A Black Eye
Roy Cummings, The Tampa Tribune, published 27 September 2004

The Bucs head coach wore black. So did his staff members. Fitting move. It's common in our culture to wear black to funerals. A dream died here at Network Associates Coliseum on Sunday. Several of them did, actually.

Start with Bucs coach Jon Gruden's dream of giving it to the Raiders but good, the way he did in beating them 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego. Gruden never said as much publicly during the days leading up to this rematch, but he really wanted to show the Raiders. Instead, it was the Raiders who showed Gruden, handing him a 30-20 beating that seemed as sound a thrashing he delivered to them that day in San Diego.

Then there was running back Charlie Garner's dream of returning to prominence. That may have died here as well Sunday. Garner, whom the Bucs signed as their feature back after undergoing offseason knee surgery, ripped apart his right or ``good'' knee Sunday. He tore the patella tendon, and Gruden said afterward that Garner will be out for the remainder of the season.

And finally there was Gruden and General Manager Bruce Allen's dream of rebuilding the Bucs into champions, or at least championship contenders. They thought they could do it with used parts, including some culled from their old team, the Raiders. Who knows, maybe they still can, but it doesn't look good. Not now. Not with the Bucs at the bottom of the standings with an 0-3 record. Of the 168 teams that have reached the playoffs since 1990, only three started the season 0-3. ``I'm a positive person,'' Derrick Brooks said. ``Being negative right now is the easy thing to do. But no one in this locker room is a loser.''

That may be the case, but this one did leave you wondering what the Bucs have left to play for other than respect. Speaking of that, the Bucs may have actually earned a little Sunday. After all, they did find the end zone. Twice. It's not much, but for a team that hadn't reached that part of the field in either of its first two games, it was a start. And guess who got them there? Brad Johnson, who may have resurrected himself.

Johnson, you no doubt remember, was yanked from the Bucs' last game, against Seattle, after four ineffective and unimpressive offensive series. He was named the starter for this one, but you got the feeling he might not start the next one if he didn't move the offense Sunday. Eventually, Johnson did move the offense, completing 14 of his final 21 passes for 177 yards and those two touchdowns. The first was a 16-yard pass to Tim Brown, whose touchdown reception was the 100th of his career.

The second was a 41-yard bomb to Bill Schroeder, who also caught a 54-yard pass early in the second quarter and would have scored had he been able to outrun Raiders cornerback Denard Walker. Walker caught up with Schroeder, however, and that forced the Bucs to settle for a field goal, which wasn't such a bad thing at the time. The game was close then, despite the fact the Raiders had already run for more than 100 yards.

Most of that, however, came on a 60-yard burst that back Tyrone Wheatley broke off on Oakland's first play from scrimmage. It was the second time this year that the Bucs defense has given up a big play on the first play, but unlike in the opener, in which the Bucs shut down the Redskins' rushing attack the rest of the way, the Raiders kept running, accumulating 173 rushing yards, mostly by running up the middle and at right end Simeon Rice. ``We wanted to take advantage of Rice,'' Raiders guard Frank Middleton, a former Buc, said. ``He's all about going for the passer. So we wanted to give him something he didn't want.''

Afterward, Rice gave the Bucs something they didn't want - a piece of his mind. Clearly tired of losing and wondering where the Bucs might be if receiver Keenan McCardell were around, he urged his team yet again to settle that issue. ``Losing is very discouraging,'' he said. ``And the fact that we scored two touchdowns is encouraging. So now, if we can just get Keenan back, we'll really be in the mix. It's as simple as that. We need our players. It probably won't happen, but I'm lobbying for him.''

The McCardell-less Bucs settled for field goals on each their first two scoring drives. And despite producing several big plays, the Raiders did the same. The Raiders had a chance to break the tie midway through the second quarter, but kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed wide left on a 45-yard field goal try. One series later, the Raiders didn't blow their chance to take a lead. Aided by a pair of 15- and 18-yard pass plays, the Raiders moved to the Bucs' 19, then scored the first touchdown of the game on a 19-yard Kerry Collins pass to Ronald Curry to take a 13-6 lead. Collins was subbing for an injured Rich Gannon, who left in the first quarter and didn't return.

The Raiders quickly pulled away in the third quarter, adding three points on a Janikowski field goal and seven more on a Phillip Buchanan 32-yard interception return of a Johnson pass intended for tight end Dave Moore. A 2-yard run by Wheatley late in that period made it 30-6, but it was only at that point that the Bucs offense finally got moving, and by then it was too late.