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Sapp revives season for himself and team

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on the verge of
elimination from the playoff race, needed some fire. Warren Sapp
obliged.

The Buccaneers upset the St. Louis Rams 24-17 Monday night as
the 300-pound defensive tackle, who had just three sacks coming
into the game, added two more against Kurt Warner, forced a fumble
and spent much of the game in the St. Louis backfield.

"I'm usually the firestarter here," Sapp said. "When I'm
having a good time, everybody feeds off me."

Mike Alstott ran for touchdowns of 7 and 8 yards, and Warrick
Dunn scored from 21 yards out early in the fourth quarter to break
a 17-all tie.

Two late interceptions sealed the win and kept the Bucs (5-5) in
the NFC playoff race. The loss dropped St. Louis (8-2) into a tie
for first in the NFC West with San Francisco.

"We all came in here with a purpose," Sapp said. "This is our
season. We got to beat the greatest show on earth to get it done."

But the win didn't come easy.

With 6:30 left, the Bucs had a fourth-and-inches at the St.
Louis 10 following a blocked punt by Ronde Barber. Instead of
trying a field goal that would have given them a 10-point lead,
they went for it and got the first down.

But three plays later, Brian Young intercepted Brad Johnson's
pass and the Rams reached the Bucs 42 before Donnie Abraham
intercepted Warner's fourth-down pass to quell that threat.

The Rams got the ball back with 2:35 left, but John Lynch
intercepted Warner's first pass to clinch it.

"You can't throw an interception in that situation," coach
Tony Dungy said. "Thank goodness for our defense. It got the ball
back for us two times."

The Rams, who beat Tampa Bay 11-6 here in the NFC title game two
seasons ago and lost 38-35 in Tampa last season, moved up and down
the field all night but managed just one TD. They fumbled three
times and took over the NFL lead in turnovers with 32.

"We just looked at what was realistic," Tampa Bay linebacker
Derrick Brooks said. "Realistic is that they score a lot of points
but they lead the league in turnovers."

Warner finished 19-of-39 for 291 yards and had three of the
turnovers -- the two interceptions and a fumble.

"We just made far too many mistakes today," Warner said.
"Everybody's got to quit making mistakes."

Last season, Sack had 16 1/2 sacks, and his 29 during the 1999 and
2000 seasons led the NFL over that period. He had struggled this
season with just three.

But on this night, he lived up to his reputation, even forcing
Frank Garcia, who had started at left guard for the injured Tom
Nutten, out of the game. Nutten, who had a sprained ankle, returned
in the third quarter and limped off again in the fourth.

"Tommy's played against Warren several times and had some
success," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "This was the first time
for Frank. So we made the change."

The Bucs led 10-9 at halftime although they were outgained
210-95.

Jeff Wilkins' 44-yard field goal on the opening drive gave the
Rams a 3-0 lead, but only after Warner threw three straight
incomplete passes, missing a wide-open Isaac Bruce in the end zone
on first down.

Alstott's 7-yard run 1:41 into the second quarter gave the Bucs
a 7-3 lead. It came at the end of a 54-yard drive that began when
Sapp recovered a fumble by Bruce.

Wilkins made it 7-6 with a 42-yard field goal 5 minutes before
halftime. But Tampa Bay got the three points back on Martin
Gramatica's 36-yarder after Sapp sacked Warner and forced a fumble
that Marcus Jones recovered at the St. Louis 22.

Wilkins returned the favor again with a 24-yarder on the final
play of the half.

Then the Bucs went 68 yards on 11 plays to open the second half,
with Alstott zigzagging in from 8 yards out to make it 17-9.

The Rams drove right back, 85 yards in 12 plays to score on a
1-yard fourth down pass from Warner to rookie tight end Brandon
Manumaleuna. Faulk then ran in for a 2-point conversion to tie the
game at 17.

Then Tampa Bay went 90 yards in 9 plays, with Dunn running it in
from 21 yards out.

"Nobody's happy about this, but that's life," Martz said. "We
don't have the time or opportunity to sit down and feel sorry for
ourselves."

Game notes
Warner has thrown 11 interceptions in his last four games.
... After a fumble by the Rams was overturned by replay early in
the second quarter, the officials had to check with the press box
to determine it was fourth down. ... Chidi Ahanotu, who played
eight seasons with Tampa Bay before being cut last spring and being
picked up by St. Louis, sacked Johnson on the Bucs' first play from
scrimmage. ... Manumaleuma's 1-yard TD catch for St. Louis was his
first NFL reception.

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