Rice Makes Immediate Impact
Simeon Rice, the NFC Defensive Player of the Month in November, opened the new month with a flourish, dropping Aaron Brooks three times in the opening quarter to set a league record by registering at least two sacks in five consecutive games. Rice began the day leading the NFL with 11.5 sacks and he wasted little time imposing his will against LT Kyle Turley, one of the league's better offensive linemen. The Saints recovered a Brad Johnson fumble on Tampa Bay's opening possession, but Rice wrecked the subsequent drive with sacks on successive plays and John Carney was wide left on a 48-yard FG attempt. Rice, signed as a free agent from Arizona in 2001, was credited with another sack later in the quarter, stripping Brooks and forcing a safety. ``Since Simeon began fitting into our system midway through last year, he's been a very productive player,'' Bucs general manager Rich McKay said. ``His consistency is really impressive.''
Odds and ends
Tampa Bay inactives were DT Anthony McFarland, QB Rob Johnson, DE Ron Warner, WRs Charles Lee and Reggie Barlow, RB Darian Barnes, T Dan Goodspeed and CB Tim Wansley. Shaun King replaced Rob Johnson as the No. 2 QB. McFarland, downgraded from questionable to doubtful Thursday, still is recuperating from a fractured forearm suffered Oct. 27 and could return Sunday at home against the Falcons. RB Aaron Stecker hurt his right leg while fumbling a third-quarter kickoff. Tom Tupa boomed his longest punt since 1997, a 71-yarder that rolled dead at the 6-yard line late in the third quarter. The longest was a 74-yarder by Sean Landeta against the New York Jets on December 14, 1997.
Doug Williams, the head coach at Grambling, viewed the game from the Tampa Bay sidelines. Tampa Bay extended the NFL's longest current streak by notching at least one sack for the 56th consecutive game. The all-time mark of 68 consecutive games was set by the 1976-80 Dallas Cowboys. Martin Gramatica, who had never missed more than six FG attempts in a season, suffered his seventh miss as a 42-yard attempt late in the opening half ricocheted off the right goal post.
Though the Buccaneers chose not to participate in a voluntary throwback-uniform weekend, the team did acknowledge its early days on the sideline. All of the Bucs’ assistant coaches were wearing new, red sweatshirts bearing the words, ‘Buccaneers, Established 76.’