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Bucs clinch playoff berth with 11th win

DETROIT (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers tied several franchise
records for success and maintained a share of the NFL's best
record.

Question on the Bucs: Do you see them running the table by beating Pittsburgh and Chicago?
I expect them to beat the Bears. I'm not sure about the Steelers, but I still give the edge to the Bucs. That will be a huge game. Some observers predicted a Bucs-Steelers Super Bowl, and this game will have that type of atmosphere. As far as today's close call, good football teams win when they don't play well. Of course, you don't want to play that poorly with the playoffs approaching.

Question on the Lions: Right now, what's your take on coach Mornhinweg's future?
The Lions need better players, period. That's not Marty Mornhinweg's job -- that falls squarely on the shoulders of GM Matt Millen. Millen's decisions will determine the course the Lions take the next few years. On defense, the Lions can build around LB Chris Claiborne, and on offense around QB Joey Harrington. So now it's up to Millen to do the building.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Barely.

Martin Gramatica's 38-yard field goal with 3:04 left gave the
Buccaneers a 23-20 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday as an
expected blowout turned into a close battle.

Tampa Bay (11-3) clinched a playoff berth for the fourth
straight season and tied franchise records for wins and road
victories (five), but had to hold off numerous comeback attempts
from the lowly Lions (3-11).

The Bucs survived as Detroit's Jason Hanson was short on a
57-yard field goal with 1:51 left.

"It wasn't our best game, but I'm not disappointed about being
11-3,'' Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden said. "To win 11 games and tie
franchise records is something I'm going to enjoy, at least on the
flight home.''

The Buccaneers have won five of six, and Sunday's win, coupled
with losses by New Orleans and Atlanta, gave them at least a
two-game lead in the NFC South.

Quarterback Brad Johnson said Tampa Bay is still focused on the
ultimate goal of the Super Bowl, not records or individual
accolades.

"We have guys who have won some special awards, and some that
may make the Hall of Fame,'' Johnson said. "But we do not have one
player on this team that has won a Super Bowl. That's the job.''

The Lions have lost six straight.

"The players are devastated. Devastated,'' said Detroit coach
Marty Mornhinweg, who is 5-25 with the Lions. "There is no
consolation in losing a game, period. We had multiple chances to
come up with a play to win that football game.''

Detroit was without rookie quarterback Joey Harrington after its
first drive. He was taken to a hospital for tests and observation
with an irregular heartbeat.

Team doctor Kyle Anderson said Harrington's heartbeat returned
to a normal rhythm before he was hospitalized, but he was to stay
overnight at Henry Ford Hospital as a precaution.

Backup Mike McMahon created some excitement.

McMahon, benched for Harrington to start Week 3, was 10-of-21
for 158 yards, with one TD passing and one rushing, plus an
interception.

"I was able to make some plays, but it still wasn't enough,''
McMahon said. "When Joey comes back and is healthy, I'm sure Joey
will be the guy.''

Johnson was 24-of-41 for 253 yards without a TD or an
interception. Keyshawn Johnson caught six passes for 90 yards. Mike Alstott and Michael Pittman combined for 93 yards rushing and two
TDs.

Each time the Buccaneers went ahead, Detroit had an answer.

Tampa Bay took a 10-0 lead on its first two possessions, but
allowed the Lions to tie the game on McMahon's first two drives.

The Buccaneers had a 13-10 halftime lead, but watched McMahon
lead a game-tying drive on the first possession of the second half.

Tampa Bay's Shelton Quarles stopped a Detroit drive with an
interception early in the fourth quarter, then Pittman's 4-yard run
put the Bucs ahead 20-13. But they couldn't hold onto that lead,
either.

Rookie Eddie Drummond returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards to
Tampa Bay's 5, and McMahon scored on a 2-yard rollout to tie the
game for a third time.

After Gramatica's third field goal, Detroit drove to Tampa Bay's
39, but chose to kick on fourth-and-6. Hanson's previous-best kick
was from 56 yards.

Early on, it looked like the blowout many predicted.

Aaron Stecker took the opening kickoff to Detroit's 26, but the
Buccaneers settled for Gramatica's 20-yard field goal. They went
ahead 10-0 on a 12-play, 96-yard drive capped by Alstott's 1-yard
run.

Detroit also was without running back James Stewart because of
hip and toe injuries, but the trio of Aveion Cason, Rafael Cooper
and Cory Schlesinger combined for 143 yards rushing. Schroeder
caught four passes for 96 yards and a TD.

Game notes
Tampa Bay tied its team record for wins set in 1999,
and the record for road victories set in 1979 and 1997. ... Bucs DT
Anthony McFarland may miss the rest of the season with a broken
right foot, Gruden said. ... Drummond left the game with a
concussion after his 91-yard kick return. ... The Bucs are 19-9 in
December since 1996. ... Tampa Bay caused a turnover for an
NFL-best 39th straight game.

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