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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Runaway Victory

The Bucs stuck to the ground against Dallas’ 31st-ranked rush defense, and the results were a record rushing day and a dominating victory


RB Warrick Dunn ran for 210 yards and two touchdowns as the Bucs set a team rushing record

A rodeo ride of 14 seconds is considered a good afternoon for a cowboy.

When you're a Cowboy and your football game falls apart that quickly, however, it's a bad day on the ranch.

That's how long it took for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to gain possession at the Cowboys' 10-yard line after Dallas Cowboys' WR Jason Tucker muffed the opening kickoff. The Bucs netted only a field goal off that turnover, but three more Dallas giveaways and a record rushing day by RB Warrick Dunn helped the Bucs streak to a 27-7 victory that keeps them squarely in the NFC playoff race.

Dunn, in his second game as the primary ballcarrier without running mate Mike Alstott, was nothing short of magnificent, taking his first carry of the day 70 yards for a touchdown and one of his last for four yards and another score. In between, Dunn picked up 210 yards on the ground, second-most in team history.

RB Rabih Abdullah found the Cowboy's last-ranked run defense just as soft, adding 38 yards of his own as the Buccaneers picked up their largest single-game ground gain ever, 250 yards. The previous best was a 246-yard outing against Minnesota on November 1, 1998.

Dunn's total fell just short of the team's individual single-game record, a 219-yard performance by James Wilder, coincidentally also against the Vikings on November 6, 1983. His efforts rendered the Bucs' passing game almost unnecessary, and QB Shaun King threw just 15 times, completing nine for 65 yards.

After Martin Gramatica converted Tucker's opening turnover into a 28-yard field goal, the Buccaneer defense forced a quick punt by the Troy Aikman-led Dallas offense. Dunn took the first down snap around left end, zipped between the blocks of Dave Moore and Frank Middleton and outraced cornerbacks Phillippi Sparks and Ryan McNeil to the middle of the field.

Dunn wasn't even touched on his 70-yard score, the fourth-longest carry in team history and his longest scoring run ever. Dunn holds the Buccaneer record with a 76-yard, non-scoring ramble against Chicago on December 21, 1997.

Another Dallas special teams miscue indirectly set up the Buccaneers' next score. After WR Wane McGarity muffed a punt and allowed it to roll to the Dallas' three before covering it, the Cowboys quickly found themselves in a third-and-six hole from their own seven.

Standing in his own end zone, Aikman threw just as DT Warren Sapp hit him and the pass bounced off RB Chris Warren into the air. CB Brian Kelly snagged it just before it hit the turf and ran nine yards for his first career touchdown. Tampa Bay thus led 17-0 before the game was 12 minutes old.

The only scoring of the second period was a 25-yard field goal by Gramatica that capped a 73-yard drive. The key play in that march was a 23-yard run by Dunn around left end.

The third quarter presented the only anxious moments for the 65,000 Buccaneers fans in attendance. After a three-and-out by the Buccaneer offense, Dallas marched down the field on 15 plays, going 82 yards for their only touchdown of the game. The Cowboys converted two third downs and one fourth down on the drive, setting up RB Emmitt Smith's four-yard TD run up the middle.

Dallas got the ball back late in the same period and was slowly moving down the field again when it was bitten by the turnover bug one more time. A 21-yard catch by McGarity brought the Cowboys down to Tampa Bay's 11, but Smith fumbled on the next play as LB Derrick Brooks knocked the ball loose just before Smith's knee hit the ground. CB Brian Kelly recovered at the 12.

The Bucs then completed the conversion from nail-biter to blow out by marching 88 yards off the turnover for the final score. Again, Dunn had the long gain in the drive with a 34-yard sprint around left end, but it was a leaping Keyshawn Johnson for 19 yards that got the Bucs out of their early hole. Johnson then threw a key block on Dunn's four-yard touchdown run.

Tampa Bay outgained Dallas in total yards 301-266, and won the turnover battle, 4-1. Defensive ends Marcus Jones and Chidi Ahanotu had the team's two sacks, pushing the Bucs' already-record total to 51 on the season. Ahanotu's sack also forced an Aikman fumble, which Sapp recovered. Jones' sack was his 13th of the season, a total that would have tied Lee Roy Selmon's team record if Sapp (13.5) hadn't snapped it a week before.

