CARDINALS 12, BUCCANEERS 7

Bucs stumble to 5-11 finish

Former Gator Emmitt Smith, in perhaps his last game for the Cards, gains 69 yards on 23 carries.


Published: Monday, January 3, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 3, 2005 at 1:06 a.m.
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Tampa Bay's Mike Alstott (40) is brought down by Arizona's James Darling, left, and David Macklin (27) during the first quarter Sunday.

The Associated Press
TEMPE, Ariz. - The Arizona Cardinals won their season finale with defense. With Darnell Dockett just a rookie, many similar games could be in sight.
The defensive tackle from Florida State had a sack, interception, fumble recovery and pass deflection in the Cardinals' 12-7 victory over the mistake-plagued Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
''I want to give a special shout-out to Dockett,'' said Tampa Bay defensive end Simeon Rice, a former Cardinal, ''because he definitely did his thing. Their D-line got down. You could see they're going in the right direction.''
Arizona coach Dennis Green called Dockett ''an explosive ball of barbed wire. He's very hard to block, very hard to keep out.''
Dockett had his helmet ripped off just as he fumbled his interception, and the turnover was negated by a facemask penalty. But Dockett says he purposely keeps his chin strap unfastened so his helmet comes off easily.
''My helmet comes off every game. That helps for marketing,'' he joked. ''I do that on purpose. The cheerleaders and the fans, they think I'm cute, you know what I'm saying? I try to show the face off a little bit.''
Neil Rackers kicked four field goals and the Cardinals harassed Chris Simms all afternoon.
''Arizona was coming from everywhere,'' Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden said.
Tampa Bay, plagued by injuries, lost its fourth in a row to finish 5-11, its worst record since going 5-11 under Sam Wyche in 1993.
''We've missed short field goals. We've fumbled snaps. We've fumbled with leads with two minutes left in games,'' Gruden said.
Four turnovers, one on a fumbled snap, loomed large on Sunday.
''It's been a tough season really for the whole team,'' said Michael Pittman, whose fumble set up an Arizona field goal. ''But the effort was always there. It's just us finishing the games, and eliminating turnovers. It's been the same story almost every time we lose the ballgame.''
The Cardinals (6-10) finished 5-3 at home in Green's first season as coach. ''I don't think anybody in the world is more disappointed than me that we're 6-10, but today I'm not disappointed. I feel like our guys played hard and earned the victory,'' Green said.
Simms got his second NFL start in place of Brian Griese, out with hip and foot injuries, and connected with rookie Michael Clayton on a 75-yard touchdown play that briefly gave Tampa Bay a 7-6 lead in the third quarter.
Emmitt Smith, in perhaps his last game for the Cardinals, gained 69 yards on 23 carries. Afterward, he waved and bowed to all four sides of Sun Devil Stadium.
''I tell you, if this is my last year here, it's been a heck of a ride,'' he said. ''If it's been my last year of playing football period, it's been a heck of a ride.''
Arizona looked to pad its 6-0 lead after Simms fumbled a snap and Dockett recovered at the Tampa Bay 19 in the third quarter. But a holding penalty on Anthony Clement pushed the Cardinals back, and Rackers' 35-yard field goal try was wide left.
On the next play, Simms threw short to Clayton, who ran to the end zone on a 75-yard scoring play to give Tampa Bay its first lead, 7-6, late in the third quarter.
The Cardinals then mounted their longest drive, 56 yards in 10 plays. Josh McCown threw 12 yards to Anquan Boldin and 16 to Larry Fitzgerald, and Rackers' 39-yard field goal put Arizona ahead 9-7 with 11:07 to play.
Pittman fumbled and Duane Starks recovered at the Tampa Bay 14 to set up Rackers' 31-yard field goal that boosted the lead to 12-7 with 6:12 to go.
Rackers' second field goal, for a 6-0 lead, followed a bizarre play in the final minute of the first half.
McCown's bad pass under pressure was intercepted by Dwight Smith with 1:46 to go. Simms drove the team to the Arizona 24. But he was hit as he threw by Karlos Dansby, and the ball popped into the air. Dockett intercepted it and rambled downfield. His helmet was ripped off by Kenyatta Walker, then he fumbled the ball some 35 yards downfield, where it was recovered by Pittman at the 16.
However, Walker was called for a facemask penalty, and Arizona was awarded the ball at the Tampa Bay 39 with 43 seconds left in the half.

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