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Bucs' season continues its spiral in Black Hole

The end zone must be a very scary place, with skeletons and spikes, where dark, shadowy figures with painted faces lurk.

It has been a black hole, all right, and it has nothing to do with where the Bucs are playing.

FedEx Field, Raymond James Stadium or Network Associates Coliseum, it seems to matter not.

Tampa Bay's inept offense became the last in the NFL to score atouchdown Sunday night as the Bucs extended that embarrassing streak to 11 quarters in a 30-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

Not surprisingly, it took a former Raider to show the Bucs the way to the end zone in the Black Hole.

Tim Brown, who spent 16 seasons in Oakland, caught a 16-yard touchdown from Brad Johnson with 10:45 left in the game. It was the 100th career touchdown reception for Brown, who received a standing ovation after becoming the fourth player in history to accomplish the feat.

Johnson, who was benched after 15 plays and an interception last week against the Seahawks, did little to cement his case to be the Bucs' starter.

Raiders cornerback Phillip Buchanon returned an interception of Johnson's pass to tight end Dave Moore 32 yards for a touchdown to break open the game early in the third quarter.

The loss, which spoiled Jon Gruden's return to the Black Hole, left the Bucs as one of four winless teams in the NFL. The Bucs have started the season with three defeats for the first time since 1996.

As if things weren't tough enough for the Bucs on offense, running back Charlie Garner sustained a possible season-ending knee injury late in the first half.

Garner, 32, who signed a six-year, $20-million deal in March, took a handoff from Johnson, swept right and twisted his right knee trying to make a spin move. Garner had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee in the offseason.

When Garner left the game, the Bucs trailed in rushing yardage 113 to 8.

Another former Raider, tight end Rickey Dudley, fractured his right thumb and left the game.

The nationally televised game was more than a rematch of the participants in Super Bowl XXXVII. It was a grudge match between former teammates, coaches and executives.

In addition to Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen, the former Raiders senior assistant, Brown, Garner, Dudley and Matt Stinchcomb returned as former members of the Silver and Black.

The game also was an emotional one for Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who earned seven Pro Bowl appearances in nine seasons with Tampa Bay.

Sapp failed to record a sack, but he pressured Johnson all night and turned in the defensive play of the game early in the first quarter.

Garner took a swing pass from Johnson and exploded down the right sideline for what looked to be a long touchdown. But the 303-pound Sapp, displaying sheer hustle and rare speed, actually ran down the 190-pound Garner from behind after a 31-yard gain.

The tackle prevented a touchdown and forced the Bucs to settle for the first of two field goals by Martin Gramatica.

In addition to the troubles on offense, the Bucs defense was nearly as ineffective.

Displaying poor tackling and holes in the secondary, the Bucs gave up big plays to running back Tyrone Wheatley and receivers Joey Porter, Jerry Rice, Ronald Curry and Doug Gabriel.

The Bucs' third-ranked defense entered having surrendered only two long plays, a 64-yard touchdown run by the Redskins' Clinton Portis and a 17-yard touchdown reception by the Seahawks' Koren Robinson.

But on the Raiders' first play from scrimmage, Tampa Bay's defense collapsed.

Wheatley burst through a huge hole up the middle, slipped tackles by Jermaine Phillips and Ronde Barber and raced 60 yards until he was chased down by safety Dwight Smith.

The Raiders broke open a tie game and took a 13-6 halftime lead when Curry took a screen pass from backup quarterback Kerry Collins and raced 19 yards before somersaulting into the end zone.

The play capped an 84-yard drive highlighted by a one-handed, 18-yard catch by Rice, who also provided the key block on Mario Edwards to spring Curry for the touchdown.

Collins entered late in the first quarter after starter Rich Gannon was forced to leave with a concussion.

On third and 7 from the Tampa Bay 7, Gannon was unable to locate an open receiver and headed upfield. But Gannon was banged helmet-to-helmet by linebacker Derrick Brooks.

After getting up slowly, Gannon was taken to the locker room for X-rays on his back and did not return.

Gannon wasn't missed. Collins spent much of the game just handing off to Wheatley, Justin Fargas and Amos Zereoue.

If there is a silver lining, it's that suspended running back Michael Pittman is scheduled to become eligible today after serving a three-game suspension for repeat violation of the NFL's conduct policy.

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