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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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One Giant Step

The Bucs preserved their playoff hopes and breathed life into a faltering season with a 19-13 victory over the Giants that - true to form - was in doubt until the final minutes


The Bucs had some new heroes on offense Monday night, but S John Lynch's game-sealing interception was just like old times

Charles Lee's relationship with Jon Gruden is off to a great start.

Lee, the fourth-year wideout playing meaningful minutes for the first time all season, caught a short slant and turned it into a 53-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter, giving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a 14-3 halftime lead. The Bucs went on to defeat the New York Giants, 19-13, to end a three-game losing streak and keep their damaged playoff hopes alive.

The Bucs won a battle of 4-6 teams on Monday Night Football, moving to 5-6 and remaining reasonably alive in the NFC race. At 4-7, the Giants are likely all but eliminated.

Lee, who was cut twice by the Buccaneers earlier this season, got an opportunity as Tampa Bay's third receiver after the early-week decision to deactivate Keyshawn Johnson for the remainder of the season. Lee finished with five catches for 91 yards, also making a diving, 20-yard catch in the fourth quarter. New starter Joe Jurevicius pitched in with three catches for 43 yards and consistent producer Keenan McCardell had a game-high nine receptions for 83 yards. Those three helped QB Brad Johnson complete 22 of 32 passes for 269 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Lee's touchdown was just the second of his four-year NFL career and his first as a Buccaneer. His last score came as a Green Bay Packer during the 2001 season.

While Lee had the big play, McCardell and Jurevicius proved to be an effective starting tandem. Both players made important, tackle-breaking plays on a fourth-down drive that killed much of the game's final seven minutes. McCardell pulled to within two catches of 700 for his career, a number that only four other active receivers can claim.

Defensively, the Bucs held the Giants to 212 total yards, including just 62 in the second half. That was accomplished by more familiar heroes, including DT Warren Sapp, DE Simeon Rice and S John Lynch. For good measure, S Dwight Smith, last year's Super Bowl hero and one of the team's more consistent performers this year, intercepted one pass and broke up another touchdown with a hard hit.

The fourth quarter got a bit queasy, as it has been wont to do for the Bucs this year, particularly in Raymond James Stadium. New York closed the gap to 17-13 midway through the final period on CB Frank Walker's 56-yard interception return. However, the Giants' final three drives were good for only eight plays and negative three yards. Lynch picked off a Collins pass at midfield with two-and-a-half minutes to play.

However, Tampa Bay elected to go for it on fourth-and-one from the Giants 12 and RB Michael Pittman was stuffed, giving the visitors one more chance. Sapp's second sack of the day made it fourth-and-19 from the three, and the Giants, after calling a timeout, chose to snap the ball out of the end zone for a safety.

That gambit allowed the Giants to try a free kick from their own 20, but an onside attempt was recovered by Buc TE Ken Dilger at the 29. Tampa Bay simply ran out the clock from there.

Sapp also chased QB Kerry Collins out of the pocket on the play that produced Smith's third-quarter interception in the Bucs' end zone. Sapp had a huge impact on the game, registering five tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. One of his stops came on a third-and-one run by Tiki Barber midway through the fourth quarter, with the Bucs clinging to a four-point lead. Sapp's second sack, the one that forced the Giants' hand on the intentional safety, also came at a very opportune time.

Sapp's two sacks gave him five on the season and 77 in his career since being drafted by the Bucs in 1995. Sapp now needs just two more sacks to become Tampa Bay's all-time leader in that category, surpassing Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon (78.5).

"I tip my hat to Warren," said Gruden. "He's a tempo-setter around here. That's a Buccaneer that we're going to try to model future Buccaneers after."

Though Pittman was stopped on his final carry, he still finished with 55 yards on 19 carries. The Bucs alternated three backs - Pittman, Thomas Jones and Aaron Stecker - freely, twice even running the three in succession. All told, Tampa Bay ran for 93 yards, though it average only 2.4 yards per carry. Pittman, who also caught two passes for 22 yards, went over 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the third time in his career.

The Bucs also scored their first rushing touchdown since Week Three, another long-awaited development. Jones got it in the second quarter on a third-and-one dive for a one-yard touchdown, his first as a Buccaneer. The only other two rushing TDs of the season came in the Week Three win at Atlanta, and both were produced by Mike Alstott, who is now on injured reserve.

