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Bucs stumble to worst finish since '93

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Arizona Cardinals won their season
finale with defense. With Darnell Dockett just a rookie, many
similar games could be in sight.

The defensive tackle from Florida State had a sack,
interception, fumble recovery and pass deflection in the Cardinals'
12-7 victory over the mistake-plagued Tampa Bay Buccanneers on
Sunday.

"I want to give a special shout-out to Dockett," said Tampa
Bay defensive end Simeon Rice, a former Cardinal, "because he
definitely did his thing. Their D-line got down. You could see
they're going in the right direction."

Arizona coach Dennis Green called Dockett "an explosive ball of
barbed wire. He's very hard to block, very hard to keep out."

Dockett had his helmet ripped off just as he fumbled his
interception, and the turnover was negated by a facemask penalty.
But Dockett says he purposely keeps his chin strap unfastened so
his helmet comes off easily.

"My helmet comes off every game. That helps for marketing," he
joked. "I do that on purpose. The cheerleaders and the fans, they
think I'm cute, you know what I'm saying? I try to show the face
off a little bit."

Neil Rackers kicked four field goals and the Cardinals harassed
young Chris Simms all afternoon.

"Arizona was coming from everywhere," Buccanneers coach Jon
Gruden said. "That's a credit to them. Week 16 and they're going
to blitz you every play from different alignments."

Tampa Bay, plagued by injuries, lost its fourth in a row to
finish 5-11, its worst record since going 5-11 under Sam Wyche in
1993.

"We've missed short field goals. We've fumbled snaps. We've
fumbled with leads with two minutes left in games," Gruden said.
"I hope they all got it out of their system for this year, for the
next 100 years, I hope."

Four turnovers, one on a fumbled snap, loomed large on Sunday.

"It's been a tough season really for the whole team," said
Michael Pittman, whose fumble set up an Arizona field goal. "But
the effort was always there. It's just us finishing the games, and
eliminating turnovers. It's been the same story almost every time
we lose the ballgame."

The Cardinals (6-10) finished 5-3 at home in Green's first
season as coach.

"I don't think anybody in the world is more disappointed than
me that we're 6-10, but today I'm not disappointed. I feel like our
guys played hard and earned the victory," Green said.

Simms got his second NFL start in place of Brian Griese, out
with hip and foot injuries, and connected with rookie Michael
Clayton on a 75-yard touchdown play that briefly gave Tampa Bay a
7-6 lead in the third quarter.

Emmitt Smith, in perhaps his last game for the Cardinals, gained
69 yards on 23 carries. Afterward, he waved and bowed to all four
sides of Sun Devil Stadium.

"I tell you, if this is my last year here, it's been a heck of
a ride," he said. "If it's been my last year of playing football
period, it's been a heck of a ride."

Arizona looked to pad its 6-0 lead after Simms fumbled a snap
and Dockett recovered at the Tampa Bay 19 in the third quarter. But
a holding penalty on Anthony Clement pushed the Cardinals back, and
Rackers' 35-yard field goal try was wide left.

On the next play, Simms threw short to Clayton, who ran to the
end zone on a 75-yard scoring play to give Tampa Bay its first
lead, 7-6, late in the third quarter.

The Cardinals then mounted their longest drive, 56 yards in 10
plays. Josh McCown threw 12 yards to Anquan Boldin and 16 to Larry
Fitzgerald, and Rackers' 39-yard field goal put Arizona ahead 9-7
with 11:07 to play.

Pittman fumbled and Duane Starks recovered at the Tampa Bay 14
to set up Rackers' 31-yard field goal that boosted the lead to 12-7
with 6:12 to go.

Rackers' second field goal, for a 6-0 lead, followed a bizarre
play in the final minute of the first half.

McCown's bad pass under pressure was intercepted by Dwight Smith
with 1:46 to go. Simms drove the team to the Arizona 24. But he was
hit as he threw by Karlos Dansby, and the ball popped into the air.
Dockett intercepted it and rambled downfield. His helmet was ripped
off by Kenyatta Walker, then he fumbled the ball some 35 yards
downfield, where it was recovered by Pittman at the 16.

However, Walker was called for a facemask penalty, and Arizona
was awarded the ball at the Tampa Bay 39 with 43 seconds left in
the half.

Game notes
Arizona was without starting left tackle Leonard Davis,
out with a knee injury. ... The Buccanneers were outscored 34-6 in
the fourth quarter of their last three games. ... Gruden ripped
Simms for fumbling the snap. "I just will not allow that kind of
play," he said.

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