Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sack Race

A fierce pass rush on both ends kept the game close, but Tampa Bay exploded at the end to beat Buffalo, 31-17


WR Karl Williams finishes off a 73-yard punt return touchdown that finished off the Bills

Buffalo Bills defenders had their hands on Tampa Bay Buccaneers' quarterback Shaun King all day, but they couldn't lay a finger on wide receiver Karl Williams when it counted.

King was sacked seven times, repeatedly flushed from the pocket and able to drum up just 66 net passing yards. However, Williams broke open a frighteningly tight game midway through the fourth quarter when he ran untouched for a 73-yard punt return touchdown, the third scoring runback of his career and the key play in Tampa Bay's 31-17 win.

At the time, Tampa Bay was nursing a tenuous 17-14 lead with roughly six minutes left in the game. When the Bucs' own fierce pass rush, which nearly matched Buffalo with six sacks, forced a three-and-out deep in Buffalo territory, Williams sealed the Bills' fate with his darting return to the left side after a brilliant 57-yard Chris Mohr punt. Mohr was the last man with a chance to stop Williams, but the Buc receiver left him standing flat-footed with a quick cut to the outside.

Not that the game was over at that point. On the next possession, the resilient Bills drove 70 yards for a field goal to bring the visitors within a touchdown of the tie once again. Buffalo's comeback hopes were improbably kept alive when QB Rob Johnson, just inches from hitting the ground on a Derrick Brooks sack, flipped the ball a yard into the surprised hands of RB Shawn Bryson.

Bryson cut and twisted through the Bucs' defense for 17 yards, then saw 26 yards of personal foul penalties tacked on the end. Tampa Bay's defense then stiffened at the Bucs' 11, however, and the Bills were forced to settle for Christie's 28-yard field goal.

Trailing 24-17 with two-and-a-half minutes left, Buffalo tried the onside kick but rookie S David Gibson recovered for the Buccaneers. Two plays later, RB Warrick Dunn broke into the clearing for a 39-yard touchdown that capped the scoring.

Dunn was magnificent in his first game without backfield mate Mike Alstott, who was out with a knee injury. Dunn recorded his first 100-yard rushing game since 1998, picking up 106 yards and two touchdowns on exactly 20 carries. It also was the Bucs' first 100-yard game of the season and the first allowed by Buffalo's third-ranked rushing defense this year.

Buffalo, which now owns a 7-5 record identical to the Buccaneers, has to settle for a moral victory in which they outgained Tampa Bay in total yardage, 433-180. The Bucs' bend-but-don't-break defense was led by an amazing performance by Brooks, who had 20 tackles, a forced fumble and one sack.

DT Warren Sapp had two of the Bucs' six sacks to give him 13.5 on the season, a new franchise record. DE Lee Roy Selmon had established the original mark of 13 way back in 1977. DE Marcus Jones, who also had one sack, has 12 on the season and should pass Selmon soon as well.

Together, those two pushed the team's season sack mark to 49, establishing another franchise mark. The Bucs' previous high was 44, set in 1997.

S John Lynch, who had suffered a left shoulder dislocation the Sunday before in Chicago, was a surprise presence in the starting lineup after a pregame workout was promising. After doctors assured the team that Lynch could play without a large risk of further injury, the Bucs' hard-hitting safety came on to record three tackles, including one in the Bills' backfield.

Williams was outstanding on returns all day, picking up 95 yards on three punt returns, while he and WR Reidel Anthony combined for 104 additional yards on three kickoff returns. On the special teams front, K Martin Gramatica hit a 45-yard field goal in the first quarter to give him 14 successful attempts. The team record is 16. Buffalo return man Chris Watson was limited to negative-three yards on four punt returns.

And, finally, the Bucs won the crucial turnover battle. For just the fourth time this season, Tampa Bay did not commit a turnover while Buffalo, which came into the game with a league-low 12 giveaways, coughed up the ball twice on fumbles in the Bucs' half of the field.

Tampa Bay led just 10-7 at halftime and neither team scored in the third quarter, but the fireworks started to fly early in the final period and didn't stop until the final gun.

