Green Bay 21, Tampa Bay 20

GREEN BAY, Wis., Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Allen Rossum returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown with 3:03 remaining Sunday as the Green Bay Packers once more found a way to win at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 21-20.

Due to realignment next season, the Buccaneers will move out of the NFC Central, while the Packers remain with traditional rivals Minnesota, Chicago and Detroit.


In its final visit to Lambeau Field as a member of the division, the Bucs played well for much of the contest only to have Rossum send them to their latest Wisconsin loss. It was the first return touchdown in Rossum's career.

"It was just a normal punt. The guy (Mark Royals) was kicking it short all day, but I didn't have a chance to return one," Rossum said. "Everyone dreams of scoring the game-winning touchdown, but I just wanted to give (quarterback) Brett (Favre) another chance."


"I've been waiting for a big play," said Packers coach Mike Sherman.

The Bucs could not move on their next possession and Brad Johnson's "Hail Mary" pass into the end zone on the game's final play was batted down as Tampa Bay suffered its 12th straight loss in Green Bay.

"Everyone talks about the Lambeau (Field) mystique but we just did not make enough plays today," Bucs cornerback Donnie Abraham said.

Ahman Green rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown for the Packers (5-2), who avenged an earlier loss at Tampa Bay this season.

Johnson had a pair of touchdown passes for Tampa Bay (3-4), which could not build on last Sunday's 41-14 rout of Minnesota.

"This was a tough loss," Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy said. "Green Bay made the big plays down the stretch drive."

"This game meant a lot to us," Bucs safety John Lynch said. "This was a disappointing game. We wanted this game. We had the opportunties. It was in our hands."

The Bucs looked to be headed for their first win in Green Bay since the 1989 season, building a 17-7 lead with 9:53 left in the third quarter after Johnson found fullback Mike Alstott with a 19-yard touchdown pass.


It was the one of the few big plays for Alstott, who a week earlier had rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns. He was held to 30 yards on 17 carries.

Later in the third quarter, the Packers got back in the game with one big play when Green followed a block by fullback William Henderson and raced 63 yards for a touchdown, bringing Green Bay within 17-14 with 4:40 left in the period.

"It was a basic downhill play for us -- one of our bread and butter plays," Green said. "It's a play we usually use on first downs and third-and-shorts, but with what I call 'perfect blocking' happening, all I had to do was outrun the safeties to the end zone."

Green, who carried 24 times, was held to 59 yards rushing in the first meeting against Tampa Bay this season.

Tampa Bay recovered from Green's big run and took a 20-14 lead with 6:42 remaining in the fourth quarter on Martin Gramatica's 49-yard field goal. A 27-yard interference penalty on safety Darren Sharper helped set up the score.

But after containing Favre for the entire afternoon, the Bucs could not contain the speedy Rossum, who sent them to their latest loss in the Badger State.


Rossum fielded Mark Royals' punt on the Green Bay 45, raced up the middle, shook off a face mask penalty on linebacker Shelton Quarles around the Bucs' 20 and raced into the end zone, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

On their next possession, the Bucs went three and out. They got ball back on their own 39 with 24 seconds left, but Johnson could not move them into field goal range.

Johnson went 18 of 30 for 177 yards.

Coming off their bye week, the Packers got off to a good start after Favre found Antonio Freeman, who beat cornerback Ronde Barber for a 21-yard touchdown pass 5:49 into the first quarter.

It looked like the Packers would extend the lead in the second quarter, driving inside the Tampa Bay 30. But Favre was intercepted by cornerback Donnie Abraham, who returned the pick 46 yards to the Green Bay 38.

The miscue by Favre led to a 33-yard field goal by Gramatica with 10:57 left before halftime that pulled Tampa Bay within 7-3.

Favre, who improved to 63-11 as a starter at home, completed 16 of 27 passes for 180 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.


"I've come to a realization that every time we play these guys it's one of those games," Favre said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect, not only from their team, but for their defense and always will as long as we line up against them. They play hard and create problems for opposing offenses."

Another miscue later in the second period helped lead to the go-ahead score after Green fumbled and tackle Warren Sapp recovered at the Green Bay 41.

Johnson broke off a 21-yard run and hit Keyshawn Johnson for 22 yards, moving the ball to the four. Three plays later, Johnson found tight end Dave Moore over the middle for an 11-yard touchdown and a 10-7 lead with 2:02 left in the half.

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