Jones touchdown also came on a drive that was preserved by three New York penalties. The Buccaneers and Giants came into the game with similar penalty problems, both ranking in the league's top three most-flagged teams. Fortunately for Tampa Bay, they managed to avoid the yellow hankies early while the Giants committed the self-destructive fouls. New York finished with nine penalties for 71 yards, while the Bucs committed five infractions for 45 yards.

That was still too many for Gruden, however.

"Offensively, we had some very good moments, although we did some very, very illogical things in key moments, penalties and turning the ball over," said Gruden. "The plus is, we won the game. There were a lot of good things on both sides of the ball. The big minus tonight was turnovers. Turnovers really cost us. We also had some key penalties that put us behind and in long-yardage situations. Those are things that really typify a 5-6 football team."

The Bucs' defensive dominance overshadowed the first significant meeting between twin brothers Ronde and Tiki Barber, the former a Buccaneer cornerback and the latter a Giant running back. R. Barber finished with four tackles, including one on Barber on a first-quarter sweep, and T. Barber had 55 rushing yards and three catches for another 34 yards.

Smith single-handedly denied the Giants' two touchdowns with plays in the end zone. Midway through the second quarter, Smith hit WR Amani Toomer just as Toomer caught a pass in the end zone, and the force of the blow separated the receiver from both the ball and his helmet. In the third quarter, Smith intercepted a pass in the end zone that was intended for WR Ike Hilliard. Smith increased his team-leading total to four interceptions.

The Bucs also turned the ball over three times, including fumbles by McCardell and WR Reggie Barlow, both on passes that would have gained first downs near midfield. Each turnover netted the Giants three points on a pair of 30-yard field goals by Matt Bryant. The Giants also scored off their third turnover of the night when Walker got his fourth-quarter pick.

Nevertheless, the Giants couldn't rally, unlike many of the Bucs' opponents this season. The Bucs took a 14-6 lead at halftime and never trailed.

Gruden had spent the week emphasizing the need to get off to a faster start, and his team responded. The Bucs technically failed to score in the first quarter for the fifth straight game, but a drive begun in the first period ended in Jones' touchdown early in the second. Lee's scoring catch gave Tampa Bay 14 points at the intermission, its highest first-half total since the October 6 game against Indianapolis.

The Bucs are still three games behind the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South, and their two losses to the Panthers in effect makes it four. Tampa Bay may be wondering if it is in the wrong division at this point, as the Bucs have now defeated every team in the NFC East this season. Tampa Bay downed Philadelphia in both team's season-opener, also a Monday Night Football game, then prevailed in Washington in Week Six and beat Dallas at home in Week Eight.

Notes: The Bucs extended their rather lengthy streak of consecutive games with at least one takeaway to 52 with LB Shelton Quarles' fumble recovery in the first quarter. That streak is the longest current one and the second longest in the NFL since 1983; the longest is Philadelphia's 71 from 1985-90.) … Tonight's game was the first-ever prime time meeting between the Buccaneers and Giants. With the win, Tampa Bay is now 8-6 all-time on Monday Night Football (plus an additional victory in a 2001 Saturday night game that was part of the ABC series). The Giants are now 15-29-1 all-time on Monday Night Football - they also lost to Dallas in overtime on MNF in Week Two … Quarles played in his 100th career game on Monday night, all as a Buccaneer. Quarles originally entered the NFL as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins in 1994 but didn't make the team and spent two years in the Canadian Football League before joining the Bucs in 1997. … QB Brad Johnson's 53-yard touchdown pass to WR Charles Lee in the second quarter was his fourth completion of over 50 yards in 2003, all four touchdowns. It was also Johnson's 20th touchdown pass of the season, closing him on the Bucs' record of 22, which he set last year. Johnson also extended his team record to 11 straight games with at least one touchdown pass. … DE Simeon Rice's forced fumble on the last play of the first half was his fifth of the season. The team single-season record is seven, set by Wally Chambers in 1979 and equaled by Broderick Thomas in 1991. … Rice also took over the NFL sack lead on the play, notching his 12th of the year to move past the New York Jets' Shaun Ellis (11.5) … By the end of the game, the Bucs were back to the offensive-line combination with which they started the season. Roman Oben returned from a broken hand to start at left tackle, pushing Kenyatta Walker back to the right. Later in the game, G Jason Whittle, who has not played on the offensive line since Week Five, subbed in at right guard, pushing Cosey Coleman back to left guard.

