WR Keyshawn Johnson's first touchdown catch of the season, on his 93rd reception, couldn't have come at a better time
Five minutes to save the season.
Who do you go to?
Turns out wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson wasn't avoiding the end zone this season – he was merely saving his first touchdown for the perfect moment.
That moment came with 45 seconds remaining in Sunday's game at Raymond James Stadium between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions. As a wave of Detroit passrushers fell on Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson near the Lions' 20-yard line, the veteran passer heaved up a spiraling prayer to the left corner of the end zone.
Alone in that prime piece of real estate were Keyshawn Johnson and second-year CB Jimmy Wyrick, filling in for an injured Terry Fair. Both players leaped. Johnson leaped higher, got two hands on the ball, then secured the catch with his hands only, as he landed awkwardly on Wyrick, unable to pull the ball in to his chest.
After a successful two-point play and a fumble on the ensuing kickoff by Desmond Howard, the Bucs had a 15-12 victory and a three-game winning streak. That put the Bucs two games over .500 for the first time this season, at 7-5, and maintained their slim edge in the race for the final Wild Card spot.
"We seem to like making it interesting just about every week," said Head Coach Tony Dungy, who also marveled at the fight shown by a Detroit team that is now 0-12. "The thing you have to start out saying is that there was a lot of effort out there. That's what pulled us through in the end."
Johnson's stunning catch finished off an unforgettable, 80-yard drive that survived two fourth downs, an intentional-grounding penalty, a sack and a near interception. On the drive, Keyshawn Johnson caught four passes for 59 yards, capping the most historic day by a receiver in Bucs history.
Johnson finished with 10 receptions for 101 yards, but 100-yard days are nothing new to the sixth-year pass-catcher. More importantly, on his second catch of the game, Johnson went over 1,000 yards on the season, the first Bucs' receiver to do so since Mark Carrier had a team-record 1,422 in 1989. On Johnson's fourth catch, he surpassed Carrier's 1989 team-record of 86 catches. On his seventh grab, he established a new personal single-season high, passing his 89-catch campaign of 1999, with the New York Jets.
When it was all said and done, Johnson had an NFC-best 93 catches for 1,077 yards, plus a touchdown ball he will remember forever. Johnson is on pace for 124 receptions, which would break former Lion Herman Moore's NFL record of 123.
The heroics of Johnson and Johnson saved a game that was slowly slipping from the Bucs' grasp in the second half. Detroit kicker Jason Hanson, who had missed three field goals the week before in a three-point loss to Chicago, was perfect on four tries, three in the second half, including a 50-yarder. That long kick followed Brad Johnson's second interception of the day, snared by S Kurt Schulz.
None of Detroit's four scoring drives covered more than 56 yards, as the Lions took advantage of excellent field position, an average start of their own 35. They only penetrated the Bucs' red zone once, and netted just a field goal out of it, Hanson's fourth shot, which extended Detroit's lead to 12-7 with 12 minutes to play. By contrast, the Bucs drove 80 yards for one touchdown and 91 for the other. In fact, thanks to penalties, Tampa Bay picked up 90 yards of offense on the last march and 111 on their first-half touchdown.
FB Mike Alstott finished that initial scoring drive with a 24-yard touchdown run up the middle in the second quarter, running through CB Todd Lyght at the 10-yard line and then strolling into the end zone for his 48th career touchdown. It was the 38th rushing touchdown of Alstott's career, breaking a tie with James Wilder for first down on that Buccaneers all-time chart.
Alstott finished the game with 66 yards on 12 carries, plus four receptions for 34 yards, gaining exactly 100 total yards of offense. None were more important than the seven he picked up on a laser-like pass from Johnson on fourth-and-five from the Detroit 48 with three minutes to go. Nearly two game minutes later, Johnson and Johnson converted a second fourth-down with a 15-yard post over the middle.
Johnson was impressively accurate on that final drive, though less so throughout much of the day. He tied a season high with those two interceptions, but did complete 31 of 54 passes for 305 yards and the one touchdown.
The Bucs' defense, meanwhile, failed to get an interception for the first time this season, a testament to the heady play of rookie QB Mike McMahon, making his first career start in place of the injured Charlie Batch. McMahon took three sacks on the day but probably avoided another half dozen, and was able to complete 11 of 25 passes for 165 yards and no interceptions. Though his statistics were somewhat unimpressive, McMahon avoided turnovers and put the Lions in position to gain their first victory of the season.
The Bucs might not have needed their last-minute comeback if not for a surprising bit of clock mismanagement at the end of the first half. Tampa Bay drove 76 yards to the Lions three and had a first down with five seconds remaining. The team chose to run one play before trying a field goal, but failed to execute quickly enough. Instead of firing an immediate pass, Johnson checked down, scrambled left under pressure and was reduced to a desperation, left-handed heave as the half expired.
DT Warren Sapp led the Bucs on defense with six tackles and a sack, his sixth of the season and DE Simeon Rice also added his sixth sack plus a pair of passes batted down. The Lions were limited to 253 yards of offense, though they did get a 30th-ranked running attack going sufficiently to pick up 102 yards on 24 carries. RB James Stewart, who missed the first Bucs-Lions contest, picked up 78 yards on 15 carries.
During the contest, Buccaneers.com provided quarter-by-quarter reports on the action, complete with descriptions of all the key plays. Those reports follow to give a closer look at Tampa Bay's season-saving victory.
First Quarter Report