RB Warrick Dunn capped a 10-play 70-yard drive three-and-a-half minutes into the fourth quarter with a hard-nosed six-yard touchdown run on third-and-one. The drive was preserved earlier in Buffalo territory by quick King slant passes to receivers Jacquez Green and Keyshawn Johnson, the first for 16 yards, the second for 12.

However, the Bucs' 10-point lead lasted all of two minutes and 42 seconds, the amount of time it took Johnson to drive the Bills 69 yards for a touchdown. Johnson finished the drive with a nice touch pass to WR Eric Moulds in the right edge of the end zone for a 19-yard score. That cut the Bucs' lead back to 17-14 with 8:56 remaining but, as described above, Tampa Bay was stronger down the stretch.

During the game, Buccaneers.com provided detailed reports of all the action following each quarter. Those reports, completely with a description of each play, follow below to offer a closer look at how the Bucs pulled out victory.

First Quarter

Tampa Bay finished the first quarter with a 3-0 lead, but Buffalo had possession of the momentum. While the Buc defense was able to record two sacks in the early going, the Bills did them two better by dropping QB Shaun King four times. The Bucs were about to punt from deep in their own zone when the quarter ended.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

After winning the coin toss and electing to receive, Tampa Bay sent RB Aaron Stecker deep for Steve Christie's kickoff. However, WR Karl Williams fielded Christie's low liner at the Bucs' 10 and knifed through the Bill's unit to the Bucs' 44 before he was dropped. Coincidentally and unfortunately, Stecker was hurt on the play, suffering a right knee sprain.

Without the services of FB Mike Alstott, the Buccaneers opened up in a three-wide receiver formation, adding Reidel Anthony to the mix. Under a heavy blitz on first down, King completed a short pass to TE Dave Moore on the left to pick up one yard. On second down, RB Warrick Dunn got a handoff up the middle, hit a big initial hole and dashed and darted for 20 yards to the Bills' 31.

On the next first down, Dunn got another handoff and picked up four yards behind left tackle. After his quick slant pass to WR Jacquez Green was a little too hot to handle, King took off on a scramble up the middle on third and six but couldn't quite reach the sticks. On fourth-and-one, K Martin Gramatica came on to nail a 45-yard field goal, his 14th consecutive successful attempt. Tampa Bay 3, Buffalo 0.

Buffalo's First Drive

Gramatica followed with a kickoff that was taken three yards deep in the end zone by Buffalo return man Chris Watson and returned to the Buffalo 21.

On first down, QB Rob Johnson dropped back to pass but was quickly located by the Buccaneer pass rush. Though Johnson escaped, his incomplete pass was compounded by an offensive pass-interference penalty when receiver Eric Moulds mistakenly thought Johnson was going to scramble and started blocking downfield too early.

On first-and-20, RB Shawn Bryson took a handoff up the middle but hit a pile of tacklers and got just two yards. Bryson found a seam on second down, however, and burst up the middle for 11 yards before he was stopped by S John Lynch. On third-and-seven, Johnson tried to pass but was almost immediately sacked by DT Warren Sapp for a loss of nine back to the Bills' 15.

Sapp's sack was the Bucs' 44th of the season, tying the team record.

Chris Mohr came on to punt and hung a nice 51-yarder to the Bucs' 34, but Williams again made Buffalo tacklers missing, returning the kick 13 yards to the Bucs' 47.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive

The Bucs stuck to the ground on drive number two, handing off to Dunn on first and second down. On his first carry, Dunn couldn't escape LB Keith Newman's grasp on his foot and was able to fall forward for just one yard. On second down, Dunn picked up three yards behind right guard. On third-and-six, King threw deep over the middle to Anthony, but the ball just went off his fingertips.

Mark Royals came on to punt and lifted a short kick that Buffalo gathered in at its own 16.

Buffalo's Second Drive

RB Antowain Smith blasted up the middle on first down to get the ball to the 20, a pickup of four yards. Smith tried to get around right tackle on second down, but a hustling Chidi Ahanotu grabbed him from behind, slowing Smith down long enough for the rest of the Buc defense to stop him for no gain. On third-and-six, Johnson threw a quick slant pass to WR Kwame Cavil, but WR Derrick Brooks stopped him a yard short of the first down.