CB Ronde Barber was all over the field for the defense, leading the team with 10 tackles and breaking up four passes. Brooks added eight solo stops.

The Bucs go to 8-5 with the victory and had a good day in the standings as fellow playoff chasers New Orleans, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Washington all lost. Detroit, another team in the thick of the race, lost to Minnesota on Thursday.

During the game,'s Gameday section provided detailed reports of every play at the end of each quarter. Those reports follow to offer a closer look at the Bucs' crucial victory.

First Quarter

The Buccaneers, favored by 10 points over Dallas, wasted no time in picking up a lead of that much and more. With RB Warrick Dunn rushing for over 100 yards in the first quarter alone and the Bucs adding a defensive touchdown, Tampa Bay surged to a 17-0 lead.

Dallas' First Drive

After winning the coin toss and electing to receive, Dallas sent WR Jason Tucker deep to field Martin Gramatica's kickoff. Gramatica kicked the ball high and short and Tucker, trying to run up for the catch, muffed it at the 11. Buccaneers safety Dexter Jackson recovered the loose ball at the 10.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

On first down, QB Shaun King dropped back and tried to toss a fade pass to WR Keyshawn Johnson in the right side of the end zone, but the throw was wide. After calling a timeout, the Bucs came back on and put King in the shotgun. Without an open man, King tried to run up the middle but was stopped at the eight.

On third-and-goal, King tried to go the same route on a designed play but Dallas sniffed it out and dropped the quarterback back at the 10-yard line. Tampa Bay was forced to go for the field goal, and Gramatica nailed it from 28 yards out. Tampa Bay 3, Dallas 0.

Dallas' Second Drive

Gramatica's second kickoff went through the end zone for a touchback, putting Dallas at its own 20. However, RB Emmitt Smith got the Cowboys off to a good start with a tough, eight-yard carry in which he broke several tackles on the left side. Dallas then gained a new first down with a seven-yard pass to WR James McKnight.

On the next snap, Smith danced behind the line of scrimmage then pounded up the middle for four yards. The Cowboys then went with a play that confounded Tampa Bay last week, faking to Smith up the middle and handing off to WR Wane McGarity on an end-around. However, the Bucs were ready this time, with LB Derrick Brooks slowing McGarity down in the backfield and DT Warren Sapp tripping him up from behind.

After that loss of two, QB tried to throw an out pass to RB Chris Warren on third-and-eight, but Warren dropped it with S Damien Robinson bearing down on him. The Cowboys were forced to punt, and Buccaneer WR Karl Williams returned Micah Knorr's 47-yard punt 14 yards to the Tampa Bay 30.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive

This time, the Buccaneers chose to go to the ground against the Cowboys' 31st-ranked run defense, and the results were markedly better. On first down, RB Warrick Dunn took a handoff from King and stretched it out to the left behind the line of scrimmage. With TE Dave Moore blocking LB Dexter Coakley to the outside and G Frank Middleton cleaning up the inside, Dunn cut sharply upfield and found himself in the secondary. Dunn then sprinted straight up the middle, with cornerbacks Phillippi Sparks and Ryan McNeil trying to pinch him from either side. Neither Sparks nor McNeil could match Dunn's speed, however, and the Buccaneer back split them without being touched, continuing 70 yards for his longest career touchdown run. It was also the fourth-longest carry in team history. Tampa Bay 10, Dallas 0.

Dallas' Third Drive

Gramatica's third kickoff was short again and Tucker fielded it near the left sideline at the 20. However, he was swarmed under by the Bucs' coverage unit at the 23.

Smith got the carry on first down but picked up only one yard over the middle before Sapp fell on him. Another Smith run around left end was good for just three more yards, but a quick slant from Aikman to McKnight on third-and-seven picked up 19 yards and a first down at the Dallas 46.

