, Tampa Bay said farewell to Tampa Stadium with a 20-10 wild card victory over the Lions before 73,361.
- Bucs' longest winning streak: 3, 10/4/81-12/26/82 - Lions' longest winning streak: 5, 11/13/94-9/29/96 - Bucs' home record: 11-11 - Lions' home record: 14-9
LAST MEETING: Tampa Bay 31, Detroit 10 (9/17/00) - In an early season battle of unbeatens, Tampa Bay won for just the second time in its last eight trips to Detroit with a 31-10 victory before 76,928 at the Pontiac Silverdome. Tampa Bay improved to 3-0 for the third time in club history. For the second time in three games, the Bucs fell behind as Jason Hanson booted a 38-yard field goal to open the game. Karl Williams helped put the Bucs on the board two series later as he returned a punt 42 yards to the Detroit 18-yard line. King kept the ball for a six-yard score four plays later to give Tampa Bay a lead they would not relinquish. FB Mike Alstott fought his way into the end zone from four yards out late in the first quarter and King found a wide-open OG Randall McDaniel for a two-yard score with time winding down in the second quarter. The score, the first of McDaniel's career, gave Tampa Bay a 21-3 lead. The Lions grabbed some momentum briefly as they cut the edge to 21-10 with a 50-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the first half. The Bucs changed that momentum following the break, keeping the ball for a 19-play field goal drive spanning nine and a half minutes. The Lions struggled offensively as the Bucs forced three second half turnovers, including an interception that led to a one-yard plunge by RB Warrick Dunn in the fourth quarter, his first rushing touchdown since 1998. The Bucs offense flourished in the red zone, finishing a perfect 5-5. QB Shaun King completed 18-of-30 passes for 211 yards with one TD and no INTs, including eight to WR Keyshawn Johnson. The Bucs defense allowed just 17 net yards rushing, tied for the third-best effort in team history and the special teams unit blocked one Lions punt and tipped another.
SERIES HIGHLIGHTS: LB Reggie Pinkney returns an INT 48 yards for a TD with 1:55 left, sealing a 16-7 Lions win (11/20/77)…RB Jerry Eckwood runs for 121 yards as Bucs jump out to 24-point lead en route to season-opening, 31-16 win (9/1/79)…In "winner-take-all" division title showdown, Bucs notch 20-17 road win (12/20/81)…QB Doug Williams hits WR Kevin House on 84-yard TD pass and DT David Logan returns fumble 21 yards for TD in fourth quarter to ice game…Donald Igwebuike hits 24-yard FG in OT to lift Bucs to 19-16 victory (11/24/85)…RB Warrick Dunn rushes for 130 yards and one score as Tampa Bay snaps 5-game series losing streak with 24-17 win (9/7/97)…Barry Sanders racks up 215 yards with TD runs of 80 and 82 yards in 27-9 Lions win (10/12/97)…Bucs limit Sanders to 65 yards on 18 carries, while Dunn and Mike Alstott combine for 140 yards in 20-10 Bucs wild card win (12/28/97).
CAREER STATISTICS VERSUS DETROIT:
FB Mike Alstott - 90 rushes, 279 yards, 4 TDs RB Warrick Dunn - 86 rushes, 313 yards, 1 TD, 31 receptions, 409 yards, 1 TD WR Jacquez Green - 16 receptions, 272 yards, 1 TD WR Keyshawn Johnson - 14 receptions, 143 yards QB Shaun King - 41-67, 508 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT LB Derrick Brooks - 70 tackles, 7 pass defensed S John Lynch - 57 tackles DT Warren Sapp - 21 tackles, 8.5 sacks
IT'S GOOD TO BE KING
It was just 10 months earlier against Minnesota on Monday Night Football at Raymond James Stadium, when then-rookie signal-caller Shaun King was handed over the reins of the starting quarterback position after QB Trent Dilfer and Eric Zeier went down with injuries. There, in front of a nationally-televised audience, with the NFC Central division lead in their sights, King calmly led the Buccaneers to a 24-17 win in his first career start. It marked quite a debut for the St. Petersburg, Fla. native who recorded an efficient performance, completing 11-of-19 passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns. Ten regular-season starts later, there was King, once again on Monday Night Football in front of capacity crowd at the Metrodome, finishing with his most prolific passing game in his brief but promising two-year career.
