Gibson Provides A Boost
Buc inactives were WRs Keyshawn Johnson and Marvin Minnis, TEs Roland Williams and Will Heller, S Travaris Robinson, C Austin King, G Sean Mahan and QB Chris Simms. Included among the Saints inactives were WR Donte Stallworth and DE Willie Whitehead, who had three sacks at Tampa last month. |
In recovering three fumbles by QB Aaron Brooks, the Bucs extended their streak to 54 consecutive games with at least one takeaway.
Brooks completed his first nine passes, and the Saints rolled up 117 yards in the opening quarter.
New Orleans coach Jim Haslett is 3-10 in the final four games of a regular season since being hired in 2000.
Simeon Rice needs two sacks to break Sapp's single-season franchise mark of 16.5, set in the 2000 season. Since being signed as a free agent in 2001, Rice has 44.5 sacks in his past 38 games, including the postseason. ``Simeon Rice led us like a beast [Sunday],'' Sapp said.
Brad Johnson tied the Buccaneers’ all-time single-season record for touchdown passes, which he set last year at 22. Johnson, who has thrown at least one TD pass 12 of the Bucs’ 13 games this season, has three games remaining to break his own mark. Johnson also moved into fourth place on Tampa Bay’s career passing-yardage list, moving past Steve DeBerg (9,439) and finishing the day with 9587. Johnson is the first passer in Buccaneer history to record three consecutive 3,000-yard seasons.
David Gibson stuck his left hand in the air Sunday and breathed some life into Tampa Bay's erratic special teams play. Gibson's block of a Mitch Berger punt set up the go-ahead score and capped a frantic final two minutes of the opening half as Tampa Bay snapped a three- game losing streak to New Orleans with a 14-7 triumph. ``I lined up at end and used an inside rush,'' said Gibson, a reserve defensive back signed Oct. 29 for his second stint as a Buc. ``My guy didn't block me very well, and I got a hand on it. Good thing I'm left-handed. We felt like we needed to make a play on special teams.''
Tom Tupa continued his outstanding year, averaging 52 yards on five kicks, but there were several anguishing breakdowns for special teams coach Rich Bisaccia. Martin Gramatica was wide right on a 44-yard field goal try, and Tebucky Jones blocked a 35-yard attempt that could have staked the Bucs to a 10-point lead with 2:14 remaining. Gramatica is 5-for-14 on field goal attempts from 30 yards and beyond this season. Pro Bowl KR Michael Lewis brought a punt back 27 yards for New Orleans and added a 49-yard kickoff return. ``Gibson did a great job coming free in our base package,'' Bisaccia said. ``Our coverage units were up and down, but Lewis is one of the best in the league. I'm sure Martin is down a little right now, but everything tastes better with a win.''
Up in lights
Gibson's blocked punt, the first by a Buc since Todd Yoder against Baltimore two years ago, led to a Warren Sapp scoring catch. Sapp's second touchdown reception of the season came from a yard out and closed the scoring 12 seconds before intermission. The veteran defensive tackle lined up on the right side and broke free toward the right corner but had to adjust to Brad Johnson's high flip. ``I lost the ball in the lights,'' said Sapp, who made a difficult, juggling catch. ``I was on auto pilot. I learned long ago that once the ball hits your hands, you've got to catch it.''
Sapp also was part of a swarming defensive contingent that limited Deuce McAllister to 69 yards in 22 carries. ``Everybody was in his gap,'' said Sapp, who suffered a left foot sprain but declared himself fit for Sunday's home game against Houston. ``It takes all 11 of us to get a guy like McAllister on the ground, and as a defense, we were not going to be denied.''
Besides Sapp, S John Lynch suffered a right shoulder stinger, TE Ken Dilger had a hip strain, and Gibson sprained his left ankle. Lynch was not going to return in the second half, but Gibson's injury further decimated a thin unit. ``John Lynch is a warrior,'' linebackers coach Joe Barry said. ``You cannot keep that guy out of a game unless you take his helmet and his cleats.''
Playing for pride
Four losses within a five-game span likely wrecked Tampa Bay's playoff hopes, but the Bucs played like they had something to prove against the Saints. ``We're the world champions, and people wanted to see if we were going to come out and lay down - we're not,'' said WR Keenan McCardell, who caught six passes for 85 yards, including third-down receptions of 11 and 35 yards down the stretch. ``Jon Gruden told us a story about how Santa's sleigh runs on spirit. Coach told us to play with spirit.''