Aikman tried to go to throw a 10-yard out to Tucker on first down but the throw was low and wide for an incompletion. Smith struck quickly behind left guard on second down, but S Damien Robinson made a nice open field grab to slow him down. Smith spun out of the tackle but ended up losing a few yards before CB Ronde Barber dropped him for a gain of just three. On third down, McGarity came across the middle of the field, but Barber was right on him and reached in front of the receiver to bat away the pass at the last second.

Knorr came on to punt again and Williams' fair caught the kick at the Bucs' 14.

Tampa Bay's Third Drive

King tried another out pass to Johnson on first down but it was wide again. From the shotgun on second down, King dumped it off to Dunn on the right side after not finding a man open downfield. Dunn had to make a one-handed catch and a nice spin move to pick up two yards. On third-and-eight, the pocket collapsed quickly on King but he was able to flip it to Dunn on the left side, allowing the back to pick and weave through the defense for nine yards and a first down at the Bucs' 25.

On first down, Dunn sliced up the middle for seven yards, and he went behind right tackle on second down for two more. However, RB Rabih Abdullah's third-and-one try behind left guard was thwarted by DE Alonzo Spellman, who caught him from the side for no gain.

P Mark Royals came on to kick it away for the first time and lifted a high, hanging kick that McGarity waited for near his own 25. However, the ball went through his hands and continued toward the end zone, where McGarity recovered at his own three. Royals was credited with a 63-yard punt.

Dallas' Fourth Drive

Backed up against their own end zone, Dallas handed off to Smith, but the rush was good for just three yards before rookie LB Nate Webster dropped him. Aikman threw a deep pass down the right sideline on second down that nearly found Tucker's hands, but CB Donnie Abraham dove to break it up at the last instant.

Third down was even worse for Dallas. With Aikman dropping back into his own end zone, Sapp came off a block by G Larry Allen and hit the quarterback as he was throwing. The pass still found its mark in Warren, but the ball bounded out of Warren's hands, allowing CB Brian Kelly to snare it at his shoe strings and return it nine yards for Kelly's first career touchdown. Tampa Bay 17, Dallas 0.

Dallas' Fifth Drive

Gramatica kicked off short again and Tucker returned it from the 17 to the 42 for Dallas' best starting field position of the day.

On first down, Smith took a handoff right and got around blitzing LB Derrick Brooks. However, after Robinson slowed Smith down, Brooks dove to trip him from behind after a gain of five. McKnight caught a screen pass on the left side on second down, but Barber put him down for no gain. On third-and-five, RB Michael Wiley swept around left end but was stopped by LB Shelton Quarles three yards shy of the first down.

Knorr's 51-yard punt went into the end zone for a touchback.

**After an offsides penalty on first down, Dunn took a handoff around left end for a 23-yard gain. After barely keeping his balance after an attempted foot tackle, Dunn ran behind the strong downfield blocking of Johnson and FB Charles Kirby all the way to the Bucs' 48. The quarter then came to an end.

Second Quarter

The second quarter featured less scoring but was just as dominant for the Buccaneers, who went into halftime leading the Cowboys 20-0. Tampa Bay's defense allowed just 113 yards in the first half and outscored Dallas, 7-0.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

The Bucs opened the second quarter with a first down at their own 48. To keep the drive moving, QB Shaun King fired a pass over the middle to RB Rabih Abdullah, and Abdullah cut to the right sideline for a gain of 11 yards. On first down from the Dallas 44, King dropped back to pass but was sacked quickly by DE Alonzo Spellman for a loss of three.

RB Warrick Dunn, however gave the Bucs a new set of downs when he sliced up the middle for nine yards and Spellman was charged with a 15-yard facemask penalty.

After Dunn went around left end for a four-yard gain on first down, King tried to hit WR Keyshawn Johnson over the middle but the play was broken up. However, CB Phillippi Sparks was flagged for pass interference on the play, giving Tampa Bay a first down at the eight.

That's as far as the drive got. Dunn got nothing up the middle on first down. King tried to pass on second down but ended up scrambling up the middle for three yards to the five. Dunn was given a toss for a sweep around right end on third down, but Dallas had a swarm of tacklers in the way and the play lost two yards.