King established career-highs for attempts (40), completions (26) and finished just two yards shy of his finest passing performance with 295 yards through the air. King's 11th NFL start marked his ability to rally his team from a deficit, which he did on two occasions against the Vikings, along with his efficiency on third down passing situations.
The second-year quarterback completed 5-of-6 passes for 62 yards on third downs in the first half. King's five completions were all good for first downs, and his efficiency on third down propelled Tampa Bay to 10 first half points. On the first drive, King went 2-of-3 on third down passes, hitting WR Keyshawn Johnson, who made a circus-like, acrobatic grab on 3-and-21. Then King connected with WR Jacquez Green - who racked up a career-high 11 receptions for 131 yards - on 3rd-and-11 for a first down. On the following play, King scrambled for 11 yards for a TD to tie the game at 7. Though the next drive only netted a field goal, Tampa Bay marched down the field on a 19-play, 71-yard drive, chewing 10:05 off the clock, which provided the Buccaneers defense with a much-needed rest. King escorted the Buccaneers down the field, completing 3-of-3 passes for 32 yards, hitting Green (19 yards), Warrick Dunn (8 yards) and Dave Moore (8 yards), setting up K Martin Gramatica's 23-yard field goal.
Of Note: King's 7-4 record in his first 11 starts is the best in club history and his 57.5 completion percentage ranks second-best. His 2-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio (12 TDs, 6 INTs) also tops all Bucs quarterbacks in their first 11 starts.
SAPP SACK HAPPY
DT Warren Sapp, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has anchored a defensive line that has racked up 28 sacks in its first six games. Sapp, who is third in the NFC and fourth in the NFL with 7.5 sacks, is on pace to finish with 20 sacks. That sack total would place him tied for fifth on the NFL's all-time single-season sack list. If Sapp continues his torrid pace, he would become the first defensive tackle to crack that top 10 since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. Nine are defensive ends and one is a linebacker.
BIG PLAY DEFENSE
The Bucs defense gave up a season-high 30 points last week at Minnesota, but the unit continues to force turnovers, sack opposing quarterbacks and make plays at an alarming rate.
Despite having two new starters on the defensive line - DE Marcus Jones and DT Anthony McFarland - the Buccaneers have still continued to be one of the most suffocating front lines in the NFL. With six more sacks on Monday, Tampa Bay can boast an NFL-best 28 sacks. The Buccaneers, on pace for 75 sacks, are poised to break the franchise-mark of 44 established in 1997, as well as the all-time NFL mark of 72 sacks by the 1984 Chicago Bears. Tampa Bay's vaunted defensive attack is paced by the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Warren Sapp, who is third in the NFC and fourth in the NFL with 7.5 sacks. He is on pace to topple Lee Roy Selmon's club record of 13 sacks. Sapp has also blocked a field goal attempt in each of the last two games, including a block at Minnesota, which was returned for a touchdown by CB Donnie Abraham, giving the Bucs a 23-20.
Sapp is joined by McFarland, who has posted 4.5 sacks in his first year as a starter, and Jones (six sacks), who earned the starting job in training camp after racking up 7.5 sacks in a reserve role last season. The trio -- Sapp, McFarland and Jones -- is on pace to record an astounding 48 sacks alone this season. The most prolific sack trio in franchise history was the 1997 unit - featuring Sapp (10.5), DE Chidi Ahanotu (10) and DT Brad Culpepper (8.5) -- which totaled 29 takedowns. The trio, along with CB Ronde Barber (4.5 sacks), all rank among the top eight players in the latest NFC rankings for sacks this season.
Barber and the secondary have been responsible for some of the biggest plays of the season. Barber has returned a fumble and an interception for touchdowns, and Abraham was the recipient of Sapp's blocked FG last week for his first score of the year. Abraham also leads the team and ranks tied for third in the NFC with three interceptions, and FS Damien Robinson has grabbed two interceptions.
