Both Green Bay Coach Forrest Gregg and Tampa Bay Coach Leeman Bennett had reason to be satisfied Sunday--and not just because the game between the Packers and Buccaneers marked the end of the season for both teams.
"That was important to us and Tampa Bay," Gregg said after the Packers closed out their third straight 8-8 season with a 20-17 victory. "With nothing at stake for either team, they played professionally.
"We fell a little bit short of the playoffs and we feel that's indicative of where we stand as a team."
Phillip Epps scored on a 30-yard flanker reverse in the first quarter and Jessie Clark ran six yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown to give Green Bay the victory before a crowd of 33,992.
Tampa Bay completed its first season under Bennett with a 2-14 record, a finish that will give the Buccaneers the first overall selection in next spring's NFL draft. The Buccaneers tied Buffalo for the league's worst record, but the Bills lost their top draft choice in the deal with Cleveland involving Bernie Kosar.
Bennett said he hasn't given much thought to whether Tampa Bay--which began the day ranked 23rd in the NFL in offense and 27th defensively--will try to improve its offense or defense with the No. 1 pick.
"It doesn't make sense to make a pick now or even two or three weeks from now," Bennett said. "I'll follow that old coaches' cliche in the draft and draft the best possible athlete."
Clark's touchdown with 7:03 remaining capped a 13-play, 73-yard drive that backup quarterback Randy Wright engineered after Tampa Bay took a 17-13 lead on Steve Young's three-yard scoring pass to Jimmie Giles with 13:16 to go.
Wright, who replaced Jim Zorn midway through the third period, completed passes of 18 yards to Eddie Lee Ivery and 11 yards to Gary Ellerson to highlight the march that consumed more than six minutes.
Young, who completed 21 of 37 passes for 278 yards, brought Tampa Bay back, but the Buccaneers' bid to force overtime came up short when Donald Igwebuike's 48-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right with 2:58 left.
"I hate to end the season this way . . . when you choke on a field goal and lose the game," said Igwebuike, whose 96 points in 1985 set a team record. "The record means a lot to me, but not as much as the win."
The Packers won for the fifth time in seven games despite four turnovers and a bizarre second quarter that saw the teams commit three turnovers apiece in the final 8:51 before halftime.
Zorn completed 8 of 22 passes for 117 yards before Wright came on to hit 8 of 11 for 101 yards.
Ellerson led the Packers with 57 yards rushing on nine carries, while tailback James Wilder led Tampa Bay with 49 yards on 26 attempts.