The stage was set for another Denver fourth-quarter comeback, only this time there was no John Elway to lead it.
Tampa Bay's defense lived up to its ranking as the stingiest in the NFL, preying on Brian Griese's inexperience in the closing minutes to hold off the winless defending Super Bowl champions for a 13-10 victory.
The Buccaneers' defense once again saved the day for an offense that's had problems scoring.
"A win is a win. I don't care if it's a Picasso or I drew it," said Warren Sapp, Tampa Bay's Pro Bowl defensive tackle.
"Elway could not have got them down the field. They were going to lose this ball game. It came down to a situation where they needed 85 yards to beat us. No, not today."
Denver became the first defending Super Bowl champion to begin a season with three straight losses in a nonstrike year. The New York Giants started 0-5 in 1987 after a Super Bowl championship season, but three of those losses were with replacement players.
"We're not used to this situation, but it's a learning experience. We've been on top, now we've got to experience how it feels to be on the bottom," said running back Terrell Davis, the league's MVP last season.
But no reigning champs have dug themselves out of a deeper hole to successfully defend their title. The Dallas Cowboys were 0-2 when Emmitt Smith ended a contract holdout in 1993, then went on to win the Super Bowl again.
Mike Alstott rushed for a career-high 131 yards and scored on a 28-yard run in the first quarter for the Buccaneers. But in the end, their defense was the difference.
Davis failed to gain 100 yards for the third straight game, picking up 53 on 19 carries, and Griese failed to lead the Broncos to a first down on two possessions in the final 4 minutes 8 seconds.
Tampa Bay (2-1) intercepted Elway's successor once, setting up one of Martin Gramatica's two field goals, and the Denver quarterback was sacked twice on the last two drives.
The Broncos had seven sacks after not having any in losses to Miami and Kansas City, but they weren't able to rattle Buccaneers quarterback Trent Dilfer into making costly mistakes.