Johnson's Lament: `We Have No One Else To Blame'
If adversity reveals character, the Bucs are on the brink of full exposure. ``Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought we'd be 0-3,'' said Brad Johnson, who finds himself directing a last-place club in the NFC South following a 30-20 loss to the Raiders Sunday night. ``We have no choice anymore but to turn this around. We have no else to blame and we can't start pointing fingers.''

Tampa Bay's first 0-3 start since 1996 dropped the Bucs three games behind division leader Atlanta and two games behind the Saints. Oakland led 30-6 before the Bucs scored their first two offensive touchdowns of the season, avoiding Jon Gruden's most lopsided loss as Tampa Bay coach. Amid the turmoil, injuries continue to mount, with Charlie Garner out for the season with a torn knee tendon. Rickey Dudley didn't play in the second half because of a broken hand. ``It started with Joey Galloway,'' Johnson said, referring to the season-opening hamstring injury that will sideline Tampa Bay's primary deep threat for at least another month. ``Joe Jurevicius hasn't been able to play and we've obviously had no continuity there at receiver.''

Johnson threw for 309 yards, but Phillip Buchanon broke the game open early in the third quarter, stepping into the left flat in front of tight end Dave Moore and racing 32 yards with an interception to put the Raiders ahead 23-6. Moore was split wide left on the play and Johnson, facing some pressure, floated a pass while throwing off his back foot. ``The corner did a great job of jumping underneath,'' Johnson said. ``Unfortunately, it was seven for them.''

Unlike the home opener against Seattle, Gruden stuck with Johnson throughout the game and the Bucs finished with 389 total yards, or 51 less than the first two losses combined. Before boarding a charter flight back to the hurricane- ravaged Tampa Bay area, Derrick Brooks vowed to keep the faith that this storm, too, shall pass. ``The easy thing to do now is count us out,'' he said. ``But in this room, we're not counting ourselves out by any means. Once again, we made too many mistakes and couldn't keep things together for 60 minutes. The fact is we're 0-3, but we're not going to buy into all the negativism.''

After facing Warren Sapp, Tampa Bay now prepares for the Broncos and another former Buc cornerstone, John Lynch. As Johnson walked off the field Sunday night, he and Sapp embraced as a frenzied crowd howled in delight at Gruden's disappointing return to Oakland. ``This is a great atmosphere to play in,'' Johnson said, ``and Raider Nation is awesome. I'm glad I got to finish tonight and we fought hard. We never gave up, and that's something.''

Ira Kaufman The Tampa Tribune 27 September 2004