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TAMPA BAY 21, GREEN BAY 7

Buccaneer Defense Shuts Down Favre

November 25, 2002|From Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers left no doubt about who has the NFL's best defense.

The Buccaneers beat the Packers, 21-7, in a meeting Sunday of the teams with the NFL's best records. The superb effort by Tampa Bay was overshadowed by an ugly exchange between Packer Coach Mike Sherman and Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp as they walked off the field.

Tampa Bay intercepted Brett Favre four times and Brad Johnson threw two second-half touchdown passes as the Buccaneers (9-2) won for the first time this season over a team with a winning record at the time it lost to Tampa Bay.

Favre was sacked three times, including the game's last play, and had little success after taking advantage of Tampa Bay's only turnover to give the Packers (8-3) a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

The Buccaneers are off to their best start ever and thrust themselves into position to make a run for home-field advantage in the playoffs, which would be important for a franchise that has never won a postseason game on the road.

"We realized what was at stake and realized it was another brick in the road to the Super Bowl that has to come through Tampa," Sapp said. "Next week we can put a couple more bricks in there."

Johnson returned from being poked in the right eye to throw touchdown passes of four yards to Joe Jurevicius and three yards to Ken Dilger. Martin Gramatica kicked field goals of 38 and 51 yards for the Buccaneers, who trailed 7-3 at the half.

Brian Kelly had two interceptions, setting up Tampa Bay's first touchdown and stopping another drive deep in Buccaneer territory with Favre working feverishly to try to wipe out a two-touchdown deficit in the last five minutes.

Ronde Barber stepped in front of a slant pass intended for Terry Glenn to turn back another threat and Dexter Jackson's interception and 58-yard return to the Green Bay five led to Johnson's touchdown pass to Dilger.

Favre, whose record is 0-5 at Raymond James Stadium, completed 20 of 38 passes for 196 yards.

Johnson was 15 of 25 for 134 yards, with no interceptions.

Favre's four-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver was his 20th, giving him nine consecutive seasons with 20 or more -- one shy of the NFL record set by Dan Marino from 1983-92. Linebacker Na'il Diggs set up the score with his 29-yard return of an interception that glanced off Keyshawn Johnson after Tampa Bay had moved from its 20 to the Green Bay 33.

Brad Johnson missed most of the opening quarter after being poked in the eye. Rob Johnson replaced him a little more than five minutes into the game and threw the pass that Diggs picked off three plays later.

The Packers also sacked Rob Johnson twice to stop another promising drive and Brad Johnson re-entered the game after Tampa Bay's backup was unable to move the ball on the Buccaneers' first possession in the second quarter.

Tampa Bay's defense, which has only given up five touchdown passes all season, gave up little after Favre took advantage of the Buccaneers' only turnover. The Packers were held to 28 yards in the second quarter and went three-and-out on four straight possessions during a stretch of the second and third quarters while Green Bay's lead was being trimmed to 7-6.

The Buccaneers went ahead when Coach Jon Gruden successfully challenged a ruling that Jurevicius didn't get both feet down in the end zone on his touchdown catch. Replays showed that the receiver got his right foot down after catching the ball, then managed to tap his left foot before going out of bounds.

Favre is 14-6 with 34 touchdown passes during his career against Tampa Bay.

But he has also thrown 19 interceptions against the Buccaneers, who lead the NFL this season with 25.

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