Mohr came on to kick again and, this time, hit a much shorter kick, a 28-yarder that Williams fair caught at the Bucs' 47.

Tampa Bay's Third Drive

King tried to pass on first down this time, but he was quickly sacked by LB Sam Cowart and Ted Washington for a loss of seven. Cowart got to King again on second down, sacking him for a loss of eight more. On third-and-25, King was, stunningly, sacked for the third straight time. DE Marcellus Wiley got him this time for a loss of six more.

That pushed Royals back to the Bucs' 25, but he lofted a high kick that Watson caught at the Bills' 31. Watson was immediately tackled by S Dexter Jackson for no gain on the return.

Buffalo's Third Drive

With their best field position of the game to this point, the Bills got off to a nice start with Johnson's quick nine-yard pass to TE Jay Riemersma. On second-and-one, Smith tried to spin away from an initial hit in the backfield but ran directly into DE Marcus Jones for no gain. On third-and-one, Bryson took a carry around right end and just got around the corner for a pickup of two before S Damien Robinson ran him out of bounds.

After their initial first down of the game, Buffalo sent Johnson back to pass, but his throw down the left sideline for WR Peerless Price sailed over Price's head and out of bounds. Johnson then tried a quick slant on the right side to Moulds, but CB Donnie Abraham arrived just as the ball did to force an incompletion. On third-and-ten, however, Moulds caught a short pass on the left side and made a nice inside move to elude Buc tacklers and pick up 11 yards.

Bryson got the carry on first down from the Bucs' 47, but he gained just one yard before Brooks put him on the ground by himself. Brooks then broke up Johnson's attempt to scramble, coming up on the right side and slipping off a Ruben Brown block to drop Johnson for a two-yard loss. The Buccaneer pass rush got to Johnson quickly on third-and-11, forcing an incompletion over the middle.

Mohr's third punt was fair caught by Williams at the Bucs' 15.

Tampa Bay's Fourth Drive

With their worst field position of the first quarter, the Bucs went back to Dunn, but he was engulfed for no gain on first down. Dunn got two yards on a second down rush before King was sacked again by Cowart for a loss of eight back to the Bucs' nine. The quarter then ended.

Second Quarter

Each team scored one touchdown in the second quarter, which took the Bucs into the locker room at halftime with the same three-point lead they went into the period with. QB Shaun King scored the Bucs' only touchdown on a two-yard bootleg to put Tampa Bay up 13-10.

Buffalo's First Drive

After Mark Royals' 48-yard punt opened up the second quarter, with Chris Watson calling for a fair catch, the Bills opened at their own 43.

RB Antowain Smith got the call on first down but gained just two yards on a run up the middle. QB Rob Johnson escaped a near sack on second down and was able to dump a short pass off to Smith, who slipped one tackle and picked up seven yards. On third-and-one, Johnson faked a handoff and threw a 10-yard flare pass to TE Sheldon Jackson who was lined up as the fullback.

Johnson ran around the left end on second down to pick up six yards to the Bucs' 32. A quick slant to WR Eric Moulds on second down was good for 15 yards and a first down at the Bucs' 17. Smith then bashed up the middle for eight more yards to the Bucs' nine. Smith then picked up five more yards to set up a first-and-goal at the four.

Smith's next carry up the middle was tripped up quickly by LB Derrick Brooks for no gain. Johnson threw again to Jackson on the left side on second down, but Jackson dropped it at bout the four. On third down, Johnson went to the line of scrimmage but was forced to call a timeout. After the break, the Bills got into the end zone when Johnson scrambled right, waited for an opening and threw a pass into the back of the end zone for RB Jonathan Linton. Buffalo 7, Tampa Bay 3.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

WR Reidel Anthony took the resulting kickoff out to the Bucs' 28. On first down, RB Warrick Dunn snuck up the middle for three yards on a delayed handoff. QB Shaun King then fired a sharp pass to the left side into the hands of WR Jacquez Green for a gain of 10 yards and a first down.