Injury Updates: LB Shelton Quarles missed a few minutes with a groin strain in the first half but returned quickly. Gruden indicated no significant injuries in his postgame report.

Quarter Reports: During Monday's game, provided game updates at the end of each quarter. Those updates follow to offer a closer look at the game's key plays.

First Quarter Update

Neither team scored in the first quarter, nor made much progress on offense, but good special teams work at least turned the field position in Tampa Bay's favor. The first five drives of the game produced five combined first downs, and the Bucs had the sixth possession at the Giants' 22 when the opening period came to an end.

New York won the toss and elected to receive. Return man Brian Mitchell got the ball back to the 28, and RB Tiki Barber's first-down carry picked up four to the 32. QB Kerry Collins tried to hit TE Marcellus Rivers down the right hash on second down, but the pass was well overthrown. The Bucs brought a big blitz on third-and-six, but Collins threw right over it to WR David Tyree for a first down at the Giants' 40.

Barber bounced his first-down carry around right end for a gain of eight, but he was bottled up for just one by S John Lynch and DT Anthony McFarland on second down. The Giants surprisingly put it in the air on third-and-one, and a pump-and-go to WR Amani Toomer was well-covered by CB Ronde Barber and overthrown. Jeff Feagles' resulting punt went out of bounds at the Bucs' 18.

Tampa Bay came out in a two-TE set and tried to throw a screen pass to RB Michael Pittman on first down. That pass was incomplete, but a second-down throw to WR Joe Jurevicius moved the chains when the receiver spun through CB Frank Walker's grasp and extended the ball over the first-down line.

From the 29, the Bucs gave the ball to RB Thomas Jones, who picked up three yards over right guard. A second-down pass to Pittman lost a yard, and a third-down pass to TE Rickey Dudley came up three yards short thanks to a good tackle by S Omar Stoutmire. Tom Tupa's punt went out of bounds at the Giants' 34.

A play-action pass to WR Ike Hilliard gained 11 yards on first down, and another quick slant to the same man was good for nine more. A false start made it second-and-six, and T. Barber's second-down sweep to the left was stopped after just two yards thanks to a hard stop by his brother, R. Barber. Another third-down blitz by the Bucs failed again as Collins hit Barber over the middle for a gain of six.

From the Bucs' 43, Barber ran into Lynch off left guard, picking up three yards. Tampa Bay's defense then got the first turnover of the night, as a pitch to Barber bounced through the back's hands and was eventually recovered by LB Shelton Quarles at the Bucs' 46.

A first-down sweep to the left by Jones gained two yards. However, RB Aaron Stecker made a nice catch then eluded one Giants tackler to pick up 12 yards to New York's 41. A fade-stop to WR Keenan McCardell on the left sideline was incomplete, and a run by Pittman picked up just one yard, setting up third-and-nine. A comeback to McCardell on the right sideline was almost complete for a first down but CB Will Allen closed quickly to break it up. Tupa followed with a punt that S Jermaine Phillips downed at the Giants' two.

T. Barber got just one yard on first down. R. Barber jumped a quick slant to Toomer and appeared to intercept it, but Toomer wrestled the ball away as the two players hit the ground. That pass was good for seven yards, but a false start made it third-and-seven. The Giants tried to catch R. Barber sleeping with a fly to Toomer on the left sideline, but the pass was overthrown, forcing a punt. A nice, 14-yard return By WR Reggie Barlow on the ensuing punt got the Bucs back to New York's 43 for their next drive.

Johnson overthrew Dudley in the middle on first down, but an illegal contact penalty on Walker gave the Bucs a first down at the 38. Pittman was then stopped for no gain up the middle, but a roughing-the-passer penalty moved the ball again down to the Giants' 23. LB Brandon Short drew the penalty by grabbing and twisting Johnson's face mask as he went by on a blitz.

Jones' first-down run got just one yard and Johnson's attempted scramble on second down gained nothing. That was the final play of the first quarter.

Second Quarter Update

The Bucs dominated the action for most of the second quarter, building scoring two touchdowns to take a 14-3 lead. Though the yardage was nearly identical at the half (Bucs 154, Giants 150), Tampa Bay had made the game's bigger plays, including a 53-yard scoring pass and a sack-fumble as the second quarter expired.

The Buccaneers faced a third-and-nine at the Giants' 22 when the second quarter began but moved the chains with a bullet pass to WR Keenan McCardell or 13 yards to the nine.

