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TAMPA BAY 17, CLEVELAND 3

Alstott, Buccaneers Too Hot to Handle

October 14, 2002|From Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were up 10 points on a hot, muggy afternoon, making Sunday the ideal time to unleash Mike Alstott on a tiring Cleveland defense.

The five-time Pro Bowl fullback, frustrated by a diminished role in Coach Jon Gruden's offense, broke tackle after tackle in running for all but five of his 126 yards in the final 17 minutes of a 17-3 victory over the Browns.

"This was a good, hot day. They had been wearing down all day long," Buccaneer defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "Turn the 'Train' loose on them. Mike loves that type of environment because there ain't a lot of tackling going on. He can just bounce around, like a bowling ball."

The Buccaneers' defense extended its streak of consecutive games without allowing a touchdown to three. Sapp led the way, sacking Tim Couch twice and forcing the Cleveland quarterback to hurry numerous throws.

But as well as the defense played, the emergence of Alstott was just as important.

Alstott made the most of his opportunities after Gruden sensed the Browns were wearing down in the 85-degree heat. Alstott gained 83 of his yards in the fourth quarter.

"It was getting frustrating, I'm not going to lie. You just want to be a part of it," said Alstott, who ran a season-high 17 times.

Tampa Bay (5-1) won its fifth consecutive game to match the team's best start after six games. The Buccaneers also began 5-1 in 1979 and 1997.

The Browns (2-4) avoided a shutout with Phil Dawson's 50-yard field goal with 11:45 left.

Alstott, the first Tampa Bay runner to rush for 100 yards this season, accounted for all the yardage on a five-play, 55-yard drive, which he finished with a 17-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter.

"That's been their M.O.," Brown Coach Butch Davis said. "They get a lead and they just grind you and pound you."

The Buccaneers' defense hasn't given up a touchdown since the fourth quarter of a 26-14 victory over St. Louis on Sept. 23. The unit failed to score on its own for the first time in five games, but the offense didn't need the help, thanks to Alstott running at will in the second half.

Couch was 20 for 40 for 151 yards. He was sacked twice and intercepted once.

Brad Johnson was 15 for 32 for 194 yards and no interceptions for Tampa Bay.

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