This time, King faked the delayed handoff to Dunn and threw in Green's direction again, hitting him on an out pattern that picked up 14 yards to the Bills' 45. King faked a handoff again on the next snap but had to throw the ball away under pressure.

Dunn appeared to pick up four yards on a second-down run, but a holding penalty on center Jeff Christy set the Bucs back 10 yards to set up second-and-20. King threw the ball away under more intense pressure on second down, setting up a difficult third-and-20. After taking a timeout to discuss the situation, King tried to hang in the pocket to find an open man but was sacked by Marcellus Wiley for a loss of three yards.

Mark Royals' resulting punt was caught by Watson at the 20 but Watson was dropped at the Buffalo 16.

Buffalo's Second Drive

Smith took a carry up the middle on first down and picked up a healthy six yards to the 22. With his targets well-covered on second down, Johnson tried to scramble up the middle but was sacked by DE Marcus Jones for a loss of one. Johnson faced strong pressure on third down as well and, after scrambling almost to the right sideline, tried to throw across the field to TE Jay Riemersma, but the pass fell incomplete.

Chris Mohr came on to punt and lifted a high kick that WR Karl Williams fair caught at the Bucs' 46.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive

King came out throwing on first down, firing a quick 11-yard out to Green on first down. A quick pass to WR Keyshawn Johnson on the next snap picked up three yards, as Johnson was quickly tackled by safety Keion Carpenter.

On second down, King tried to go downfield to Green along the left sideline and, although the pass was incomplete, Carpenter was flagged for a personal foul after hitting Green in the head. That penalty gave the Bucs a first down at the Bills' 25, but King's pass on the next snap was batted down at the line of scrimmage.

King rolled right on second-and-ten and tried to zip one in to Johnson, but couldn't get it past tight Bills coverage. On third-and-ten, however, King converted and put the Bucs into scoring position with a beautiful touch pass to Dunn. Dunn caught the ball beyond covering LB Corey Moore and just stayed in bounds at the two-yard line for a gain of 23.

Buffalo then called a timeout, giving them time to consider whether or not to review the play. The Bills chose to challenge but the original ruling was upheld, giving the Bucs a first-and-goal. It took only one play from there for the Bucs to take the lead. King faked a handoff up the middle to RB Rabih Abdullah, then sprinted left on a bootleg. He originally tried to angle to the corner, but had to cut back inside to avoid a Bills' tackler. Tampa Bay 10, Buffalo 7.

Buffalo's Third Drive

Martin Gramatica lifted a high kickoff that RB Shawn Bryson took at the Bills' eight, and Abdullah made a nice foot tackle on Bryson to stop his progress at the 23.

On first down, Bryson bashed up the middle for five yards before LB Jamie Duncan stopped him. Johnson then found Moulds on a five-yard pass to move the sticks.

Johnson fired another pass to Moulds on the next snap, this one over the middle, and Moulds turned it upfield for a gain of 25 to the Bucs' 42. After the two-minute warning, Johnson took off right under pressure but was able to find Riemersma for an 11-yard pick-up.

On the next snap, Johnson tried another one in Riemersma's direction but it was incomplete at his feet. A second-down pass to Moulds picked up eight yards and, on third-and-two, Johnson found WR Peerless Price on the right side for another gain of eight.

Johnson then rushed the Bills up to spike the ball with 41 seconds left. On second-and-ten, Johnson threw a quick pass to Price over the middle, but Brooks hit him hard to stop the gain at four yards at the 11. DT Warren Sapp then burst up the middle on third down and enveloped Johnson for a sack of 13 yards. Steve Christie and the Bills' field goal unit had to rush onto the field with 10 minutes remaining, and Christie's 42-yarder sailed wide left.

Third Quarter

Neither team scored in the third quarter, which was fine with the Bucs' who took a 13-10 lead out of halftime. A turnover deep in the Bucs' zone prevented a tying or go-ahead score by the Bills, and Tampa Bay had driven into Buffalo territory when the quarter ended.

Buffalo's First Drive

Buffalo downed Martin Gramatica's original kickoff in the end zone, but the play was called back by an offsides penalty on the Bucs. On the replay, the Bucs trapped return man Chris Watson at the 27 and a Buffalo penalty moved the ball back to the 17.