A handoff to RB Michael Pittman backfired when DE Michael Strahan dropped the back for a loss of three. A crossing-route pass to WR Charles Lee worked for nine yards on second down, but S Ryan Clark made a fine tackle from behind to deny the touchdown. The Giants appeared to have sacked QB Brad Johnson on third down, but the drive's second personal foul of the drive gave the Bucs a new first down at the three.

A fumbled snap almost gave the ball back, but C John Wade recovered for the Buccaneers. RB Thomas Jones nearly stumbled into the end zone on second down, but came up just inches short. Johnson gave it back to Jones on third down and the back dove over the top for a one-yard touchdown.

K Martin Gramatica blasted the ensuing kickoff through the end zone for a touchback, and a fired-up Bucs defense would allow New York to gain just two yards before punting. Hard tackles by CB Tim Wansley on successive plays, one on a run by RB Tiki Barber and one on a pass to Barber, made it third-and-eight, and pressure on third down forced QB Kerry Collins to throw incomplete.

Tampa Bay took over at its own 45 after the punt. A first down pass in WR Joe Jurevicius' direction was incomplete, but the Bucs got into New York territory on second down with a pass to a wide-open McCardell underneath. Unfortunately, McCardell fumbled at New York's 40 and CB Will Allen recovered for the Giants.

The Giants pushed the ball back to the Bucs' side of the field on first down with a 13-yard pass to Barber over the middle. Another completion to TE Marcellus Rivers got eight yards down to the Bucs' 39, and Barber surged up the middle for four yards and a first down. Collins found WR Ike Hilliard for 17 yards on the next snap, down to the 18. After a deep slant to WR Amani Toomer was just incomplete, the Giants committed a false start, their sixth penalty of the game.

After a New York timeout, Collins completed an 11-yard out to Toomer on the right sideline, down to the 12. Collins appeared to have found Toomer for a touchdown pass on third down, but S Dwight Smith arrived just in time with a vicious hit to knock the ball out of the receiver's hands. New York settled for Matt Bryant's 30-yard field goal.

The Bucs' next drive began at their own seven, and Jones ripped off a seven-yard run on first down around left tackle. A toss to RB Aaron Stecker gained two more yards, and Pittman moved the chains with an eight-yard run. Pittman almost got into the open field on the play but was brought down by S Ryan Clark on a nice stop.

From the Bucs' 44, Tampa Bay moved onto New York's half of the field with a slant to McCardell that looked very similar to the play on which he fumbled. This time, McCardell held on for a first down at the Giants' 43. Unfortunately, a holding penalty pushed Tampa Bay back to its own 47 and made it first-and-20. A seam pass to McCardell nearly worked but was broken up by a very hard hit from S Omar Stoutmire.

Tampa Bay not only moved the sticks but scored on the next play. WR Charles Lee lined up wide to the left then slanted in between two levels of the defense. Johnson delivered it to Lee on the run and the fourth-year receiver stepped through an attempted tackle by Clark. A downfield block by McCardell took CB Frank Walker out of the play and Lee eluded two other defenders to get to the right sideline and break free.

New York started its next drive at its own 30, but moved backward thanks to breakaway pressure on Collins. The Giant QB scrambled left and tried to throw the ball away with a backhand motion. He was flagged for intentional grounding after the officials determined that the ball did not make it back to the line of scrimmage.

That was a 12-yard penalty and a loss of down, so the Giants faced a second-and-22. It became third-and-20 when RB Dorsey Levens got just two yards on a sweep to the left. The Bucs narrowly averted disaster when Collins found Toomer streaking down the middle of the field but the pass was just a few inches too long, glancing off Toomer's fingertips.

The Bucs got the ball back at their own 33 and ran Stecker off left tackle for no gain, bringing on the two-minute warning. After the break, the Bucs threw incomplete on second down when LB Mike Barrow sniffed out an underneath screen to TE Rickey Dudley and separated the receiver from the ball with a hard hit. A third-down pass to Lee underneath gained just four yards and the Bucs had to punt after the Giants called a timeout with 1:48 left in the half.

The Giants nearly blocked Tom Tupa's punt and got great field position when Brian Mitchell returned the short kick to the New York 38. DT Warren Sapp got the drive started out right for Tampa Bay by sacking Collins for a loss of six. Collins also fumbled on the play but recovered himself. After a six-yard pass to Hilliard made it third-and-10, Collins surprisingly took off up the middle, rushing for 22 yards down to the Bucs' 40. New York then used its final timeout of the half with 41 seconds on the clock.

