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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Spurred to Victory

Tampa Bay’s wounded but intense defense keys a 16-0 victory over the visiting Dallas Cowboys, who came into the game with a 5-1 record and a five-game winning streak


S Jermaine Phillips, part of the Bucs' revamped secondary, made his first career interception to set up a field goal

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers rebound like Ben Wallace. And, if Sunday's 16-0 victory over the Dallas Cowboys is any indication, they respond to a challenge like William Wallace.

For the third time this season and the seventh time in seven tries since Jon Gruden took over as head coach, the Buccaneers rebounded from a loss with a victory. As in Atlanta and Washington earlier this year, those victories have been dominating. The Bucs are now 4-3 after posting their second shutout of the season. Tampa Bay also blanked NFC East denizen Philadelphia, 17-0, in the season opener.

"You have to re-establish yourself every week," said Gruden. "We've proven that."

The most important rebound was made by the Bucs' defense. Despite playing with a revamped secondary that featured two second-year players, the Bucs held Dallas to 178 yards of offense, just over half of the 359 yards the NFL's fourth-ranked attack had averaged through six games. A week ago, Tampa Bay surrendered 458 yards of offense at San Francisco, its worst total allowed in 12 years. The Cowboys were the unfortunate victims of the Bucs' lingering anger from that afternoon.

"I'm very proud of our team," said Gruden. "A lot of contributors. Defensively we played very well and we made the plays when we needed them on offense. We just hung in there. We knew it was going to be a game of opportunity, and when opportunity knocked we were able to cash in."

S Jermaine Phillips, one of the Bucs' new secondary starters, set up the game's first score with an interception, but it was a sequence of plays early in the second half that brought back memories of Tampa Bay's usual defensive suffocation.

Two plays into Dallas' first drive, with the Bucs up 10-0, DT Warren Sapp beat his man off the line, losing his helmet in the process. That gave QB Quincy Carter a perfect view of Sapp's snarling face as he dropped him for a 10-yard sack. On second-and-20, big-play master Ronde Barber picked off a deep pass intended for WR Joey Galloway and returned it 24 yards to the Cowboys' 21. The Bucs netted a 26-yard field goal out of the turnover.

After that, all of the Bucs' usual defensive heroes began taking turns.

On Dallas' next possession, DE Simeon Rice tipped away a first-down pass at the line of scrimmage. LB Derrick Brooks made a second-down stop on FB Richie Anderson from his knees. After a successful third-down conversion, DT Chartric Darby pressured Carter into an incompletion, Brooks nearly picked off another pass and DE Ellis Wyms buried Carter for a five-yard sack.

With seven minutes left in the third quarter, it was all but over.

Ah, but the Bucs have thought that before. This time, they continued their pressure into the final minutes, finishing off their first home shutout since a 41-0 whitewash of Chicago on September 10, 2000. The above sequence was followed by Martin Gramatica's 50-yard field goal, a season long, giving Tampa Bay a 16-0 lead near the end of the third quarter. The Bucs then stopped Dallas near midfield on a gutsy fourth-down attempt. On the Cowboys' next drive, linebackers Ryan Nece and Nate Webster stopped FB Richie Anderson on a third-and-one run.

Impressively, the Bucs denied Dallas on all four third-and-one tries in the game, plus the aforementioned fourth-and-one. Those results were perhaps the best indicator of the defensive intensity with which the team played. All in all, the Bucs held Dallas to three conversions in 12 third-down attempts.

Brooks and Barber led the defensive charge with nine tackles and a pass defensed for the former and eight stops, one interception, two forced fumbles and one pass defensed. The Bucs sacked Carter four times, once each by Sapp, Wyms, Darby and DT Anthony McFarland. With the shutout on the line in the game's final minutes, Barber forced a fumble by RB Aveion Cason, with LB Shelton Quarles recovering.

The Bucs' offense was also held well below its usual totals by Dallas' top-ranked defense, but they made little attempt to go downfield after building a 16-0 lead. RB Michael Pittman finished the game with 113 yards on a season-high 30 carries, many of them into the teeth of the Cowboys' defense in the fourth quarter. QB Brad Johnson was efficient, hitting on 13 of 26 passes for 151 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, and he pulled out the big play on the few occasions the Bucs needed it.

