Cadillac Gets Off The Blocks
Cadillac Williams felt the weight of the running game on his shoulders. Actually it was his back, to be more specific.
Through the first three games, the Bucs' second-year running back endured persistent rumors about the severity of a back problem that has flared up this season. He downplayed the back injury and talked about needing a breakout game. He had his first of the season Sunday against New Orleans, as he carried the ball 20 times for 111 yards.
Williams produced his first 100-yard game since his 150-yard effort against Atlanta last Dec. 24. His longest run Sunday - 34 yards - nearly equaled his best outing for the first three games (48 rushing yards against Carolina in Week 3).
"It does help my confidence," Williams said. "But [my confidence never wavered] when I was going through bad times, when I wasn't getting the yards."
A lot of the credit, Williams said, goes to the offensive line, which featured rookie right tackle Jeremy Trueblood making his first NFL start.
"The guys got me some running room," said Williams, who also had three receptions for 14 yards. "We got great push up front. They definitely controlled the line of scrimmage."
Ultimately, the one thing Williams couldn't control was the outcome of the game. He usually can when he runs for more than 100 yards.
Before Sunday, the Bucs were 6-0 when Williams surpassed the 100-yard mark. With Williams' help, the running game produced its biggest total of the season - 187 yards. Tampa Bay had 132 rushing yards through the first three quarters - two more than it produced in the first three games total.
"We tried some other things to get the running game going," Jon Gruden said. "We tried to get the ball on the perimeter sometimes. The double-reverse worked. We tossed the ball repeatedly trying to make the defense a little bit more accountable. We did some good perimeter running. And] Carnell Williams is just a great back and a great competitor."
That's why he's taking the loss so hard, despite his most productive game this season.
"Personally it was big, but I'd be lying to you if I said I felt good right now," Williams said. "All I know is we're 0-4 and no matter what I did as a player, I just feel disgusted right now."
Katherine Smith, The Tampa Tribune 9 October 2006