The Bucs settled for Martin Gramatica's 25-yard field goal, his 16th-consecutive kick in a row, tying the team record. Tampa Bay 20, Dallas 0.

Dallas' First Drive

WR Jason Tucker took Gramatica's kickoff from the eight yard line out to the 31. RB Emmitt Smith tried to sweep left on first down but CB Ronde Barber knifed in to trip him up with a dive, limiting the gain to one yard. QB Troy Aikman threw over the middle to TE Jackie Harris on second down, but LB Derrick Brooks took him down for a gain of just three. On third-and-six, however, Aikman hit RB Michael Wiley on a short pass and Wiley was able to bash through CB Donnie Abraham to just get the ball past the first down marker.

Smith tried to go up the middle on first down, but after S John Lynch broke into the backfield to redirect Smith, DT James Cannida dropped him for a two-yard loss. Aikman went to his other TE, David LaFleur on second down, however, picking up 14 yards and a first down in Buccaneer territory.

On the next snap, Smith found a seam up the middle and picked up 16 yards to the Bucs' 30. That's as far as the drive got, however, as, on second down, DE Chidi Ahanotu ran around tackle Erik Williams and knocked the ball out of Aikman's grasp. DT Warren Sapp went underneath a huge pile of players to recover the loose ball at the Bucs' 36.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive

Abdullah replaced Dunn as the running back for the Bucs' second possession of the quarter and immediately picked up four yards on a run behind left guard. He tried the same path on second down and did even better, slicing for 10 yards to the midfield stripe.

On first down, King zipped a quick pass to Johnson on the left side for a gain of five. He tried the exact same play on second down, but the ball was tipped at the line by Dimitrius Underwood. King had an enormous amount of time in the pocket on third-and-five but, when he couldn't locate an open man, he was eventually sacked by Underwood for a loss of 11.

P Mark Royals faced a stiff rush up the middle and hit a high, hanging kick that WR Wane McGarity fair caught at the Dallas 22.

Dallas' Second Drive

The Cowboys kept it on the ground to start the next drive, giving it to Smith for a five-yard run up the middle then to Wiley for an eight-yard gain up the gut on second down.

With a first down at his own 35, Aikman dropped back to pass and threw a 10-yard out to Tucker, but CB Brian Kelly closed quickly and made a diving bat-down of the pass. Wiley tried the middle again for a gain of three yards. Ahanotu broke through on third down to immediately get in Aikman's face, forcing the quarterback to throw the ball away. However, Kelly was flagged for illegal contact away from the play and the Cowboys gained a first down at the 43 as the two-minute warning arrived.

After the break, Aikman hit McKnight cutting across the middle and McKnight avoided several Buc tacklers to get inside the Tampa Bay 30. However, an illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty on Williams negated the play and pushed Dallas back to the 33.

Aikman then fired a first-and-20 pass on the right side to McGarity for a pickup of 11 yards. His second down pass McGarity's way was low and unreachable, setting up third-and-nine. Marcus blew up that play before it could get started, stunting inside and ripping right through the line to envelop Aikman for an eight-yard sack.

Micah Knorr's punt hung up high and short and hit TE Todd Yoder's foot as WR Karl Williams tried to wave his players out of the way. Dallas recovered at the Bucs' 25.

Dallas' Third Drive

Aikman started up Dallas' second chance by throwing over the middle to Wiley for a gain of two just before Jones hit Aikman again. After a timeout, Dallas surprised Tampa Bay with a run up the middle and Wiley picked up seven yards to the 16. The Cowboys then burned their second timeout.

On third-and-one, S Damien Robinson blitzed from the left side and Aikman tried to throw to McKnight on that side. The pass was low and incomplete and the Cowboys settled for Time Seder's 34-yard field goal attempt, which hit the right upright to preserve the first-half shutout.

Third Quarter

Tampa Bay dominated the first half but the third quarter seemed like a completely different ballgame. Dallas controlled the ball for almost the entire period, scored the only points of the quarter on an 82-yard drive and moved into scoring territory again as it came to an end. Tampa Bay led 20-7 at the end of the quarter.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

WR Frank Murphy, in his first NFL action, came up to the 13 to catch Tim Seder's kickoff to open the second half and returned to the Bucs' 32.