WR Keenan McCardell led the team with six catches for 68 yards. WR Keyshawn Johnson caught just one pass, but it resulted in the game's only touchdown, a seven-yard sideline grab in the second quarter.

Neither team scored in the first quarter, and the Bucs had only four yards to show for the period, but Tampa Bay's offense got it rolling in the second quarter thanks to a turnover and a little bit of trickery.

The Bucs scored first on a 24-yard Gramatica that was set up by Phillips' first career interception. The Cowboys had spent much of the first quarter-and-a-half stubbornly trying to run the ball, a pattern they've often followed with a big passing play this season. When Carter finally went deep this time, Phillips, making just his third career start at free safety, ran in front of receiver Joey Galloway, picked off the pass and returned it 41 yards to the Cowboys' 24.

The Bucs couldn't get it in, settling for Gramatica's kick. They originally lined up to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the one before a false start penalty on Pittman moved the ball back five yards.

Seven minutes later, the Bucs finished their next drive in the end zone. Tampa Bay got deep into Dallas territory with a play the Cowboys have used to good effect this season, the flea-flicker. A handoff to Pittman and a pitch back to Johnson opened up the left sideline for a wide-open Ken Dilger, who hauled in a pass on the run and gained 48 yards. This time around, the scoring situation was reversed, as the Bucs lined up for a field goal before a Dallas penalty revived the drive.

On second-and-goal, Brad Johnson rolled right and found Keyshawn Johnson at the sideline for a seven-yard touchdown pass. CB Terence Newman originally covered K. Johnson perfectly on his release, but the receiver lost him momentarily with a fake back to the middle, buying just enough separation to make a sliding catch.

The Bucs led 10-0, and when they took that advantage into halftime, it marked the first time all season that the Cowboys had been held scoreless in the first half.

Barber had switched to left cornerback, where he may stay for the rest of the season in the Bucs' reorganized secondary. With CB Brian Kelly lost for the season and strong safety John Lynch out for the game with a shoulder injury, the Bucs used second-year man Tim Wansley at right cornerback, Phillips at free safety and Dwight Smith at strong safety. Smith has started at three different spots in seven games, also opening contests at free safety and cornerback.

Where Dallas had trouble establishing its running game, the Bucs succeeded. The Cowboys gained just 60 yards on 2 carries, averaging 2.7 per tote while Tampa Bay used Pittman's hard-pumping legs to pick up 128 yards on 35 carries.

The Bucs were also very effective on special teams, led by Gramatica's best day of the season. Gramatica, who had tried just two field goals in the last three weeks – long-shot 60 and 62-yarders against Indianapolis – hit on three of four three-pointers, including the 50-yarder. His lone miss came from 48 yards and was pulled a little to the left. He also put three of his five kickoffs into the end zone, forcing one touchback. Newly-signed CB Hank Poteat made three special teams tackles and the Bucs forced Dallas into an average drive start of their own 27.

The Bucs will play at home on consecutive weekends for the first time this season, welcoming the New Orleans Saints to town next Sunday.

Notes: The Buccaneer defense has extended its streak of consecutive games with at least one sack to 67, just one off the NFL record. That mark was set by the Dallas Cowboys from 1976-80. Today, it was Cowboy quarterback Quincy Carter on the receiving end of the sack, as he went down in the arms of DT Anthony McFarland in the second quarter. That was McFarland's first sack of the year, giving him 13.5 in his career … The Bucs also pushed their streak of consecutive games with at least one takeaway to 49 when Jermaine Phillips intercepted a Quincy Carter pass in the second quarter. That streak is the second longest in the NFL since 1983; the longest is Philadelphia's 71 from 1985-90. … WR Keyshawn Johnson moved into fourth place on the Bucs' all-time reception list with his first catch of the day, a seven-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Johnson moved out of a tie with former tight end Jimmie Giles (279) and finished the day with 280 catches as a Buccaneer … The Buccaneers still have not lost consecutive games since Jon Gruden took over as head coach in 2002. The Bucs are now 7-0 in games following a loss, including 3-0 this season. …Jon Gruden-coached teams are now 3-0 all-time against the Dallas Cowboys. Gruden twice led his Oakland Raiders to wins over Dallas, once in 1998 and once in 2001. … T Roman Oben, who played with a cast on his right hand after fracturing two bones in practice on Thursday, made his 100th NFL start on Sunday. Oben has also played in 103 consecutive games and has started all 23 of his games as a Buccaneer at left tackle. … Dallas won the game-opening coin flip. The Bucs are now 3-0 this season when losing the toss. … The 41-yard miss by Dallas K Billy Cundiff in the first quarter broke a streak of 12 consecutive successful attempts. ... With his third sack of the season, DT Warren Sapp pushed his career total to 75, just 3.5 behind the Bucs' all-time leader, Hall of Fame DE Lee Roy Selmon. … WR Keenan McCardell's 23-yard catch in the third quarter was his seventh of more than 20 yards this season. … The Bucs have now beaten Dallas three straight times, but that followed a six-game losing streak to open the all-time series.

