S John Lynch had one of the Bucs' two sacks on Sunday against Pittsburgh
At 2-3, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will spend the coming weeks trying to right the ship and get back into the thick of the playoff race. The particulars of the game that dropped them a notch below .500, Sunday's 17-10 loss to Pittsburgh, will soon be irrelevant.
Yet there were inspiring moments from Sunday's game that should get at least passing attention before the focus shifts to the Minnesota Vikings. Among the encouraging aspects of the narrow loss were a turnover-minded secondary, a receiver catching everything in sight and a sack streak still intact.
Following are postgame notes from Sunday's game against Pittsburgh:
Filling the Void
With starting FS Dexter Jackson sidelined with a right thigh contusion, the rest of the secondary picked up the slack. CB Ronde Barber made an impact on the first series of the game, picking off QB Kordell Stewart for his second interception of the year, and then notched his career-best second INT of the game late in the third quarter (Barber also recovered a fumble). The Bucs defense has now grabbed at least one interception in each of the last nine regular season games and boasts an NFC-best 10 picks this year. Rookie John Howell made his first career start in Jackson's place and finished with a team-high 13 tackles, and S John Lynch sacked Stewart in the second quarter.
Key to the Offense
WR Keyshawn Johnson had another big day, surpassing the 100-yard receiving mark for the second straight week. Johnson, who caught a season-high 10 passes for 159 yards, became the first Buccaneer to record back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since Mark Carrier in 1989. Carrier's numbers: 4-131 at Detroit (12/17/89) and 6-101 vs. Pittsburgh (12/24/89). Johnson now owns 13 career 100-yard receiving games (including one in the postseason), including five with Tampa Bay. He has registered 41 catches for 548 yards in the first five games. The Pro Bowl receiver has now caught six or more passes in each of the last eight games dating back to last season, including the playoff game at Philadelphia. Johnson reeled in six catches for 95 yards in the first half.
Forcing the Issue
The Bucs defense continued its trend of forcing turnovers, taking the ball away from the Steelers three times. Tampa Bay intercepted Stewart twice and also recovered a Pittsburgh fumble. The defense has now forced 12 turnovers through five games, including 10 interceptions.
Home Streak Comes to an End
Today's loss ends Tampa Bay's home winning streak at six. The Buccaneers are 20-6 at home since 1998, and also boast one home playoff victory during that span. Tampa Bay's 14-4 home record since the start of the 1999 season ranks fourth-best in the NFL.
WR Frank Murphy scored his first career TD late in the fourth quarter… DT Anthony McFarland notched his second sack of the year, tied for the team lead with DE Marcus Jones, in the third quarter… Tampa Bay has now recorded at least one sack in 33 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL…The last time the Bucs failed to notch at least one sack was at Minnesota on October 3, 1999 in a 21-14 loss… The longest streak in the NFL prior to the Bucs' current run was by the Denver Broncos from 1995-98, a span of 50 consecutive games… Tampa Bay's field goal drive on its second possession spanned 81 yards in 14 plays, the longest FG drive by the team this season… K Martin Gramatica's 31-yard field goal was the 60th three-pointer of his career… Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis became the first back to rush for 100 yards or more against Tampa Bay since Detroit's James Stewart (10/19/00 – 116 yards).
Brooks Receives Honor
In a special pregame ceremony, the Florida Sports Awards presented Buccaneers LB Derrick Brooks with the Professional Football Player of the Year Jasper he received in June. Sports writers from across the state selected Brooks as the top professional football player for his performance in 2000.