BUCS END FOUR-GAME LOSING STREAK The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended their four-game losing streak and recorded their fourth win of the 2006 regular season by defeating the Cleveland Browns on Christmas Eve, 22-7.
The visiting Buccaneers were led by a dominant defensive performance, which included four interceptions and three sacks. In fact, Tampa Bay’s defense held Cleveland scoreless. The Browns’ only seven points of the game came in the fourth quarter when Bucs quarterback Tim Rattay got sacked by defensive end Kamerion Wimbley and fumbled the ball, which was picked up by defensive back Deven Holly and returned 40 yards for a score.
Tampa Bay finishes the 2006 regular season at home vs. the Seattle Seahawks on New Year’s Eve. The Bucs have a chance to finish the season with a 5-11 record and play spoiler to the Seahawks, who need to beat the Bucs to make the playoffs.
RATTAY, STOVALL MAKE FIRST STARTS Tampa Bay quarterback Tim Rattay made his first start as a Buccaneer Sunday. He completed 16-of-26 passes for 212 yards while tossing no touchdowns and one interception. Rattay also had a costly fumble that was returned 40 yards for a touchdown by the Browns in the fourth quarter. However, he engineered four scoring drives, three of which ended with field goals.
Rattay wasn’t the only new starter in Tampa Bay’s offensive lineup. Rookie wide receiver Maurice Stovall started in place of Ike Hilliard vs. the Browns. Stovall was impressive, catching two passes for 46 yards. Both of those grabs came in the first half.
WILLIAMS LEFT BEHIND Tampa Bay running back Cadillac Williams didn’t make the trip to Cleveland due to a foot injury. The Bucs used Michael Pittman, Mike Alstott and Earnest Graham to lead the running game. The Bucs rushed the ball 44 times for 153 yards (3.5 avg.) vs. the Browns. Alstott carried the ball a team-leading 22 times for 56 yards. Pittman had the most success, carrying the ball 16 times for 86 yards (5.4 avg.), including an 11-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
BROOKS SCORES 8th CAREER TOUCHDOWN Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks’ 21-yard interception return for a touchdown was a big statement to the people that chose not to vote the 1995 first-round pick to his 10th straight Pro Bowl earlier in the week. It was also the eighth score of Brooks’ career. Brooks finished the game with seven tackles, one interception and one touchdown.
FLIP TWO PICKS Bucs strong safety Jermaine “Flip” Phillips recorded two of the four interceptions created by Tampa Bay’s defense on Christmas Eve. His first pick came with less than one minute remaining in the second quarter when he dove for Browns QB Derek Anderson’s pass. That was Phillips’ first pick of the season. His second interception came on Cleveland’s next offensive series when Anderson overthrew the intended receiver. Both of Phillips’ interceptions set up Tampa Bay’s offense deep in Cleveland territory. Phillips finished the game with four tackles, two interceptions and three passes defensed.
BUCHANON COMES UP WITH ANOTHER INTERCEPTION Tampa Bay cornerback Phillip Buchanon signed a one-year contract with the Bucs in October in hopes of hanging around for 2007. He’s certainly building his case. In the fourth quarter, Buchanon intercepted Derek Anderson. That interception was Buchanon’s second this season. He added two tackles and two passes defensed.
UNDER PRESSURE Tampa Bay's defense recorded three sacks vs. Cleveland. Two of those quarterback takedowns were notched by defensive end Greg Spires. The other sack was recorded by nose tackle Chris Hovan, who actually knocked QB Derek Anderson out of the game with the hit and tackle in the fourth quarter.
ROAD WARRIORS? Tampa Bay avoided going winless on the road this season by defeating Cleveland on Sunday, 22-7. The Bucs were 0-7 and in danger of going 0-8 on the road before going into Cleveland and getting the big win.
TERRY COMES THROUGH WITH BLOCK Tampa Bay’s special teams unit preserved the shutout for the Bucs defense in the third quarter when he blocked Phil Dawson’s 31-yard field goal attempt. That block kept the score at 19-0 in favor of the Bucs.
IT’S GOOD Although he had an extra point attempt blocked after Michael Pittman’s 11-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, Bucs kicker Matt Bryant was 3-of-3 on field goal attempts vs. the Browns. He was good from 23, 24 and 37 yards out. Bryant has now made 17-of-21 field goal attempts this season.
INACTIVES The following Bucs players were inactive for Tampa Bay’s game vs. Chicago: QB Luke McCown, RB Carnell Williams, CB Alan Zemaitis, C Nick Mihlhauser, T Donald Penn, TE Doug Jolley, DE Charles Bennett and DT Jon Bradley.
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