Injury Updates: The Bucs reported only one injury during the game, as S Dwight Smith had to be taken to the locker room for treatment for cramps in the second half.

Quarter Reports: During Sunday'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

It was no particular surprise when the first quarter became a defensive struggle. Dallas held Tampa Bay to just four yards and no first downs while holding the ball on offense for 10 minutes. The Bucs, meanwhile, turned away three of four third-down tries, including two inspiring stops on third-and-one, and were rewarded when Dallas missed a field goal on the quarter's only scoring chance. Thus, the two teams went into the second period in a scoreless tie.

Dallas won the toss and elected to receive. Martin Gramatica started the game by sending his kickoff to the one, where it as caught by CB Derek Ross. Ross got the ball back to the 24 before he was upended by Tim Wansley's hard tackle.

The Cowboys opened the game with three receivers and Troy Hambrick alone in the backfield. Hambrick got two yards running up the middle, tackled by DE Greg Spires. FB Richie Anderson sidestepped a tackle on second down to get seven yards up the middle, setting up third-and-one. The Bucs responded with their first big defensive play of the game, as LB Derrick Brooks shot around right tackle and nailed Hambrick in the backfield for a loss of one. Toby Gowin's fourth-down punt was short, rolling to a stop at the Bucs' 35.

RB Michael Pittman got the ball on the Bucs' first two plays. He got three yards on first down and another three on second down, both on carries up the middle. A toss-sweep right to Pittman looked to have a shot at the first down before LB Dat Nguyen shot between blockers to grab the back from behind. The Bucs had to punt and Dallas got the ball back at their own 28.

Dallas started its second drive on the ground, too, but Hambrick got just two up the middle. The Cowboy's next run, a cunning misdirection, freed Hambrick up the middle and he got 15 yards to the Cowboys' 45. A more conventional misdirection on the next snap gained just one yard thanks to S Jermaine Phillips' stop. The game's first pass was a dumpoff over the middle to Anderson, which was met by an immediate Brooks tackle after a gain of five. The Bucs stopped another third down by closing on Anderson quickly after he caught a short pass from QB Quincy Carter, who had rolled out to his right. CB Tim Wansley caused Anderson to leap in the air with his flying tackle attempt, and LB Shelton Quarles met the fullback in mid-air to stop him a yard short.

Gowin's second punt was fair caught by Karl Williams at the Bucs' 15. Brad Johnson's first pass of the game was four-yard toss to Pittman over the middle, stopped quickly by Nguyen's tackle. Johnson threw behind WR Keenan McCardell on second down for an incompletion, and his third-down toss was tipped away at the line. Tom Tupa's low punt bounced out of bounds at the Dallas 37.

The Cowboys started their third straight drive with a run, but this time Anderson was stopped by DE Simeon Rice for no gain. On second down, Carter zipped a pass between several Buccaneer defenders to Galloway, who was hit by S Dwight Smith at the Bucs' 44. As the two fell to the ground, Smith appeared to wrestle the ball away from Galloway, but the referees ruled that the receiver was down before the ball changed possession. Bucs Head Coach Jon Gruden threw the red challenge flag but the play was upheld after review. The result was a Dallas first down in Buccaneer territory. The explanation was that 'joint possession' is not a reviewable play.

