Bucs can't get their hands on Testaverde
The Bucs came into Sunday's game knowing the Browns would do everything they could to protect Vinny Testaverde. And, as it turned out, the Bucs couldn't do anything about it.
A Cleveland offensive line that is one of the most protective in the league, and a game plan that had the running backs staying in to block, left the Bucs unable to catch Testaverde.
And it left them grasping for answers.
"It was rough," defensive end Chidi Ahanotu said. "We knew they were going to keep a lot of people in. I don't know if we should have blitzed more or whatever. It may be. We'll see on the films. But it's frustrating, you know. They got all these people back there blocking and Vinny is just sitting back there in his comfort zone picking us apart."
In their season opener last week, the Bucs sacked elusive Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham five times and spent a lot of quality time with him.
But Sunday, the Bucs couldn't get anywhere near Testaverde, who is considerably less nimble. They had only one sack - when they forced Testaverde out of bounds - and were unable to pressure him.
To make matters worse, the secondary was having its problems, giving up four passes of 25 yards or longer, three key plays leading to scores and the fourth a 32-yard touchdown.
Perhaps most concerning, the Bucs weren't sure what went wrong.
Some Bucs questioned the game plan and said they should have blitzed more. Others said the Browns surprised them with some of their formations and shifts. Defensive coordinator Rusty Tillman said there was blown coverage on Testaverde's 32-yard touchdown pass to Keenan McCardell that put the Browns up 19-0 late in the first half. Coach Sam Wyche pointed out they were without starting cornerback Martin Mayhew and lost his replacement, Tony Stargell, for part of the game.
"We just didn't play well," linebacker Hardy Nickerson said. "They played a whale of a game and they beat us in every area."
Tillman had few explanations. "They protect Vinny," he said. "They leave people in to protect him. We just couldn't get to him. They blocked us. It's that simple."
Tillman said "there's no sense in blitzing. "What you try to do is play tough in the secondary and if you keep coming on the pass rush you think sooner or later, even if they leave everyone in, after four seconds, five seconds, you think you ought to get there."
But Sunday, Testaverde kept finding men open. McCardell was 10 yards behind cornerback Charles Dimry when he caught his TD pass.
Tillman said the defense was in two different coverages because of a miscommunication. Dimry said he just got beat.
"They just had a great game plan," Dimry said. "They made the plays, and we didn't."
Marc Topkin, The St.Petersburg Times 1995