Offense Appears Late, Disappears In Overtime
Keyshawn Johnson thought it was over. A dismal offensive performance had cost Tampa Bay a chance at victory. After all, the Bucs' offense had more forward movement when it came out the tunnel before the game than in the first 58 minutes against the Panthers. But in the final 1:49 with no timeouts, the unit put together one of the greatest drives Coach Jon Gruden said he has seen. It ended 11 plays and 82 yards later with Keenan McCardell catching a 6-yard touchdown pass with no time remaining to make it 9-9. ``I was like, `God, thank you,' '' Johnson said.
But Martin Gramatica's extra point was blocked, sending the game into overtime. Johnson had nine receptions for 102 yards, and quarterback Brad Johnson completed 34 of 61 passes for 339 yards and one touchdown. However, the Bucs generated a mere 60 yards rushing on 22 carries (2.7 per carry), with Michael Pittman having 10 carries for 38 yards. Further, the Bucs went 8-for-18 on third down. ``You deserve what you get when you play as bad as we played as a unit,'' Keyshawn Johnson said. ``We had some good things [happen on offense], but we had an awful lot of bad things. We have to just correct it and move on. We can't sit around and dwell on it.''
What makes the loss hard to digest: Despite the sluggish performance, the Bucs were an extra point from winning. Joe Jurevicius left the game with a sprained knee in the third quarter, but Karl Williams stepped up and came through when needed. Williams caught a 43-yard pass on that game-tying drive to put the Bucs on Carolina's 39-yard line. ``You always hate to see a teammate go down with an injury, but that's been my role on this team since 1996 - to step up when a guy goes down. That is what I prepare myself to do every week,'' Williams said.
Despite dropping the potential game-tying touchdown with 24 seconds remaining, Keyshawn Johnson caught a 17-yard pass to put his team on Carolina's 6-yard line on the following play, setting up McCardell's touchdown two plays later. Then as quickly as Tampa Bay's offense appeared, it disappeared in overtime. The Bucs generated 40 yards (13 rushing and 27 passing) on their only possession in the extra session. Brad Johnson completed three of four passes, while fullback Mike Alstott rushed three times for seven yards, and Aaron Stecker carried three times for six yards.
Tampa Bay faced third-and- 15 on Carolina's 41-yard line when, instead of passing, the Bucs elected to run Stecker to the right and lost a yard. The Bucs punted, and the Panthers won the game on their next possession. ``It was a tough call. We didn't call that play. It was an audible as part of our package there. Carolina played a lot of double zone. They also played a lot of full blitz,'' Gruden said. ``In that field position, sometimes a 7- or 8-yard run puts Gramatica in position to make a game-winning field goal, or we do what we did. We punt the ball, and if they cover it they get the ball inside their 10- or 12-yard line, we'll get our chance here in a little bit with good field position. That was part of our plan and unfortunately it didn't work out.''