Pressure on first down prompted Collins to throw the ball away on first down. Collins then made the perfect call against a big Buc blitz, giving it to T. Barber up the middle. He easily broke into the open field and wasn't tackled until his brother, Ronde Barber, got him at the Bucs' 20.

Collins spiked to kill the clock with 17 seconds left, then threw a three-yard pass to Barber, who got out of bounds with 11 seconds left. The Giants tried to run one more play but lost their scoring chance when DE Simeon Rice sacked Collins by swiping the ball out of his hand from behind. DT Chartric Darby recovered for Tampa Bay as time expired.

Third Quarter Update

Each team put up one field goal in the third quarter, making it 17-6 and preserving the Bucs' 11-point halftime lead. Each team also turned it over once, with a Buccaneer fumble resulting in a Giant field goal but Tampa Bay's interception averting another New York scoring threat. At the end of three quarters, the Bucs had a 270-212 edge in total yards.

The Bucs got the ball back to open the second half, starting at their own 26. A shallow pass to WR Keenan McCardell on the right side gained just two yards, but McCardell made a great leaping catch on second down for 12 yards and a first down at the 40. Another hookup between McCardell and QB Brad Johnson picked up eight yards, but a holding penalty made it second-and-12 from the Bucs' 38.

A pass to WR Reggie Barlow would have moved the sticks and put the ball just past midfield, but Barlow fumbled and DE Michael Strahan recovered at the Giants' 49.

An underneath pass to TE Marcellus Rivers picked up 18 quick yards to the Bucs' 33, but another completion to WR David Tyree was good for just four. After Tiki Barber's second-down carry gained nothing, QB Kerry Collins got a pass off just before being sacked and Tyree caught it for an 11-yard gain and a first down at the Bucs' 18.

Barber was stopped by LB Shelton Quarles for a loss of one on the next play, and CB Tim Wansley's tight coverage on WR Ike Hilliard helped force a second-down incompletion. On third-and-11, Collins threw a short pass to WR Amani Toomer in the face of a blitz but Wansley was able to drive him out of bounds four yards short of the first down. The Giants still gained three yards off the turnover thanks to Matt Bryant's 30-yard field goal.

After a five-yard run by RB Michael Pittman on first down, Johnson faked another handoff to Pittman and delivered a downfield strike to WR Joe Jurevicius for a gain of 22 to the Giants' 47. RB Thomas Jones got the next carry and picked up three yards off left guard. Confusion before the next snap forced Johnson into calling a timeout. The break proved worthwhile when Johnson came out of it to hit Pittman down the left seam for a gain of 23.

From the Giants' 21, Pittman found a gap up the middle and high-stepped down to the 12 for nine yards. Pittman's second-down run around left tackle ran into a clog but was good enough for one yard and a first down at the 11. Jones' first-down run up the middle was good for just one, but a crossing pass to McCardell got the ball down to the three. On third-and-two from that spot, Johnson failed to find an open man and had to throw it away. Martin Gramatica came on to try a 21-yard field goal and made it easily, pumping the Bucs' lead back to 11 points, 17-6.

New York immediately gained some momentum back with a 36-yard kickoff return by RB Delvin Joyce out to the Giants' 46. A well-designed screen pass to Barber immediately got the ball into Buc territory, at the 43. Barber broke through up the middle on the very next play for another 12 yards, down to the 31. The Bucs got the ball back on the next play, however. DT Warren Sapp chased Collins out of the pocket and the quarterback tried to throw downfield into the end zone to Hilliard. However, S Dwight Smith leaped in front of the receiver to intercept the pass.

The touchback gave the ball back to Tampa Bay at their own 20. Pittman immediately picked up eight yards with a run up the middle, but was stopped short of the first down on his next carry. Another run up the middle, however, just barely got enough to move the sticks, also bringing the third quarter to an end.

Fourth Quarter Update

The fourth quarter was a wild one - nothing new at Raymond James Stadium - but this time the Bucs held on for a 19-13 victory over the New York Giants. Big defensive plays by two of the Bucs' long-time defensive heroes - John Lynch and Warren Sapp - turned away a potential Giants comeback that began with an interception return for a touchdown. By the end of the game, Tampa Bay had out-gained the Giants in total yards, 362-212.

