Buccaneers Give Sneak Preview

From Associated Press

Don't try to tell the Tampa Bay Buccaneers they won a meaningless game Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

First-year Coach Tony Dungy and his players are looking to the future and believe closing the season with a 34-19 rout of their NFC Central rival is further proof that they're a team on the rise.

"We sent a message to the guys in the other locker room," linebacker Hardy Nickerson said. "They better strap it up next year."

It was a franchise-record fifth consecutive home victory for Tampa Bay (6-10), which won five of seven games after a 1-8 start that assured the club a non-winning record for the 14th consecutive season.

Trent Dilfer threw touchdown passes of two yards to Dave Moore and 15 yards to Courtney Hawkins, Karl Williams returned a second-quarter punt 88 yards for a touchdown, and the Buccaneers rolled to their biggest point total in 57 games despite gaining only 181 yards on offense.

Dilfer only threw 14 passes, completing 11 for 104 yards and no interceptions, avoiding costly mistakes that the Buccaneers weren't able to overcome early in the season.

Chicago (7-9), meanwhile, set a NFL record for consecutive regular-season road losses in December and January. The Bears have lost 18 straight since 1988, surpassing the previous mark of 17 established by Tampa Bay from 1982-92.

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