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TAMPA BAY 31, ATLANTA 10

Buccaneers Get Back on Track

September 22, 2003|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — Warren Sapp, the 303-pound defensive tackle, scored the first offensive touchdown of his career on a six-yard pass play, and the defending Super Bowl champions bounced back from an embarrassing loss and routed the Atlanta Falcons, 31-10, on Sunday.

The Buccaneers (2-1) were clearly perturbed by the way they lost to Carolina a week earlier, getting two field goals and an extra point blocked before falling, 12-9, in overtime.

Tampa Bay took out its frustration on the hapless Falcons (1-2), who failed for the second week in a row to give Dan Reeves his 200th coaching victory.

"We felt like we let the team down last week, so we wanted to bounce back," said Buccaneer safety Dwight Smith, who had two of the three interceptions thrown by Falcon quarterback Doug Johnson.

Michael Vick watched from the sideline, but it's highly doubtful the injured Atlanta quarterback would have made much of a difference against a Tampa Bay defense that wasn't going to let this one get away.

On the other hand, he couldn't have looked any worse. Johnson was unsure of what the defense was doing, often double- and triple-pumping before releasing the ball. The result was two interceptions thrown right to Smith and another to John Lynch.

The Falcons managed only 29 yards rushing. Warrick Dunn was the rushing leader -- if you can call it that -- with seven yards in nine carries.

"You can't say that Mike not being here is the reason we're losing games," Dunn said. "Doug has got to get better. The running game has to get better. We can't blame this on Mike not being here.

"People are getting tired of hearing that."

Tampa Bay took the lead for good with 9:02 left in the second quarter when Brad Johnson found running back Michael Pittman alone behind linebacker Keith Brooking, resulting in a 68-yard touchdown.

Sapp's touchdown reception came with 1:55 left in the second quarter as he slipped off the line and found himself wide open in the end zone.

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