QB Shaun King started the drive with a pass right down the line of scrimmage to WR Keyshawn Johnson, but the play was blown up by CB Phillippi Sparks for a loss of one. RB Warrick Dunn knifed behind right guard for a pickup of nine yards on second down, and RB Rabih Abdullah tried to move the chains with a rush behind left guard.

After a measurement, the run was judged to be a few inches short and Mark Royals came on to lift a 40-yard punt that WR Wane McGarrity caught at the Dallas 19. Linebackers Don Davis and Jeff Gooch immediately ran McGarrity over for a loss of one yard.

Dallas' First Drive

RB Emmitt Smith took a first down carry around right end but S John Lynch stopped him after a gain of just two. QB Troy Aikman flipped a shovel pass to Smith on second down and DT Warren Sapp had a bead on him in the backfield, but Smith slipped out of that tackle and went on to gain 11 yards to the 31.

Smith got the call again on the next first down, bouncing off tackles up the middle for a gain of seven. Aikman tried a quick downfield pass on the left side to WR James McKnight, but CB Ronde Barber arrived just as the ball did to break up the play and set up third-and-three. Aikman converted that third down by stepping up in the pocket under pressure and firing a 15-yard pass to WR Jason Tucker over the middle.

Aikman's deep pass to McKnight on the next snap was out of the receiver's reach, but Barber was called for illegal contact to give Dallas five yards and another first down.

On the next snap, LB Derrick Brooks invaded the Dallas backfield to wrap up Smith with one arm and force a loss of one. Aikman's quick slant pass to WR Damon Hodge on second down picked up seven yards before Barber cut Hodge's legs out from underneath. On another third-and-three, Aikman's late pass to McGarity went through McGarity's hands as S Dexter Jackson got in his face.

The Cowboys elected to go for it on fourth-and-three, throwing a screen pass to RB Michael Wiley. Wiley just stayed ahead of DE Chidi Ahanotu's grasp to pick up four yards and a first down at the Bucs' 31.

Aikman's next pass downfield was intended for McKnight but was thrown short as Sapp hit him during his throw. On second-and-10, FB Robert Thomas released out to the left side but couldn't corral Aikman's short throw. With a lot of time to throw on third down, however, Aikman found McKnight downfield over the middle for a gain of 16 yards to the Bucs' 15.

A patented tackle-breaking run by Smith on the next snap picked up 10 yards and another first down at the five. Smith's next carry went for just one yard before Barber's tackle, but the middle opened up on second down and Smith bashed in for the four-yard score. Tampa Bay 20, Dallas 7.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive

Murphy's second kickoff return was unsuccessful, as he took Micah Knorr's kick near the left sideline and tried to cut back across the field. Dallas cover man Chris Brazell wrapped Murphy up at the seven.

Dunn got the call on first down and continued his fine day with a six-yard run off left guard. Dunn's second carry was just as good, another six-yarder on which he started left but then cut back into a seam on the right side for a first down at the 19.

More Dunn. Though a Dallas tackler met him just after he got the ball, Dunn spun off that tackle and picked up 11 yards on the left side. A facemask penalty tacked on five yards to the 35. Dunn tried to go up the middle on the next snap, but LB Dat Nguyen got ahold of his leg in the backfield and pulled him down for a loss of one. King rolled right and tried to hit WR Jacquez Green but the throw went over Green's head and out of bounds. On third down, King scrambled left and tried to throw downfield to WR Keyshawn Johnson, but it was incomplete.

Royals came on to punt again and, after a false start penalty, hit a 45-yard punt that McGarity returned to the Dallas 34.

Dallas' Second Drive

Aikman's first-down pass in Thomas' direction was incomplete. On second down, Aikman found TE Jackie Harris over the middle for a pickup of eight. On third-and-two, Wiley bashed up the middle for three yards and a first down at the Dallas 45.

Aikman went up top to McKnight on first down, but CB Ronde Barber had tight coverage and nearly intercepted it. Aikman's second down pass to McGarity on a quick slant, however, picked up 12 yards to the Bucs' 43.

