Playing with a sense of urgency lacking for much of the season,
the defending Super Bowl champions revived their playoff hopes
Monday night with a 19-13 victory over the New York Giants.
Brad Johnson threw for 269 yards and one touchdown, helping the
Bucs (5-6) stop a three-game losing streak in their first outing
since Keyshawn Johnson was deactivated for the remainder of the
season because of differences with coach Jon Gruden.
"So far, so good," said Gruden, who decided last week that
Keyshawn Johnson's desire to leave Tampa after this season had
become a distraction he and general manager Rich McKay could no
"I think our team responded on the practice field all week,"
the coach added. "We've got a chance to get back to .500 next
week. We'll see what happens."
Charles Lee, one of the receivers getting more playing time
because of Keyshawn Johnson's absence, scored on a 53-yard
reception. Thomas Jones scored on a 1-yard run, and Martin
Gramatica finished a long second-half drive with a 21-yard field
Tampa Bay's defense, redeeming itself after yielding winning
drives the previous three weeks, forced four turnovers by Kerry
Collins and sacked the Giants' quarterback three times. John
Lynch's interception with under four minutes helped ensure the
"I made a couple of stupid throws, and it ended up hurting us
at the end," Collins said.
Matt Bryant kicked a pair of 30-yard field goals for New York,
which trimmed a 17-6 deficit to four points when Frank Walker
intercepted a pass intended for Joe Jurevicius and returned it 56
yards for a touchdown with 12:42 remaining in the fourth quarter.
But instead of wilting down the stretch, as they did in falling
to New Orleans, Carolina and Green Bay during the three-game losing
streak, the Bucs held on this time. The Giants took an intentional
safety with 1:57 to go, then failed to recover an onside kick.
"It felt good to close someone out," Lynch said.
The loss was the sixth in eight games for New York (4-7), which
watched its playoff prospects all but disappear with five games
remaining. Still, coach Jim Fassel hasn't abandoned hope of
salvaging the season.
"I'm fully confident they'll come out and fight and play
hard," Fassel said. "We've just got to eliminate the things that
are costing us the games."
The Giants, much like the Bucs, have hurt themselves with
turnovers and costly penalties all year.
Collins' fumble spoiled a promising drive in the first quarter
and Tampa Bay would not have scored its first touchdown without
help from three penalties on the New York defense, which was
flagged for grabbing Brad Johnson's facemask twice.
The costliest of the penalties was a facemask call on Keith
Hamilton, which wiped out a third-down sack that would have forced
Tampa Bay to settle for a field goal. Instead, the drive gained new
life with a first down at the Giants 3.
Jones scored three plays later from the 1 for a 7-0 lead. Three
minutes later, Lee's TD reception made it 14-3.
New York wasted a scoring opportunity when Simeon Rice sacked
Collins, forcing a fumble on the last play of the first half.
Another march inside the Tampa Bay 20 produced Bryant's 30-yard
field goal, making it 14-6 early in the third quarter.
Collins completed 18 of 34 passes for 160 yards and was
intercepted twice. The Bucs, meanwhile, played their best run
defense in a month, limiting Tiki Barber to 55 yards on 13 carries.
"I thought we kept him in check. No huge runs," said Ronde
Barber, Tiki's twin brother. "We respect him. We knew we had to
Brad Johnson finished 22-for-32 with one interception. Keenan
McCardell had nine receptions for 83 yards, and Lee had five
catches for 91 yards. Jurevicius, who moved into Keyshawn Johnson's
starting spot, had three receptions for 43 yards.
Barber is 27 yards shy of his third career 1,000-yard
season. ... Warren Sapp had two of Tampa Bay's three sacks, moving
within two of breaking Lee Roy Selmon's team career record of 78
1-2. ... Bucs safety Dwight Smith had an end zone interception and
also broke up what would have been a TD pass to Amani Toomer with a
hit that knocked off the receiver's helmet.