After the long break, the Bucs got good pressure on Carter on first down, forcing an underthrown ball that Galloway couldn't pick up. Hambrick's second down carry was met hard by Shelton Quarles and stopped for a gain of just one. On third-and-nine, Carter settled for a dumpoff to Anderson, who did the rest, breaking tackles to get 11 yards and a first down at the Bucs' 31.

Carter rolled right and completed a sideline pass to Glenn for five yards on first down. After Hambrick's four-yard run off left tackle, the Bucs' defense once again held on third-and-one. This time, CB Ronde Barber's blitz off the corner led a tackle on Hambrick for a loss of one. Billy Cundiff came on for a 41-yard field goal try and pushed it wide right.

The Bucs took over at their own 31 and went to the air. Johnson's first pass was a three-yarder over the middle to TE Ken Dilger, who made a leaping catch but was tackled immediately by Nguyen. His second pass was deep but incomplete in McCardell's direction, and he was sacked on third down for a loss of 10. Tom Tupa's resulting punt went out of bounds at the Cowboys' 29.

A run left by Hambrick gained nothing thanks to Smith and LB Ryan Nece, but it did bring the first quarter to an end.

Second Quarter Update

The Bucs turned the game around in the second quarter thanks to the game's first turnover and a successful trick play. Tampa Bay had gained just four yards of offense in the first quarter but went for 124 in the second period while building a 10-0 lead. Dallas was held to 26 yards of offense in the second quarter and just 100 in the first half.

Dallas started the second quarter with a second-and-10 at their own 29. The Cowboys ran the ball, with RB Troy Hambrick heading towards right tackle, but CB Ronde Barber came on a run-blitz and caught the back from behind for a loss of one. On third-and-11, QB Quincy Carter had an eternity to throw, but when he finally did his deep pass was picked off by S Jermaine Phillips just before it got to intended receiver Joey Galloway. Phillips returned his first career interception 41 yards to the Dallas 24.

A five-yard run by Michael Pittman up the middle put the Bucs into the red zone. Pittman got the call on second down as well and made two nice cuts plus a spin move to get all the way down to the Dallas four.

Pittman got a tough three yards on first down, but a false start penalty pushed the Bucs back to the six for second down. QB Brad Johnson tried to hit WR Keenan McCardell at the front, left edge of the end zone but the pass was incomplete. On third down, Johnson threw under pressure and McCardell made a dazzling catch near the goal line but was held out of the end zone by two Dallas tacklers. The Bucs originally lined up to go for it on fourth-and-goal, but a false start penalty pushed them back to the six and they settled for Martin Gramatica's 24-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

The Cowboys' next drive started at their own 28 but went backwards two yards when DT Anthony McFarland sacked a scrambling Carter on first down. After Richie Anderson's second-down carry got two yards on second down, the Bucs again got good pressure, forcing a short pass to WR Terry Glenn. Glenn was immediately stopped by CB Tim Wansley three yards short of the sticks.

After Toby Gowin's 51-yard punt and Wansley's eight-yard return, the Bucs started again at their own 22. Pittman got the carry on first down and spun off right guard for a gain of four. McCardell followed a short catch in the left flat with a spin move of his own, getting just enough for a first down at the Bucs' 33.

On the next play, the Bucs took a page out of the Cowboys' own 2003 playbook, running a successful flea-flicker. Johnson handed off to Pittman, who took a few steps forward than pitched back to the quarterback. Dilger was wide open along the left sideline and Johnson hit him stride for a 48-yard gain down to Dallas' 19.

The Bucs couldn't get it in from there, however. Pittman got one yard on first down and four sweeping left on second down. On third-and-five, Johnson scrambled forward and nearly hit McCardell cutting back to the middle. However, the pass was just off his fingertips. Fortunately, the Cowboys were flagged for running into the kicker on Gramatica's (successful) 32-yard field goal try, which gave the Bucs five yards and a first down at the nine.

Pittman got two yards running up the middle on first down. On second down, Johnson faked a handoff, rolled right and looked for Keyshawn Johnson in the end zone. Though the play was originally well-covered, K. Johnson worked his way open and B. Johnson found him at the sideline for a seven-yard touchdown. The Bucs took a 10-0 lead with four minutes to play in the first half.