A tough run by Smith behind left guard was good for four yards to the Bucs' 39. Smith did even better on second down starting behind right guard and cutting back towards the middle for seven more yards as the quarter came to an end.

Fourth Quarter

After a third quarter that caused a little concern, the Bucs went back to dominating in the final period. Tampa Bay rushed for 89 yards to bring their game total to 250 and scored the only points of the period in a 27-7 victory.

Dallas' First Drive

After spending the entire third quarter moving up and down the field on the Buccaneers' defense, the Dallas offense shot itself in the foot early in the final period.

Starting out with a first down at the Bucs' 32, the Cowboys got into the red zone on one play with a 21-yard pass from QB Troy Aikman to WR Wane McGarity. However, RB Emmitt Smith fumbled on the next play, as LB Derrick Brooks forced the ball out of his grasp and CB Brian Kelly recovered at the Bucs' 12.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

Interested in draining the clock, Tampa Bay started off on the ground, with RB Warrick Dunn picking up four yards on a carry around left tackle. On second-and-six, QB Shaun King faked a handoff and threw a deep slant to WR Keyshawn Johnson. Johnson had to leap for the 19-yard reception and CB Phillippi Sparks cut his legs out, causing Johnson to flip and land on the back of his neck.

Though shaken up, Johnson stayed in the game as King dropped back to pass again and threw a pass well over WR Reidel Anthony's head. On second down, Dunn picked his way for nine more yards to set up third-and-one. Before the Bucs could hand off to RB Rabih Abdullah, G Randall McDaniel committed a false start. Now on third-and-six, the Bucs converted with a quick slant pass to WR Jacquez Green for seven yards to the Bucs' 46.

Dunn got the call again on first down and came up with another big play, sprinting around the left end and finding enough open field to run for 34 more yards to the Dallas 20.

Dunn's next attempt to the same side ended up in a one-yard loss and another in the same direction was good for just four yards. To convert the third-and-eight, King went to the same slant pattern to Green and the diminutive receiver reached high to snatch the pass and pick up eight yards and a first down at the eight.

On first down, the Bucs picked up five of the needed yards with a quick pass to WR Keyshawn Johnson on the right side. On the next snap, Johnson started out on the right end, then came in motion to the line of scrimmage and laid down a nice block that helped Dunn sprint around left end one more time for a four-yard score. Tampa Bay 27, Dallas 7.

Dallas' Second Drive

After RB Michael Wiley took the ensuing kickoff out to the Dallas 27, a penalty on the Cowboys pushed the ball back to the 14.

On first down, Wiley carried up the middle for a gain of nine, and FB Robert Thomas bashed his way up the middle for three yards and a first down on the next snap.

QB Anthony Wright came in to relieve Aikman and, after a false start, threw incomplete to WR Chris Brazell on a pass that CB Ronde Barber nearly intercepted. Wright did find Brazell for 10 yards on the next snap, but his third-and-five pass in Damon Hodge's direction was broken up by S Damien Robinson's hard hit.

Micah Knorr came on to punt and WR Karl Williams returned it three yards to the 38. However, a penalty on Tampa Bay forced the Bucs to start at their own 25.

Tampa Bay's' First Drive

RB Warrick Dunn got the first down carry and picked up three yards, enough to put him over 200 on the day. Four more yards by Dunn on second down set up a third-and-three, and Dunn converted by cutting back to the right on a middle handoff and picking up five more yards.

With a 210-yard rushing total that stands as the second-best in team history, Dunn was replaced by RB Rabih Abdullah, who immediately picked up 10 yards off left tackle. Abdullah's next carry, however, lost three when LB Darren Hambrick caught him in the backfield. After the two-minute warning passed, Abdullah swept around right end for a pickup of 14 and another first down at the Cowboys' 37. Dallas called a timeout.

Abdullah went up the middle for a gain of two yards on the next play, then slipped for no gain on second-and-eight. On third-and-eight, Abdullah was again stopped for no gain, setting up a fourth-and-eight with just 10 seconds remaining. After purposely taking the delay of game penalty, Tampa Bay punted away and Royals' short kick took the remaining time off the clock. **

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