Johnson-led Bucs avoid sad historical footnote Ward's performance was one to forget
Josh Johnson's first NFL drive under center was more than just "all right." It was downright historic.

When Tampa Bay's second-year QB replaced Byron Leftwich with 9:33 remaining Sunday, the home team had accumulated only 35 total yards and one first down against the favored Giants. In their 33-year-old history, the Bucs had never gained less than 65 yards or failed to register at least five first downs.

"I did all right, but we didn't score a touchdown and that was our goal," said Johnson, who drove the Bucs from their own 24 to the New York 5-yard line in his only possession. "I wouldn't say I was nervous - I was just trying to get us in rhythm and finish the game strong."

Taking his first pro snap, Johnson found Antonio Bryant for 6 yards, marking the afternoon's first reception by a Tampa Bay WR. Johnson ran for 15 yards and added three more completions for 30 yards as the Bucs finished with 86 yards in a 24-0 loss.

One of Johnson's passes zipped through Michael Clayton's hands in the end zone. "Johnson's a talented player," Bucs C Sean Mahan said. "He gave our offense a different dimension and a little tempo change."

Johnson was inactive for all 16 games last season and Coach Raheem Morris has occasionally split him out as a receiver this year. "Josh was a spark today," said rookie WR Sammie Stroughter, who grabbed two of Johnson's four completions. "When his opportunity came, he took advantage of it. He's a great talent and the sky's the limit for this kid."

It was a particularly dreary day for RB Derrick Ward, who signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent in March after five years with the Giants. Ward was looking forward to getting together with his former teammates and showing off a Bucs offense that averaged 401.5 yards through two weeks.

Instead, the Bucs were blanked for the first time since the 2006 opener against Baltimore and Ward gained only 2 yards in five carries. "I was happy to see him, but he (Ward) wasn't going to do anything today," Giants DE Osi Umenyiora said.

Ward, who declined comment after the game, gained 7 yards on his initial carry before a physical defense shut him down. The Giants had yielded 251 yards on the ground at Dallas last week, but the Bucs managed only 28 rushing yards - their lowest figure in the past 30 games.

Ira Kaufman, The Tampa Tribune 27 September 2009