Linemen Justify Faith
For Sean Mahan and the new kids on the Buc blocks, Sunday's opener was all about justifying faith. With three new starters up front, Tampa Bay staked its defense to a 10-point halftime lead by controlling the clock with 20 first-half rushing attempts. And with the game literally on the line, the Bucs sealed a 24-13 triumph by springing rookie Cadillac Williams loose for a 71-yard scoring run. "We want to establish this running game and prove we can be a physical offensive line," said Mahan, making his first pro start at right guard. "We just needed to keep pounding, keep the crowd out of the game and walk out of here with a win."
Mahan limited Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams to two tackles and he had plenty of help from fellow youngsters Anthony Davis and Dan Buenning on the left side. "We just kept working, kept grinding," said Buenning, who neutralized massive defensive tackle Pat Williams most of the way and never drew a single penalty flag in the noisy Metrodome. "We ran the ball a lot and obviously, you can only do it as much as that when we're blocking well."
The Bucs maintained possession for 19:33 before intermission as the Vikings had only 19 snaps. Tampa Bay's determination to create offensive balance was rewarded as Davis, Buenning and Mahan consistently opened running lanes for Williams and kept Brian Griese well protected. "I love that commitment to the run," veteran center John Wade said, "and I'm very excited about what these young guys did up front today. It's not like we were going against a bad defensive line, either."
Now it's on to the home opener against the Bills, who will bring a stingy run defense to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. "I'm very proud of the way Anthony and Dan played in a hard road game," Mahan said. "Our message today is that we can play with the best in this league and establish who we are as a team."
Ira Kaufman, The Tampa Tribune 12 September 2005