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The Bucs stop here

With run-stuffer Gilbert Brown on the sideline, defensive ends Gabe Wilkins and Reggie White put the squeeze on Tampa Bay's unbeaten and unbelievable start to the season.

Wilkins, a first-year starter, had a 77-yard interception return for a touchdown and White, three months shy of his 36th birthday, played like a young man again as Green Bay fended off the Bucs 21-16 on Sunday.White had two key sacks and numerous pressures as the Packers (4-2) prevented the Bucs (5-1) from running away with the NFC Central.

"There were two big players today that showed this team's character, heart and intensity," Packers strong safety LeRoy Butler said. "The first was Reggie White. And what Gabe Wilkins did, not many little guys like myself can do."

Wilkins turned into a 300-pound hurdler after he picked off Trent Dilfer's pass and jumped over the Bucs quarterback on his way into the end zone.

"That was one of the most awesome plays I've ever seen," said White, a 13-year NFL veteran.

"I was so happy for Gabe that I could have gone out there and given him a big kiss," said quarterback Brett Favre, who fumbled at his 17 just one play before.

"And to see Reggie kill those tackles. These big guys who are twice as big as he is? They know he's going to do it, but he still throws them around," Favre said.

White's sacks gave him 51/2 this year and an NFL-high 172 in his career.

The Packers, stumbling all season, got two TD catches from Antonio Freeman to offset a 64-yard rushing performance behind a line missing its best performer in Earl Dotson, out indefinitely with an injured disk in his back.

Brown, the key to Green Bay's run defense, could miss up to a month with a knee injury. His absence was felt as the Bucs became the first team to run for 200 yards in Mike Holmgren's six seasons as coach of the Packers.

Rookie Warrick Dunn gained 125 yards on 16 carries and scored a touchdown, as did fullback Mike Alstott.

Tampa's 217 yards rushing were the most against Green Bay since Minnesota gained 231 on Nov. 17, 1991.

White said none of that was important.

"We won," he said. "We'll get that straightened out."

"As long as we can fight through these early games, we'll be all right," Favre agreed. "If we can just hang in there and get a little bit better . . . "

For the sixth straight week, it was a dogfight for the defending champs.

"They were 5-0 and a good football team," Favre said "They're at a point where we were a couple of years ago. They're good. They are well-coached and have good talent. I'm not surprised at all. I'm surprised we jumped out to a 21-3 lead."

Thanks to Wilkins.

The Buccaneers trailed 7-3 when Favre fumbled at his 17 in the second quarter. But Wilkins picked off Dilfer's screen pass and hurdled the quarterback with perfect form and was in the clear for the score.

"I fumbled on the quarterback sneak and the next play, he comes along and looks like O.J. running through the airport," Favre marveled.

"They always tell us to go low on the tackles," Dilfer said. "Next time, I'm going high."

Wilkins wasn't done. His sack just after the two-minute warning set up a punt, and the Packers got the ball at the 50. Then Favre found Freeman in the end zone for the second time for a 21-3 halftime lead.

Following Hardy Nickerson's block of Ryan Longwell's 47-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter, the Buccaneers put together scoring drives of 63 and 90 yards, with Alstott taking it in from the 1 and Dunn from the 2.

But Dilfer threw incomplete twice to Dunn from the Green Bay 42 with less than two minutes left. White, who snuffed Tampa's first two drives of the second half with third-down sacks around Jason Odom, pressured Dilfer on the first incompletion, and linebacker Wayne Simmons broke up the second.

"They kept fighting 'til the end," White said. "You have to have a lot of respect for them."

"We know we killed ourselves," Dunn said. "And that's the key."

Both teams are aching for the rematch.

"They were a better football team today," Bucs receiver Horace Copeland said. "But Green Bay will come to Tampa soon."

"They have a wonderful team," Butler said. "And they're going to beat a lot of people - until Dec. 7, when we play them again."