Starving Town Talking Bucs Today
Martin Fennelly, The Tampa Tribune, published 17 September 2007|
Some days are like this. Some days it comes together. Sunday was one of those days.
We have no idea what it means for Jon Gruden and his Bucs. We only know this town is talking this morning.
They're talking about those touchdowns, those big plays, that quarterback and receiver, that defense. They're talking about The Block, the one Michael Clayton threw in the name of the Garcia-Galloway expressway.
Go ahead. Talk your heads off, Tampa. You have a football team this week.
Don't make playoff plans. But, for now, stow the Chucky effigy. With their ailing owner in attendance, with their fans wondering just what they would see, the Bucs made merry in their home opener.
The final score lied. This wasn't that close. No matter that New Orleans looked as if it swallowed a Notre Dame pill. The Bucs went 4-12 last season. They went 0-6 in the division. They needed this. 'Real bad,' Clayton said. 'We're starving here, man.'
Sunday's startling laugher doesn't mean the Bucs will go 15-1. It doesn't mean they'll go even 8-8. Then again, maybe they won't go 4-12 again.
The tone was set by the new quarterback. You know, the one who head butts teammates out of joy and fusses with Gruden over play calls. The one who ignites things.
Early in a scoreless game, Jeff Garcia threw his old bones into the fray when he scrambled and dived headfirst for a first down at the New Orleans' 1-yard line.
Yes, the same Garcia who got knocked silly last week in Seattle. But, you see, he was already tired of field goals. He was helmet crunched this time, too.
'You don't go in there like that as a quarterback,' said Gruden, who loved it. 'It's the way I play,' Garcia said.
Garcia then handed to Cadillac Williams, who, playing hurt, scored the first of his two touchdowns. What was a little pain? This was not a passive day. Ahead 14-0 just before halftime, we more than half expected the Bucs to sit on their final possession of the second quarter. They did it all last season.
First play: Garcia to Ike Hilliard, 41 yards. Next play: Garcia to Joey Galloway, 24 yards, touchdown, 21-0, ballgame.
Big plays made the sun seem brighter. We saw what happens when a seasoned NFL quarterback hits a seasoned, and fast, NFL receiver in stride. Jeffy and Joey, playmates.
Garcia hit Galloway on a slant, and Galloway was gone for 69 yards and a score, slowing as he neared the end zone, a Saints defender drawing Leon-Lett close as Galloway's coaches and teammates held their breath. But it was a good show. The Bucs deserved one.
'It was like the old 49ers,' said old 49er Garcia, 'Jerry Rice and John Taylor on the slant, going all the way.'
Down, Jeff. Derrick Brooks hit Reggie Bush and the ball popped loose. Cato June picked off Drew Brees. Barrett Ruud made 11 tackles, forcing two fumbles, recovering one. Jovan Haye and Greg White had their first career sacks.
It seemed like the old days. Ronde Barber corrected you. 'This has to be the new days. The old days are gone.'
Maybe they are. In the second half, Brooks was pulled in favor of June in dead-certain passing situations. Brooks wasn't hurt. You couldn't help but notice him come off. Ever remember seeing that?
Stay tuned. But there was enough old days in this day to remember how it can be when little things help make big things, which brings us back to Michael Clayton.
Clayton didn't catch a ball Sunday. But it was his pulverizing block on Saints safety Kevin Kaesviharn that set Galloway free on that slant touchdown.
'It was football, baby,' Clayton said.
This team and town were starving.