Dallas started again at its own 26 and got six quick yards on a sideline pass to Galloway. After an incompletion, Carter scrambled up the middle for a gain of seven and a first down at the 39. Hambrick got three more on a first-down run up the gut, and Anderson jumped over a tackle for a gain of six, after measurement. On third-and-one, Carter ran a play-action pass to Anderson, but Barber reacted so quickly that he was able to tackle the back for a loss of two yards. Gowin then punted the ball into the end zone for a touchback.

The Bucs started at their own 20 and went to the ground to kill the clock, but when Pittman's second-down carry gained 10 yards and a first down, they changed their strategy and started a two-minute drill in the final minute. Johnson's first pass was incomplete stopping the clock with 33 seconds to play. His second pass, however, found WR Karl Williams over the middle for a first down at the Bucs' 46. Tampa Bay used their second timeout with 27 seconds left in the half.

A short pass to RB Aaron Stecker gained just five yards and necessitated use of the Bucs' final timeout with 20 seconds to play. CB Terence Newman broke up a second-down pass intended for K. Johnson. On third down, B. Johnson held the ball a tick too long and was sacked hard from behind by Eric Ogbogu. That play ended the half.

Third Quarter Update

The third quarter, like the second, belonged to the home team. Tampa Bay allowed just 36 yards of offense to the Cowboys' fourth-ranked attack and kept them out of Buccaneer territory completely. The Bucs also netted two field goals, one following the game's second turnover, thus taking a 16-0 lead into the final period.

The Bucs got the ball first in the second half, with RB Aaron Stecker taking the opening kickoff out to the Bucs' 27. RB Michael Pittman got six yards on a hard-charging run around left tackle, but Stecker's second-down carry was stopped after a gain of just one. On third-and-three from the 34, Pittman got behind LB Dexter Coakley for a long completion down the left sideline. However, offsetting penalties led to a replay of the down. QB Brad Johnson rolled right and had WR Karl Williams open, but threw the ball well over his head for an incompletion.

After a Buc punt, the Cowboys took over at their own 28, getting a quick 11 yards on a swing pass to FB Richie Anderson. However, DT Warren Sapp blew right past his man on the next play and, despite losing his helmet, sacked QB Quincy Carter for a loss of 10. On the very next snap, Carter tried to throw deep to WR Joey Galloway but CB Ronde Barber reacted quickly, cutting in front of the receiver for an interception, which he returned 24 yards to the Cowboys' 21.

Stecker got five yards sweeping right on first down and Pittman powered up the middle for six yards and a first down at the 10. Pittman got just two yards on first down, and Johnson's play-action and rollout on second down didn't fool Dallas, resulting in a throwaway. On third-and-goal from the eight, Johnson wanted Keenan McCardell in the back corner of the end zone but it was well-covered and thrown out of the back. Martin Gramatica followed with a 26-yard field goal that put the home team up, 13-0.

Starting at his own 21, Carter tried to throw a short pass to TE Dan Campbell, but DE Simeon Rice tipped it away. On second down, LB Derrick Brooks tripped as he filled his gap but still tackled Anderson after a gain of just two. However, the Cowboys sniffed out a Buc blitz on third-and-eight and Carter hit TE Jason Witten for a 15-yard gain to the 38.

DT Chartric Darby got quick pressure on Carter on the next first down, forcing a desperate pass to Anderson that was incomplete. Darby pressured Carter again on second down, and his pass was nearly intercepted by Brooks. On third-and-10, DE Ellis Wyms sprinted around left end and buried Carter for a five-yard sack. Carter also fumbled on the play, but Dallas recovered.

After Toby Gowin's punt went out of bounds at the Bucs' 28, Pittman got a tough four yards up the middle. On second down, WR Keenan McCardell got around CB Terence Newman and hauled in a 23-yard pass along the right sideline. From the Dallas 45, Pittman ran for three yards and FB Jameel Cook caught a three-yard outlet pass. On third-and-four, Johnson completed a nine-yard pass to McCardell despite Dallas being flagged for having 12 men on the field.