The Bills started off on the ground, handing off to RB Antowain Smith, who went up the middle for two yards on first down and five on second down. On third-and-three, a patient Rob Johnson found TE Jay Riemersma in the left flat for a gain of 16 yards to the Buffalo 40.

The Bills, who had previously faked an end-around on several of Smith's earlier carries, this time actually gave it to WR Eric Moulds, and Moulds slashed up the left side for a gain of 20 before Damien Robinson leveled him at the Bucs' 40.

RB Shawn Bryson then tried a run up the middle, but he was stopped by Derrick Brooks and Anthony McFarland for no gain. Johnson's second down pass in Riemersma's direction was well off-target, and he threw the ball away under heavy pressure on third down.

Chris Mohr came in to punt the ball and hit it to the 16, where Karl Williams fielded the ball and returned it to the 19.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

RB Warrick Dunn took the ball up the middle on first down and surged into the pile for a gain of three yards. On second down, QB Shaun King was sacked for the sixth time in the game, with Ted Washington dropping him at the 15 for a loss of seven. After King's deep pass to WR Jacquez Green went out of bounds and incomplete, Mark Royals came on to punt.

Royals' long spiral kick was fielded at the Buffalo 36 by Watson, and when Watson tried to get around the coverage to the left, he was dropped at the 31 for a loss of five.

Buffalo's Second Drive

Johnson handed off to Smith on first down, but a blitzing John Lynch was ready, dropping Smith for a loss of two with a hard hit. DT Warren Sapp nearly leveled Johnson on second down, but Johnson got off a five-yard pass to WR Peerless Price just in time. On third-and-seven, the Bucs brought LB Derrick Brooks on a blitz and it hurt, as Johnson found TE Jay Riemersma wide open on the right side. Riemersma rumbled for a 35-yard gain down to the Bucs' 31.

On first down, Brooks provided a replay of Lynch's hit a moment ago by standing up Bryson in the backfield for a loss of four. Johnson threw incomplete (and nearly intercepted) on second down, but the Bills benefited from a roughing-the-passer call, getting a first down at the Bucs' 20.

After an illegal-substitution penalty on Buffalo backed the Bills up five yards and a false-start penalty moved them back five more, the Bills tried an out pass on the left side, but it was incomplete. On second-and-20, the exact same play worked this time, with Jeremy McDaniel catching an 11-yard pass. Controversy appeared to erupt on third down, but the final result was acceptable for the Buccaneers.

After WR Peerless Price caught a pass over the middle, CB Ronde Barber not only stopped his progress a yard short of the first down, but also forced a fumble that CB Brian Kelly. Kelly returned the ball to midfield, but the Bucs thought the officials were ruling Price down by contact.

In fact, the officials were ruling that the turnover stood but the return was invalidated because Kelly was down by contact. Tampa Bay tried to challenge that aspect of the play, but the officials said a whistle had been blown, thereby rendering the play unavailable to review.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive

After the turnover, with a drive starting at the Bucs' 12, Tampa Bay tried to pound with the running game, but Dunn got one yard on first down and none on second. On third-and-nine, King couldn't find an open man downfield, so he scrambled for three yards.

Royals next punt was wisely fair caught by Watson at the Bills 37 with cover man John McLaughlin bearing down.

Buffalo's Third Drive

Johnson passed quickly to Price in the right flat on first down, but Price was stopped by a Barber after a gain of just two. Johnson then ran right away from pressure from McFarland and picked up five yards. Johnson scrambled again on second down and appeared to dive for just enough to move the chains, but an official ruled that he had stepped out of bounds at the 45 for no gain. LB Alshermond Singleton applied the pressure that knocked him out of bounds.

Mohr's next punt went just 25 yards, where Williams fair caught it at the Bucs' 30.

Tampa Bay's Third Drive

Dunn knifed up the middle on first down for a gain of six. On second-and-four, Dunn got the ball again on a delayed handoff and was confronted by a congested middle, but he bounced it right and then back up the gut for a pickup of seven yards and a first down at the Bucs' 43. The pocket collapsed quickly on King on the next snap, but King stepped up towards the line of scrimmage and flipped a short pass to TE Dave Moore for a gain of 13 to the Bills' 44.

