Johnson Takes Licking, Keeps On Clicking
The Tampa Tribune, published 13 October 2003

The bridge of his nose was black but Brad Johnson will do what it takes to win. ``Thank goodness I'm married because I couldn't get a date this week,'' he joked. ``My son will have to kiss away the boo-boo.''

Nothing hurts when you have the kind of game he did Sunday, throwing four touchdown passes to lead the Bucs to a 35-13 victory against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Those statistics shouted loudly, certainly, about the kind of day Johnson had, but they don't begin to give his performance its proper due.

Johnson played with a running game handicapped by the season-ending injury last week to Mike Alstott, then was further hampered by an injury early in the game to tight end Ken Dilger. The Bucs have been without wideout Joe Jurevicius for a while now, but on Sunday added Karl Williams to the injury list.

Fortunately, Johnson was healthy. Well, except for the nose. He proved again that he is the one indispensable player the Bucs have. ``As a man, you want this guy on your team. I know I do. He's a phenomenal talent,'' Jon Gruden said.

It seems absurd to remember that Johnson was run out of Washington by owner Dan Snyder, who believed he could never win a big game. Johnson proved that theory bogus by leading the Bucs to the Super Bowl, and on Sunday - in front of his old boss - he showed again his toughness and resourcefulness. He found obscure tight ends Todd Yoder and Will Heller for three of the touchdowns, then hit Keyshawn Johnson for a 39-yard score with 8:58 left in the game to put the Bucs ahead 28-13.

As he watched the comple tion of the touchdown, Johnson pumped his right fist and took three steps back - right onto the Redskins' logo. Sweet. ``It's a total team game,'' he said. ``Obviously you saw that on Monday night. I've always talked about it: I think that football is the ultimate team game.''

Fittingly, it was much appreciated by the defense, especially after the first quarter in which the Redskins ran 26 plays to the Bucs' four and had a time of possession edge of 13:09 to 1:51. By the end of the game, the Bucs had closed the possession gap to within 1:54, and ran just 10 fewer plays. ``Brad played huge today, but no one seems to want to give him credit for his poise and perseverance,'' cornerback Ronde Barber said. ``We expect Brad to make those plays he made today every week. We have the utmost confidence in him.''

Line coach Bill Muir added, ``Brad Johnson's a pro's pro - no other way to put it. He sees the field, he's in control, he makes the plays. If you're a guy blocking for him, you have to be ecstatic about having a guy like that behind you.`` No matter what he looks like.