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 7-4 as a starter in the regular season. Under a new offensive scheme, King has adjusted well completing 92-of-172 passes for 1,177 yards with six touchdowns and three 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 309 rushing yards, already has a team-best five rushing scores and is tied for third 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 231 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 been inactive four of the last five weeks.
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 26 passes, including 15 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 440 yards receiving on 23 catches. Green, who set a career-high with 11 catches (for 131 yards) last week at Minnesota, is on pace to become the club's first 1,000-yard receiver since Mark Carrier in 1989. His 440 receiving yards is currently fifth-best in the NFC. 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 18 in the first six 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 NFL with 7.5 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 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks thus far, while DE Steve White has one sack on the year. DE Marcus Jones, who has six sacks this year (tied for fourth in the NFC), has moved into a starting spot opposite Ahanotu. DT Anthony McFarland, who replaced Brad Culpepper, starts alongside Sapp and has totaled 4.5 sacks, tied for seventh 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 75 tackles, leading the team in tackles in five of the first six 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 second on the team with 36 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, moved into sole possession of seventh place on the club's all-time list with his 13th career interception at Detroit. FS Damien Robinson grabbed his first interception of the year against New York. LCB Donnie Abraham, who is off to a great start in 2000, ranks tied for third 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 8-12 on field goals in 2000, including a game-tying 42-yarder on the final play of regulation at Washington and three FGs at Minnesota. P Mark Royals, who has averaged 44.3 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, ranking seventh in the NFC with a 24.2 kickoff return average.
CB Ronde Barber and Lions WR Germane Crowell were teammates at Virginia...Bucs G Cosey Coleman and DE Steve White played at Tennessee, as did Lions CB Terry Fair and RB James Stewart…Lions offensive coordinator Sylvester Croom was the Bucs' RB coach from 1987-90…Bucs head coach Tony Dungy is a native of Jackson, MI, where he attended Parkside High School...Bucs DT/DE Tyoka Jackson and Lions G Jeff Hartings both played at Penn State…K Martin Gramatica went to Kansas State with Detroit T Barrett Brooks…Bucs defensive assistant Kevin O'Dea worked under Lions head coach Bobby Ross at San Diego from 1994-95…Lions QB coach Jim Zorn played in one game for Tampa Bay as a replacement player in 1987...Tampa Bay DE Marcus Jones and Detroit DE Mike Pringley played together at North Carolina...WR Keyshawn Johnson and WR Johnnie Morton were teammates at USC...Detroit LB Chris Claiborne and Bucs S David Gibson also played at USC…Bucs T Jerry Wunsch and Detroit G Aaron Gibson and CB Luther Campbell all played together at Wisconsin...Bucs P Mark Royals was Detroit's punter in 1995-96...Bucs S Damien Robinson and Detroit DE Jared DeVries both played at Iowa...The University of Miami can claim Bucs DT Warren Sapp and LB Nate Webster, as well as Detroit G Kerlin Blaise.
S Eric Vance strained his right shoulder and DE Steve White suffered a sprained right knee during the Minnesota game, but both are expected to be ready for the Detroit contest. WR and punt returner Karl Williams, who suffered a MCL injury to his left knee at Washington, will be sidelined at least several more weeks. LB Jamie Duncan, who sustained a concussion at Washington and did not play at Minnesota, is expected to return against Detroit.
Tampa Bay head coach Tony Dungy is in his fifth season with the Bucs, boasting a franchise-best 38-32 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.
Bobby Ross is in his fourth season as Lions head coach, boasting a 26-28 record, including postseason. In 1997, Ross led the Lions to a wild card berth, becoming the first Detroit head coach in 40 years to reach the playoffs in his first season. Ross came to Detroit from San Diego, where he compiled a 47-33 record in five seasons as head coach. In 1994, the Chargers captured the AFC West title and advanced to Super Bowl XXIX. Prior to his stint in San Diego, Ross spent 15 years as a college head coach. He led Georgia Tech to a share of the 1990 national title, compiling a 31-26-1 mark over five seasons. Ross also coached five seasons at Maryland, leading the Terps to a 39-19-1 record and three ACC titles. Ross launched his coaching career at The Citadel in 1973.