After Dunn slipped to the turf for no gain on the next handoff, the quarter came to an end.

Fourth Quarter

The Buccaneers and Bills combined for just 17 points through the first three quarters of today's game but combined for 31 more in the final period. Fortunately for Tampa Bay fans, 21 of those points came on three Buccaneer touchdowns as the home team escaped with a crucial 31-17 win.

Tampa Bay's First Drive

Beginning at the Bills' 44 with a second-and-ten, the Bucs quickly earned a new set of downs when QB Shaun King zipped a quick out pass to Jacquez Green for a 16-yard gain. After a Warrick Dunn run from the Buffalo 28 picked up just one yard, King found WR Keyshawn Johnson on the left side and Johnson shook off one tackler for a gain of 12 to the Bills' 15.

Dunn then got another handoff and he cut it behind a surging left side of the line, putting his head down for a gain of six. King faked a handoff on second down and threw to TE Dave Moore on the right side, but Moore was hit immediately by S Henry Jones and stopped one yard short of a first down.

On third-and-one, the Bucs put the ball back in Dunn's hands and the little back delivered, hopping over a tackler at the line of scrimmage and driving his feet to bull into the end zone. Tampa Bay 17, Buffalo 7.

Buffalo's First Drive

Return man Chris Watson took Martin Gramatica's kickoff at the Bills' five and made a nice return to the left side, picking up 26 yards to the 31.

The Bills got off to a rousing start when RB Shawn Bryson broke at least three tackles on the left side to pick up 15 yards. On first down from the Bucs' 46, Johnson scrambled up the middle to get three yards. Johnson scrambled left on the next play but dumped the ball off to TE Sheldon Jackson for a gain of five yards.

On third-and-two, Buffalo marched right into the Bucs' red zone as WR Peerless Price darted around the right side on an end-around and picked up 27 yards to the Bucs' 19. On the very next snap, Johnson hit WR Eric Moulds in the right edge of the end zone for a touchdown. Tampa Bay 17, Buffalo 14.

Tampa Bay's Second Drive

Steve Christie's first kickoff was downed in the end zone for a touchback, but an offsides penalty forced him to try again from five yards farther back. This time, WR Reidel Anthony fielded the kick at the Bucs' six and zipped straight up the middle for 45 yards all the way to the Bills' 49.

Dunn slashed off left tackle for a good pickup on first down, but the play was called back by a holding penalty. On the resulting first-and-20, King threw a pass to Green that was almost intercepted by Watson. The rebound on the play flew dangerously close to several other bills, but Dunn dove to knock it down. Dunn then ran up the middle for two yards on second down.

On third-and-18, King couldn't find an open man and tried to run up the middle, but he was sacked for the seventh time on the day for no gain. P Mark Royals followed with a 45-yard punt that Watson took at the Buffalo 10 and got back to the 16 before a nice diving tackle by LB Alshermond Singleton.

Buffalo's Second Drive

Johnson dropped back to pass on first down but was forced upward in the pocket and eventually sacked for no yards by DE Tyoka Jackson. The Buc pass rush collapsed quickly on Johnson again on second down, but he got away, scrambled left and threw incomplete on the left sideline. On third-and-ten, Johnson bought time again with another scramble, but his potential first-down pass to Moulds was high and just through Moulds' hands.

What followed next may have sealed Buffalo's fate. Mohr hit his best punt of the day, a tight, high spiral that drove Williams all the way back to the Bucs' 27. Williams fielded the ball and avoided the first Bills tackler, then darted towards the left sideline. From there, Williams ran untouched behind stellar blocking to come up to the final tackler, Mohr. Mohr was helpless when Williams cut suddenly to the left, and the Buc returner finished the play off for a 73-yard touchdown, the third punt-return score of his career. Tampa Bay 24, Buffalo 14.

Buffalo's Third Drive

Watson once again tried to cut back across the grain on the following kickoff return, and he was forced out of bounds at the 20 by CB Ronde Barber.

