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Bucs Offense Explodes With Win

Warrick Dunn returned to Tampa Bay's lineup, and so did the pizazz in the Buccaneers offense.

The third-year running back, sidelined most of training camp with tendinitis in his right knee and a sore left hamstring, showed the kind of difference he can make Saturday night in a 45-14 exhibition rout of the New England Patriots.

Mike Alstott scored three touchdowns on short runs, but it was Dunn's presence and flashy moves that give him the ability to turn routine plays into big gainers that jumpstarted the offense.

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Game Summary

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  • "I was satisfied with the way I played, being that this is the first time I was out there in live action," Dunn said.

    "I've got to work on my conditioning. The better shape I'm in, the more my quickness will come. It was good to be out there to get in the flow of a real game. My goal next week is to capitalize on this performance and get better."

    Despite rushing for just 8 yards on five carries, the Bucs' leading ground gainer from the past two seasons set up Alstott's first TD by cutting back to make two tacklers miss on a reception that picked up 15 yards on third-and-13 from the Patriots' 16.

    "That's the kind of thing he can do," Bucs coach Tony Dungy said. "We were kind of missing that in the first two games."

    Alstott scored on runs of 1, 1 and 4 yards, all in the first half when Tampa Bay (3-0) scored on four of seven possessions. Two drives ended on missed field goals.

    Dunn's backup, Rabih Abdullah, scored on a 30-yard screen pass from Trent Dilfer, who completed 11 of 20 passes for 184 yards to build a 28-7 halftime lead.

    "The way we played on offense in the first half is really what you like to see. Our big-play guys came to play tonight," Dungy said.

    "The only negative was that we had a ouple of other scoring opportunities that we didn't capitalize on. Had we been able to do that, we might have been able to put the game away in the first half."

    Drew Bledsoe threw TD passes of 15 yards to Terry Glenn and 40 yards to Tony Simmons, but most of New England's success was limited to those scoring drives.

    "We missed a really big opportunity. We failed in every phase of the game," Patriots coach Pete Carroll said. "We had a good week of work. But between the locker room and the field, something happened. I'm disappointed we played like this."

    Although the Bucs allowed a NFL-low 10 points in their first two preseason games, Dungy wasn't particularly happy about the way the defense played, because his starters allowed each opponent to score on its opening drive.

    Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who returned to practice last Tuesday after missing a week because of a sore back, set the tone for another solid effort with a sack of Bledsoe and two other stops for losses.

    John Lynch had a first-quarter interception and the Bucs also forced three fumbles while holding New England to 291 yards total offense. The Patriots (1-2) were 0-for-6 on third-down conversions.

    "It wasn't very good," Bledsoe said. "There's not much to say about it."

    Bledsoe completed 14 of 19 passes for 178 yards in just under three quarters. Glenn had four receptions for 54 yards, including three straight catches on the four-play, 69-yard drive that produced his TD.

    Bledsoe also directed a four-play, 80-yard scoring march, finishing it with his long throw to Simmons, who beat Tampa Bay cornerback Brian Kelly.

    Yo Murphy scored on a 93-yard kickoff return for the Bucs, who also got a 3-yard TD run from Autry Denson to finish a 95-yard, fourth-quarter drive led by rookie quarterback Shaun King.

    The 45 points were a preseason record for Tampa Bay, which scored 44 in an exhibition against New England in 1990.

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