*Bucs in Prime Time Again: * For the second straight week, Tampa Bay will play before a national television audience in a prime time contest. The Bucs will be playing in a Thursday night game for just the second time and for the first time on ESPN on a Thursday. Tampa Bay played on Thursday, Sept. 11, 1980 on ABC, defeating the Los Angeles Rams 10-9 in a rematch of the 1979 NFC Championship Game. The Bucs are 8-11 all-time in prime time, including an 8-4 record at home. Tampa Bay is 2-6 all-time on ESPN.
Looking To Sweep: Tampa Bay looks to sweep the season series against the Detroit Lions for the first time since 1990. The Buccaneers opened the 1990 season defeating the Lions 38-21 and followed two weeks later by downing the Lions Detroit 23-20 on a fourth quarter three-yard touchdown pass from QB Vinny Testaverde to RB John Harvey. The Buccaneers had their opportunities to sweep the Lions after early season victories in '93 and '94, but followed with losses at Detroit. In 1997, Tampa Bay raced out to a 5-0 start, which included a 24-17 win at Detroit in Week 2, but lost 27-9 later in the season.
Unchartered Waters: With Sunday's loss to the Vikings, the Buccaneers have entered unfamiliar territory, dropping three consecutive games for the first time since 1998. Tampa Bay's three-game skid came against Tennessee (11/8), at Jacksonville (11/15) and Detroit (11/22). The Buccaneers, though, quickly rebounded, posting three straight victories at Chicago (11/29), vs. Green Bay (12/7) and Pittsburgh (12/13). The last time Tampa Bay dropped four consecutive games was in 1996, when it opened that campaign losing five straight contests en route to a 6-10 finish.
Block Party: Tampa Bay has shown a propensity for blocking kicks, especially over the last two games. DT Warren Sapp has blocked a field goal in each of the last two games, with 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. LB Al Singleton also has joined the party, blocking a punt at Detroit, and CB Ronde Barber deflected a punt in the same game.
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 six games thus far, the Buccaneers are a perfect 18-18 inside the 20, including 12 touchdowns for a scoring percentage of 100% and a touchdown rate of 66.7%. 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).
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 440 receiving yards (on 23 receptions) and an impressive 19.1 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) last week at Minnesota and his 440 receiving yards is currently fifth-best in the NFC. The 11 catches last Monday night 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.
Offensive Explosion: The Bucs have set new standards for points scored with their success thus far this season. Tampa Bay has scored 150 points in the first six games, marking the best total to open a season in club history. The previous best was 141 points in the opening six games for the 1987 squad. 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 400 points, which would shatter the team record of 335 points set by the 1984 team.
Defense Leads to Offense: Tampa Bay's defense has consistently made big plays to help score points for the Bucs. Last week at 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 8.7 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.
Clutch Kicking: The Buccaneers solidified their kicking game with the addition of free agent P Mark Royals and 1999 third-round draft pick K Martin Gramatica last season. Gramatica hit three of his four field goal attempts at Minnesota to move past Bruce Hill (138 from 1987-91) into 11th place on the all-time scoring chart with 148 career points. He also needs four field goals to pass K Steve Christie (38) into fourth place on the team's all-time list. A week earlier, he calmly nailed the game-tying field goal at Washington, a 42-yarder on the final play of regulation, to push the game into overtime. Gramatica, who established club records with 27 FGs and 106 points last season, has connected on 8-of-12 FG attempts and all 18 PATs this season. After finishing second in the NFC in gross average last season (43.13), Royals has been a consistent force thus far, averaging 44.3 yards per kick, fourth in the NFC. Royals, who ranks second in the NFC with 36 punt attempts, has placed five inside the 20-yard line. A 12-year veteran, Royals averaged 44.1 yards on nine punts against the Redskins and hit a 53-yarder in his lone punt at Minnesota.
Secondary to None: The Bucs secondary, which has helped the Bucs rank eighth in the NFL in passing defense thus far, has been responsible for some big plays over the last few games. Last week 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. Several weeks ago, 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.