On first down, Johnson ran right away from pressure in the middle and went out of bounds at the 24 for a gain of four. The Bills tried to get a big play on a quick slant to Moulds on second down, but Barber tackled him at the 30. It was enough for a first down, however.

On second down, more pressure from the Bucs' defensive line caused Johnson to throw the ball away on the left side. Johnson then fired an impressive 16-yard pass on the right sideline to McDaniel. It was a first down at the Buffalo 46, but CB Brian Kelly made a heads-up play to grab onto McDaniel and keep him in bounds, with the clock moving.

On the next snap, Johnson hit a wide-open Moulds over the middle, but Moulds dropped it as the defenders closed in. LB Derrick Brooks appeared to have Johnson sacked for a big loss, but the quarterback somehow flipped the ball up to RB Shawn Bryson, who was standing next to him. Bryson rambled through the Bucs' defense for an amazing 17-yard gain to the Bucs' 37 before Brooks hit him at the end. Unfortunately, the hustling Brooks was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness. Another penalty was then called on Sapp when he went into the Bills' bench area during the ensuing argument. Johnson, by the way, was shaken up on the play and QB Doug Flutie came on to relieve.

The result was a first down for Buffalo at the Bucs' 11 with 3:14 remaining. On first down, Flutie failed to find an open man and ended up scrambling to the right before he was stopped by Brooks after a one-yard gain. Flutie's pass into the end zone on second down went directly into LB Jamie Duncan's hands, but Duncan dropped it.

Johnson returned for the third-down play, but Sapp and DT Anthony McFarland drove Johnson backwards, from where he could only throw a desperate incompletion. Christie followed with a 28-yard field goal to cut the lead to seven. Tampa Bay 24, Buffalo 17.

Tampa Bay's Third Drive

Buffalo then tried an onside kick, to eventually disastrous results for the Bills. S David Gibson fell on the ball at the Bucs' 39 to thwart that effort.

The Bucs, of course, chose to keep the ball on the ground, with RB Warrick Dunn gaining no yards up the middle on first down. On second down, Dunn again went up the middle, but this time he found a seam and bounced it outside, running the full distance to the end zone for his second touchdown of the game. Tampa Bay 31, Buffalo 17.

Buffalo's Fourth Drive

After Watson was swarmed over at the Bills' 18 on the following kickoff, Flutie came back onto the field for the Bills' next drive and immediately completed a 16-yard pass to WR Jeremy McDaniel. McDaniel went out of bounds at the Buffalo 34 to stop the clock.

Flutie's next pass, intended for WR Kwame Cavil deep on the right sideline, was well overthrown. Flutie threw to the exact same spot on second down, with S Dexter Jackson knocking it away this time, but an offsides penalty on the Bucs made it second and five. On that snap, Flutie rolled right and threw a deep but low pass that bounced off Cavil's chest.

Flutie appeared to have a first down on a short pass on third-and-five, but a penalty on Buffalo pushed the ball back 10 yards to make it third-and-15. Flutie found Moulds for most of the needed yardage, but Brooks stopped the receiver at the Bills' 43, one yard short of the sticks. On fourth-and-one, with 1:16 remaining, Flutie dropped back but took off up the middle on a designed run. Flutie was forced out of bounds at the Bucs' 48 for a first down.

Shelton Quarles broke up Flutie's next pass, which was deep over the middle to TE Jay Riemersma. Riemersma nearly made a circus catch on the next play, after Flutie scrambled right in front of a pursuing Sapp, but the ball fell incomplete. On third-and-ten, CB Donnie Abraham dove to break up a short post pass to Cavil. Down to their last gasp with 48 seconds remaining, Flutie kept the Bills alive with a laser pass over the middle to Price, which Price caught at his knees for a 17-yard gain to the Bucs' 31.

Flutie hit Riemersma deep downfield on the next pass, but another illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty on Buffalo erased the play and pushed the Bills back to the 41 with 34 seconds remaining. Riemersma did catch the next pass over the middle just past the sticks, but the tight end tried to do too much. His desperation pitch to a Bills receiver was recovered by S Dexter Jackson and returned to the Bucs' 36. One kneeldown by King ended the contest.

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