The Bucs had a first down at their own 30 when the fourth quarter began. On first down, QB Brad Johnson lobbed a pass up to WR Charles Lee on the left sideline and the receiver spun away from good coverage and made a diving catch for a 20-yard gain to midfield. Johnson was nearly sacked on first down, and the Bucs were flagged because the quarterback's pass hit an offensive lineman first.

On first-and-15, a toss-sweep left to RB Thomas Jones got the ball back to midfield, but the Bucs gave the five yards right back on a false start. Another sweep left, this one by RB Michael Pittman, gained just two yards. On third-and-13 from the 47, QB Brad Johnson tried to hit WR Joe Jurevicius on the left sideline but CB Frank Walker jumped in front of the pass, intercepted it and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown. That score cut the Bucs lead to 17-13 with roughly 13 minutes to play.

The Bucs next drive began at their own 29. Pittman got three yards around left end on first down and WR Keenan McCardell picked up six on an out to the other sideline. On a rollout right on third-and-one, Johnson threw incomplete but the Giants were called for both defensive holding and roughing the passer. Tampa Bay accepted the latter penalty and got a first down at the Giants' 47.

However, after the next play, a reverse-field run by Jones that picked up two yards, Jones was flagged for taunting and the Bucs were pushed back to their own 40. Johnson then fumbled the ensuing snap and had to fall on it for a loss of six. On third-and-29, the Bucs ran to avoid disaster and Pittman got four yards. Tampa Bay had to punt from its own 38 and return man Brian Mitchell was stopped at the Giants' 33.

A blitz by CB Ronde Barber on first down almost worked but QB Kerry Collins got a pass off to WR Amani Toomer for a gain of 12. The Bucs challenged the ruling, saying the pass hit the ground underneath Toomer, and won on review. However, Toomer caught a nine-yard pass on second down, setting up third-and-one from the Giants' 42. The Bucs' defense then came up with a big stop on Tiki Barber, with DT Warren Sapp causing a fumble. Barber recovered but the Giants had to punt, with Reggie Barlow fair catching it at the Bucs' 14.

Pittman bashed up the middle for four yards on first down. On second down, Jurevicius caught a shallow out and spun away from a tackle by Walker to dance down the sideline for 10 yards. A pass over the middle to WR Charles Lee gained another first down, as Lee got five yards and a face mask penalty got the other five.

From the 38, Pittman went up the middle for three yards. McCardell then copied Jurevicius with his own catch and tackle-breaking run, getting the ball out to the 48 for another first down. From there, Pittman went up the middle for a gain of two as the clock ran down below five minutes. Johnson tried to hit Lee down the left sideline on second down but the receiver couldn't quite find the pass before it hit the ground, despite a diving effort. The next play was another lob down the left sideline, this one caught by Pittman on an incredible diving effort. Unfortunately, the Giants challenged the call and Pittman was ruled to have landed out of bounds. Tampa Bay had to punt from midfield. Tom Tupa's kick was nearly blocked, but it rolled to a stop at the Giants' 21.

Fortunately for Tampa Bay, the Giants' next drive lasted just one play. Collins tried to hit WR David Tyree deep down the right side but S John Lynch read it all the way, easily stepping in front of the receiver for the interception. Lynch then returned the ball 18 yards to New York's 32.

Jones got the first carry of the drive and made it around left end for a gain of 11 and a first down at the 21. Pittman took it next and bounced a carry around right end, led by pulling G Cosey Coleman. He got seven yards to the Giants' 14 and New York used its first of three timeouts with 2:33 left.

After the break, Aaron Stecker picked up two yards going right and the Giants burned another timeout with 2:26 left. Pittman was stopped by DT Keith Hamilton for no gain on third-and-one, and the Bucs brought out their field goal unit. Tampa Bay then called a timeout at 2:19 and elected to go for it on fourth down. Pittman was stuffed again, giving the ball back to the Giants with 2:15 left.

Defensive ends Greg Spires and Simeon Rice chased Collins out of the pocket on first down, forcing a throwaway. Collins' second down pass was also incomplete, thrown over WR Ike Hilliard's head. On third-and-10, DT Warren Sapp caught Collins, spinning him to the ground at the three for a nine-yard sack. That play brought on the two-minute warning.

Before going for it on fourth-and-19, however, the Giants called a timeout and worked out a different solution. The punting unit came out and the center simply snapped the ball out of the end zone for a safety. That allowed the Giants a free kick from their 20, and they tried an onside kick. However, Tampa Bay's Ken Dilger recovered at the Giants' 29 and was able to kill the clock with a series of kneel downs.

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