The Tampa Tribune, published 13 October 2003|
Offensive line coach Bill Muir kept his head down and walked briskly through the locker room after Sunday's 35-13 victory, but his half-smile gave it away. Last year's weak link is suddenly an asset in 2003. Tampa Bay rushed for 90 yards in the second half and the offensive line continued its faultless protection of Brad Johnson as the Bucs improved to 3-2 by rolling up 25 first downs.
Johnson, who threw four TDs while completing 22 of 30 attempts against a solid secondary, has gone 150 consecutive pass attempts without being sacked. ``Our guys did a real good job of coming off the ball in the second half,'' Muir said after Tampa Bay averaged 6.9 yards per snap. ``These guys have a lot of tenacity. We had an extremely disappointing loss last week, a bitter pill to spit out, but we had an exceptional week of preparation.''
The Bucs scored TDs on three consecutive second-half possessions to overcome a 13-7 deficit. On those three devastating drives, Tampa Bay reeled off 25 plays for 241 yards.
``I can't say enough about our offense,'' defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said.
A defense that was on the field for all but four snaps of the opening quarter appreciated the second-half respite. ``Our offensive line is playing very well and those guys still aren't getting enough credit,'' said LB Derrick Brooks, who capped the comeback with a 44-yard interception return. ``Just another day of protecting Brad well and opening up big holes.''
Keenan McCardell, who led the Bucs with five receptions for 77 yards, appreciates the time Johnson is getting to find targets downfield. ``Our offensive line is playing unbelievable football,'' McCardell said. ``That part of our team has improved so much.''
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
Despite all the hype involving Redskins LB LaVar Arrington, Warren Sapp and nervous NFL executives, Sunday's warm-ups proved routine. Sapp skipped through the Indianapolis stretch last week and Arrington issued a warning about the consequences of a similar occurrence. The league weighed in with a memo vowing a 15-yard penalty if Sapp repeated his antics against the Redskins, but there were no pregame incidents Sunday. ``I didn't need to run through their stretch,'' Sapp said. ``They had a whole 53-man squad we were going after.''
In a CBS pregame interview, Sapp likened NFL executives to slave masters. ``Stop a man from doing something that he's been doing for nine years? And so now there's a rule against me. Thanks. I knew [the league] was going to do what they did because they've been notoriously against Sapp,'' he said. ``Like I said before, it's a slave system. Make no mistake about it, slave master say you can't do it, don't do it. They'll make an example out of you. ... I guess I've become larger than life.''
Since the 2000 season, the Bucs had been 1-11 when trailing at the half. On Sunday, they found themselves in a 10-7 hole at intermission, in danger of suffering back-to-back losses for the first time during the Jon Gruden era. Instead, they reeled off the final 28 points of the game to restore confidence. ``We looked at the halftime scoreboard and realized all their points came off our stupid mistakes,'' CB Ronde Barber said. ``That's when we regrouped, with Simeon [Rice] and Warren making things easy for us in the secondary by bringing the heat. We need a nasty attitude and we showed that in the second half. We had a lot of distractions going into this game, but we handled it like professionals.''
Sapp ended a stretch of 12 consecutive regular-season games without a sack by dropping Patrick Ramsey and ex-Buc Rob Johnson once apiece. ``Under Jon, we hadn't lost two in a row - and we didn't want to start today,'' Sapp said. ``We thrive in adverse situations and we put ourselves in some of those today in the first half. But once the offense gave us a lead, we said `let's go.' After last week, we weren't going to allow another win out the door.''
Starting TE Ken Dilger suffered a sprained left foot late in the opening quarter and spent the rest of the day watching backups Todd Yoder and Will Heller combine for three TD catches. ``They did a great job,'' said Dilger, who was hurt while pouncing on Michael Pittman's fumble at the Tampa Bay 21. ``I may be able to play by next week, but we'll have to see.''
Two defensive starters were among the seven inactives Sunday. CB Brian Kelly, who suffered a left pectoral strain against the Colts on Monday night, tried to go in warm-ups but he watched the game in street clothes. MLB Shelton Quarles (fractured forearm and dislocated elbow) missed his fifth consecutive game and WR Karl Williams was inactive with a left hamstring strain. Also scratched were WR Joe Jurevicius (torn right MCL), C Austin King, DT Cleveland Pinkney and OL Cornell Green. SS John Lynch suffered a stinger in Sunday's warm-ups and played with a neck collar, registering three tackles.
The Bucs have won five in a row on the road, yielding four TDs in that span.
Ramsey's 2-yard flip to Darnerien McCants with 14 seconds left in the second quarter marked the first opening-half TD scored against the Bucs all season.
The Buccaneer defense has had at least one takeaway in 46 consecutive games, a streak that was extended against Washington by DE Simeon Rice’s fumble recovery in the first quarter. That streak is the second longest in the NFL since 1983; the longest is Philadelphia’s 71 from 1985-90.
Tampa Bay also pushed its streak of consecutive games with at least one sack to 65 games on the same play. Rice had forced the fumble when he sacked QB Patrick Ramsey. The Bucs moved one game closer to the record in that category, established at 68 games by Dallas from 1976-80.
Strangely, the Bucs are in the midst of an eight-game streak in which the visiting team has won every contest. That unusual run began last December when Tampa Bay won at Detroit, then extended through the end of the 2002 season with a home loss to Pittsburgh and a road win at Chicago.
Keyshawn Johnson is now just two receptions shy of moving into fourth place on the Bucs’ all-time receptions list on Saturday, standing a single catch behind TE Jimmie Giles (279). With four catches against the Redskins, Johnson pushed his total in three-plus seasons as a Buccaneer to 278. Johnson won’t have far to go to take over third place, either, as Kevin House is just ahead at 286.
Rookie DE Dewayne White was active for the first time after being one of eight game-day inactives through the Bucs’ first four contests. White played primarily on special teams.
Todd Yoder’s one-yard scoring reception in the second quarter may have been the first receiving score of his career. However, it was his second NFL touchdown, as he also scored on a return of a blocked punt at Cincinnati on December 2, 2001. Yoder later got his second career TD catch on an 11-yarder in the third quarter.