Pittman's next carry, off left tackle, gained nothing. On second down, Johnson's swing pass to Pittman was underthrown, which was fortunate since Newman nearly picked it off on a dead run. The Bucs tried to catch Dallas off guard with a pitch right to Stecker, but the Cowboys reacted quickly, Newman stopping Stecker for a loss of one. Gramatica came on to try a 50-yard field goal and nailed with room to spare. The Bucs thus took a 16-0 lead with two minutes to play in the third quarter.

Gramatica booted the ensuing kickoff out of the end zone for a touchback. Carter's first pass from the 20 was dropped by Hambrick after LB Ryan Nece's hit, but his second toss found WR Terry Glenn for a gain of 14. On the next snap, the Cowboys sent WR Antonio Bryant deep but CB Corey Ivy had perfect coverage and he broke it up. Wyms stopped RB Aveion Cason after a gain of just one, and Carter's scramble on third down came up a yard short thanks to Wyms' hard hit. Just before Dallas punted, the third-quarter clock expired.

Fourth Quarter Update

The Buccaneers finished off one of their most dominant defensive performances of the season with a fourth-quarter blanking of the Dallas Cowboys. That kept Tampa Bay's second shutout of the season intact, as they took home a 16-0 victory over the previously 5-1 Cowboys.

The fourth quarter began with one of the game's most crucial plays.

Dallas faced a fourth-and-one at their own 43 and, trailing by 16, felt they had to go for it. QB Quincy Carter faked a handoff and rolled right, looking at a run-pass option. However, CB Ronde Barber stayed in coverage on the receiver and LB Shelton Quarles steamed in to top Carter's progress. The quarterback settled for a difficult pass farther downfield to WR Joey Galloway and it was slightly off-target and incomplete.

The Bucs thus took over at the Dallas 43. Looking to drain the clock, they ran RB Michael Pittman into the teeth of the defense twice and he picked up two and four yards. On third-and-four, QB Brad Johnson was forced to throw an underneath pass to FB Jameel Cook and it was incomplete. Galloway fair caught Tom Tupa's punt at the Dallas 15.

Carter pump-faked left then threw a screen right to Richie Anderson on first down, a play that worked for five yards. A quick pass down the line of scrimmage to WR Terry Glenn picked up four yards, setting up third-and-one. For the fourth time in four tries, the Bucs stopped Dallas in that situation, as LBs Ryan Nece and Nate Webster combined to stone Anderson for no gain up the middle. The Cowboys punted and Tampa Bay regained possession at its own 40.

It was back to the ground for Pittman and the Bucs. His first two carries gained two and seven yards, setting up third-and-seven. Johnson dropped back to pass and looked deep, drawing coverage away from WR Keenan McCardell underneath and hitting McCardell for a gain of eight to the Cowboys' 45.

After a delay-of-game penalty, two cuts by Pittman helped a run pick up three yards. On second-and-12, Pittman lost the two yards back on a sweep as Dallas kept him from getting out of bounds. On third-and-14, WR Keenan McCardell sent CB Mario Edwards running in the wrong direction down the left sideline, stopping to catch a 16-yard pass down to the Dallas 33.

Pittman's next carry got just one yard, and Stecker's second-down tote picked up three. After an incompletion, Martin Gramatica came on to try a 48-yard field goal but he missed it to the left.

Dallas thus got possession at their own 38 and got to midfield on two short dumpoffs over the middle to Cason. Another screen to Cason came up big, as he broke through a wave of tacklers and got down to the Bucs 22 for a gain of 28. On second down, the Cowboys picked up a blitz but Carter held the ball so long that DT Chartric Darby was able to break through for a five-yard sack. On the next snap, Barber blitzed off the left edge and hit Cason in the backfield, forcing a fumble. Quarles recovered for the Bucs at their own 29 with four minutes to play.

Three runs by Pittman not only sent the clock down to the two-minute warning but also gained a first down, as his third carry was good for nine yards right up the middle.

After the break, Stecker got the next carry and got five yards thanks to a nifty cutback towards the middle on a sweep left. A pitch right to Stecker gained one yard and put the clock under one minute. A Pittman sweep gained 11 more yards and brought the game to an end.

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