Buccaneers clinch NFC South

Dec 17, 2007 - 12:44 AM By PA SportsTicker

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday became the fifth straight team to go from first to worst in the NFC South.

The Buccaneers routed the Atlanta Falcons, 37-3, to clinch the division title and complete an impressive turnaround.

Tampa Bay (9-5) rebounded from a 4-12 finish last season to secure its second division crown in three years.

The highlight of the victory was the Buccaneers' first kickoff return for a touchdown in the franchise's 31-year history.

Michael Spurlock accomplished the feat on the Buccaneers' 1,865th kickoff return, taking back Morten Anderson's kick 90 yards with 6:19 remaining in the first period.

"To win a division title is hard to do and we had a lot of guys step up throughout this year to help us do that," said Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, who won his third division crown with the Buccaneers.

With Tampa Bay's victory, all four divisions in the NFC have been decided. The Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks locked up division titles last week.

The Packers, who improved to 12-2 for the first time since 1966, clinched a first-round bye with a 33-14 victory over the St. Louis Rams coupled with Seattle's 13-10 in Carolina.

Green Bay got some help later Sunday, when the Philadelphia Eagles surprised the Cowboys, 10-6.

The loss pulled Green Bay into a tie with Dallas (12-2) in the battle for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Dallas finishes with road games at Carolina and Washington. Green Bay plays at Chicago, then hosts Detroit. The Cowboys hold the tiebreaker by virtue of a head-to-head win.

The New York Giants (9-4) can clinch a wild card berth with a victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday night.

In the AFC, the Indianapolis Colts (11-2) and San Diego Chargers (9-5) also wrapped up their divisions with victories.

The Colts held off the Oakland Raiders, 21-14, to clinch the AFC South and took advantage of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 29-22 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars to also lock up a first-round bye.

The Chargers, who have won a season-high four games in a row, wrapped up the AFC West crown with a 51-14 rout of the Detroit Lions.

New England (14-0) kept alive its hopes for an undefeated season with a tougher-than-expected 20-10 win over the New York Jets. The victory enabled the Patriots to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Jaguars (10-4) moved closer to a wild card berth with their victory over the Steelers (9-5).

Pittsburgh's loss, coupled with Cleveland 8-0 win over the Buffalo Bills in blizzard-like conditions, pulled the Browns into a first-place tie with the Steelers in the AFC North. The Steelers, though, hold the tiebreaker, having swept Cleveland in the season series.

Tennessee's 26-17 victory at Kansas City prevented the Jaguars, Steelers and Browns from clinching playoff spots.

The Titans (8-6) remained one game behind the Browns in the battle for the AFC's second wild card position.

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