Winning is a kick for Bucs
John Romano, The St.Petersburg Times, published 1988|
After kicking his game-winning field goal Sunday, Donald Igwebuike got a big smile and soft punch to the midsection from Bucs coach Ray Perkins.
It was a big difference from last Sunday's loss, when Perkins appeared angry enough to punch some of his players in the noggin.
Rebounding from their self-proclaimed embarrassment against Philadelphia in last week's opener, the Bucs beat the Green Bay Packers 13-10 on Igwebuike's 28-yard field goal on the
game's last play. The victory ended a string of nine straight regular-season losses, which had been the NFL's longest active losing streak. The last time Tampa Bay had won was on Nov. 1 last year, when it
beat the Packers 23-17 in Milwaukee.
Tampa Bay was unimpressive for much of Sunday's game, but managed to avoid any costly mistakes in the final four minutes with a 56-yard drive that finished off the winless Packers.
Green Bay fans already were streaming out of their seats as Igwebuike lined up for the field goal with three seconds remaining. His kick almost sent them scurrying back.
Although he earlier had nailed a 53-yard field goal, Igwebuike's 28-yard chip shot came dangerously close to sailing wide.
“Even though he made the field goal, he needs to get it more inside the goal posts,” Perkins said. “He made the coach a little nervous.”
Igwebuike said the wind was swirling around when he came on the field so he decided not to take any chances.
“I didn't try to adjust for the wind, I just wanted to hit it straight down the middle,” the 5-foot-9 kicker said. “I didn't see it go through, but from what I understand, it was very close.”
The game was as close as the field goal. After tying the Packers with a 10-point second quarter, the Bucs had several opportunities to take their first lead of the season. But each time they discovered a new way to stumble. A fumble on a pass, a fumble on a sack, a penalty on a successful 54-yard field goal.
Finally, in the final five minutes, linebacker Eugene Marve made the clutch play to get Tampa Bay in gear. Facing a third-and-2 from the Bucs' 33-yard line, Packers quarterback Randy Wright handed off to halfback Kenneth Davis, who went wide right. Marve greeted Davis in the backfield and stuck him for a 1-yard loss. Max Zendejas then missed a 52-yard field goal. “They've gone over the top in the past on short-yardage situations. We hadn't seen them use that play,” Marve said. “But once you see what's happening, you don't have time to think, you just react.”
The Packers never got the ball back after the failed field-goal attempt. Vinny Testaverde, who threw five interceptions last week, showed remarkable poise in Tampa Bay's final drive. On a third-and-5 from midfield, he hit running back Jeff Smith for a 6-yard gain across the middle. Two plays later he found Bruce Hill on the sideline for a 22-yard gain. Green Bay players said Hill caught the pass out of bounds, but instant-replay officials ruled he was pushed out and the play stood.
Hill said the point was moot. “It was a clean catch,” he said. “I put two feet down. I knew I was near the sideline, and I was watching my feet the whole time.”
Before the Packers could regroup, Testaverde came up with another big play. Instead of handing the ball off for a run up the middle, as the play was designed, he took off on a bootleg and ran 15 yards to the Green Bay 7. The winning drive and interception-less day was a reprieve for Testaverde, who heard a chorus of boos from Tampa Bay fans after last week's performance. “I'm walking taller today,” Testaverde said.
That's more than what Green Bay players can say. In what undoubtedly will be the only time the Packers are favored by more than six points this season, they bungled enough opportunities to make first-year coach Lindy Infante yearn for his old assistant's job at Cleveland. “This hurts a lot of us,” Infante said. “In a tight game, you can't make all of the mistakes we did.”
The Packers got a super performance from much-maligned quarterback Wright. With 13 straight completions in the second half, he was 22-of-27 on the day for 181 yards and no
But he got little help from the running game (59 yards on 25 carries), and his teammates picked the most inopportune moments to get nailed with penalties. A 66-yard kickoff return by Brent Fullwood was wiped out by an offsides penalty. A 43-yard field goal was negated by a delay-of-game call, and the subsequent 48-yard attempt was
partially blocked by Marve.
The Packers got a 50-yard field goal by Zendejas on their first possession and a 30-yard touchdown pass reception by Fullwood on their third drive, but then went oh-for-the-next-three-quarters. The Packers' offense even contributed to the Bucs' first score when Fullwood fumbled after a hit by Shawn Lee and Chris Washington recovered on the Green Bay 49.
Tampa Bay drove 51 yards in seven plays and rookie halfback Lars Tate scored his first NFL touchdown on a 2-yard leap over the middle. Tate may have gotten the touchdown, but fullback James Wilder was Tampa Bay's star running back Sunday. The eight-year veteran had his best rushing day since 1986 with 91 yards on 20 carries. “We worked their line inside and outside on the run,” Testaverde said. “They were having trouble stopping us when we began using a two-tight-end offense.”
Nobody said the Packers were a great team and nobody said the Bucs played a great game Sunday. But nobody denied that the win, after four exhibition losses and the 41-14 disaster in the opener, was a great relief. “It begins to wear on you. It's real frustrating for an athlete to lose and lose,” Perkins said. “It has to lift our attitudes. It will bring everybody to work (Monday) with a great attitude.”