“We gift-wrapped it for them. It was on the conveyor belt, but somebody stopped it,” the Tampa Bay star said Sunday after the Bucs’ 23-20 victory over the Lions.
Martin Gramatica’s 38-yard field goal with 3:04 left sealed the victory in the surprisingly close game.
“Yeah, I was nervous,” said Gramatica, who made three field goals. “But I’m usually nervous.”
Tampa Bay (11-3) clinched a playoff berth for the fourth straight season and tied franchise records for wins and road victories (five).
“We expect to make the playoffs, that’s not our goal,” Sapp said. “It’s one of those shiny things they give you to put on your suit, and you can decide whether to wear it or not.”
It wasn’t as easy as many expected against the Lions (3-11).
The Bucs survived as Detroit’s Jason Hanson was short on a 57-yard field goal with 1:51 left.
The Buccaneers have won five of six, and Sunday’s win, coupled with losses by New Orleans and Atlanta, gave them at least a two-game lead in the NFC South. They need a win in either of their last two games, or a loss by the Saints, to win the division.
Tampa Bay also needs to win two more and root for Philadelphia to lose a game to earn home-field advantage through the NFC playoffs.
Quarterback Brad Johnson said Tampa Bay is still focused on the ultimate goal of the Super Bowl, not records or individual accolades.
“We have guys who have won some special awards, and some that may make the Hall of Fame,” Johnson said. “But we do not have one player on this team that has won a Super Bowl. That’s the job.”
The Lions have lost six straight.
“The players are devastated. Devastated,” said Detroit coach Marty Mornhinweg, 5-25 with the Lions.
Detroit was without rookie quarterback Joey Harrington after its first drive. He was taken to a hospital for tests and observation with an irregular heartbeat.
Doctors said Harrington’s heartbeat returned to a normal rhythm before he was hospitalized, but he was to stay overnight at Henry Ford Hospital as a precaution.
“Joey Harrington is doing fine right now,” Lions team doctor Keith Burch said Sunday.
Backup Mike McMahon created some excitement. Benched in favor of Harrington in Week 3, McMahon was 10-of-21 for 158 yards, with one TD passing and one rushing, plus an interception.
“When Joey comes back and is healthy, I’m sure Joey will be the guy,” McMahon said.
Each time the Buccaneers went ahead, Detroit had an answer.
Tampa Bay took a 10-0 lead on its first two possessions but allowed the Lions to tie the game on McMahon’s first two drives.
The Buccaneers had a 13-10 halftime lead, but watched McMahon lead a tying drive on the first possession of the second half.
Tampa Bay’s Shelton Quarles stopped a Detroit drive with an interception early in the fourth quarter.
“That play was the turning point,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said.
Pittman’s 4-yard run put the Bucs ahead 20-13. But they couldn’t hold onto that lead, either.
Rookie Eddie Drummond returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards to Tampa Bay’s 5, and McMahon scored on a 2-yard rollout to tie the game for a third time.
After Gramatica’s third field goal, Detroit drove to Tampa Bay’s 39, but chose to kick on fourth-and-6. It was just out of range for Hanson, whoselongest career kick was from 56 yards.
Tampa Bay tied its team record for wins set in 1999, and the record for road victories set in 1979 and matched in 1997. … Bucs DT Anthony McFarland might miss the rest of the season with a broken right foot, Gruden said. … Drummond left the game with a concussion after his 91-yard kick return. … The Bucs are 19-9 in December since 1996. … Tampa Bay caused a turnover for anNFL-best 39th straight game.