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Phoenix Beats Tampa Bay . . . Again : Cardinals Defeat Buccaneers for Fifth Time in Three Years

<i> From Times Wire Services</i>

With the Phoenix Cardinals’ history of bad luck in close games, except against Tampa Bay, something had to give.

It turned out to be the Buccaneers’ secondary.

Jay Novacek slipped behind Tampa Bay’s safetymen to catch a 42-yard touchdown pass with 3:14 left Sunday, stopping the Buccaneers’ rally and giving the Cardinals their first victory of the season, 30-24.

The Cardinals have beaten Tampa Bay five times in the last three seasons. But they lost their first two games this year by 10 points and lost 13 games by 7 points or less in the last three seasons.

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“We felt we should’ve been 2-0 coming into this game, and we felt we should win this one,” said Phoenix quarterback Cliff Stoudt, who replaced an ailing Neil Lomax at halftime. “It’s a good feeling--not just that we won it, but the way we won it.”

Lomax threw for 148 yards as Phoenix built a 20-3 halftime lead, but an arthritic hip kept him sidelined throughout the second half. Stoudt passed for 149 yards, and Stump Mitchell complemented that with 110 yards in 18 carries.

The comeback by Tampa Bay (1-2) culminated with a remarkable play. Running back Lars Tate dove into the line, rolled over a pile of players, regained his feet and completed a 47-yard touchdown run to tie the score, 23-23, with 11 minutes left. Donald Igwebuike’s extra point gave the Buccaneers their only lead.

Tate’s touchdown run came on a third-and-1 situation. He dove into a pileup for the first down but didn’t hit the ground until he was again upright. Tate was untouched as he outran the stunned Phoenix defenders to the end zone.

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The replay official confirmed that Tate never was downed.

“We were a little fired up (then), what with some of the bad luck we were having,” Stoudt said. “We had to get rid of that here-we-go-again feeling.”

Phoenix forced a punt with 5 minutes to play and then needed only six plays to score what proved to be the winning touchdown. Stoudt threw over the middle to Novacek, who beat defender Harry Hamilton to catch the ball at the 5 and score standing up.

The Buccaneers responded by losing two yards in three plays, and the crowd booed when they punted with 1:55 left. Phoenix ran out the clock.

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