TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers virtually assured
themselves a playoff berth with a victory that shows how dangerous
they could be in the postseason.
The Bucs beat the Baltimore Ravens 22-10 Saturday night, using
the same formula -- stifling defense and opportunistic offense --
that carried the defending Super Bowl champions to last year's
The victory moved Tampa Bay (9-6) to the brink of its fourth
playoff berth in five years. The Bucs, who have won five of six
after a 4-5 start, will clinch the final NFC wild-card spot if
Atlanta loses or ties at Miami on Sunday.
Even if Atlanta wins its last two games, the Falcons would have
to have Tampa Bay lose its finale against Philadelphia and also
make up a 79-point tiebreaker differential.
Warren Sapp doesn't expect that to happen.
"This team is in the playoffs and we expect to do some damage
because every team up there, we can play with," the All-Pro
defensive tackle said. "Our backs were against the wall and we
came out and performed like playoff teams do in December."
For the Ravens (9-6), it was a disappointing return to the site
of their dominating Super Bowl victory.
Baltimore could have grabbed one of the AFC wild-card berths
with a victory, but will still clinch this weekend if Seattle loses
or ties at San Diego.
"As long as we still have a shot at the playoffs, we move on to
the next game. That or you crawl into a fetal position and call for
your mother and all those other things that you want to do. But you
don't give in to that impulse," Ravens coach Brian Billick said.
"We still have an important game to play to get us in the
playoffs. Then the whole world reopens to you. That's what we have
to focus on."
Brad Johnson's 1-yard sneak for Tampa Bay's first touchdown put
the Bucs up 16-7 late in the second quarter. It proved to be the
difference. Mike Alstott put the game out of reach with less than 2
Johnson only completed 13 of 29 passes for 90 yards, however
Tampa Bay didn't allow a sack or commit a turnover for the second
straight week and controlled field position with a solid kicking
Grbac, who completed 21 of 37 passes for 205 yards, threw a
14-yard touchdown pass to Travis Taylor to give Baltimore a 7-3
lead in the second quarter. Matt Stover's 24-yard field goal
trimmed a nine-point halftime deficit to 16-10 with 13:26 remaining
in the game.
Baltimore has come from behind in the fourth quarter to win four
games this season, however Grbac's hopes of leading another
comeback ended when the Ravens were stopped on downs at their own
32 with just under 2 minutes to go.
Two plays later, Alstott scored on a 32-yard run to finish with
80 yards on 14 carries. Warrick Dunn gained 47 on 13 attempts as
the Bucs ran for 124 yards.
With Tony Siragusa missing from the middle of the defensive line
last week, Cincinnati's Corey Dillon ran for 127 yards to snap the
Ravens' streak of not allowing a 100-yard rushing performance at 50
Despite being listed on the injury report as questionable,
Siragusa started and Tampa Bay, next-to-last in the league in
rushing, had little success on the ground until late in the game.
The Bucs led 16-7 at the half, but wasted numerous opportunities
to push the Ravens into a deeper hole.
Tampa Bay began five possessions in Baltimore territory, yet was
only able to convert the field position into two field goals and
the touchdown that Brooks set up with his interception and 53-yard
return to the Ravens 1.
Brien, meanwhile, was a reliable stand-in for Martin Gramatica,
who strained his right hamstring last week. Brien made field goals
of 42, 38 and 24 yards in the first half, the latter putting the
Bucs ahead for good after Todd Yoder blocked Kyle Richardson's punt
and Rabih Abdullah scooped up the loose ball and stumbled ahead to
the Baltimore 23.
"It's a tough loss," Billick said. "In a playoff atmosphere,
you can't make mistakes like that."
The Ravens vowed to bounce back.
"You go out and play the next week. There's no magic potion,"
Siragusa said. "You've just got to go out and make your own
The Bucs also beat defending Super Bowl champions at home
the past two seasons, defeating Denver in 1999 and St. Louis last
season ... Ronde Barber had one of Tampa Bay's two interceptions,
giving him a franchise-record 10 this season ... Terry Allen rushed
for 74 yards on 20 carries for the Ravens.
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