Bucs steal play from Ravens' book in win

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2001

TAMPA, Fla. -- 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 title.

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.

Elvis Grbac threw two interceptions and was sacked five times, while Tampa Bay set up one of Doug Brien's three first-half field goals with a blocked punt.

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 minutes left.

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 game.

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.

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