Rob's Performance Reaffirms Gruden's Faith
The Tampa Tribune, published 28 October 2002

The likelihood is that Brad Johnson will be back at quarterback when the Bucs face the Vikings at Raymond James Stadium next Sunday. If he has to, though, Bucs coach Jon Gruden believes he can turn to Rob Johnson and have success. Gruden always has believed that, and after watching Johnson perform Sunday in the Bucs' 12-9 victory against the Panthers, he remains convinced. Though he failed to get the Bucs into the end zone, Johnson completed 22 of 33 passes and endured until the very end a heavy pass rush and a series of tough hits. ``There were seven or eight plays where [because of the poor pass protection] he had basically no chance,'' Gruden said. ``It's hard to evaluate a guy when things like that occur, but if there's one thing I can say about this guy, it's that he managed our game very well.''

He had little choice. With Brad Johnson nursing a fractured rib as well as a stomach virus that had him doubled over in pain early Sunday, Rob Johnson was handed the keys to the Bucs offense. It sputtered along, as it often does, but seldom was that a result of Johnson's play. Though he fumbled the ball on one play and threw an interception, his often questionable decision-making was solid and he turned in a gutty performance, Gruden said. ``He took some hits and got hit bad in the first half but it never fazed him,'' Gruden said. ``That's the sign of a winner. That was a really good building block for Rob Johnson.''

It wasn't much of a building block for the offense. For the second consecutive week the unit gained less than 230 total yards and did not score a touchdown. It also surrendered six sacks. ``They had us timed pretty well,'' Johnson said of the Carolina defense. ``They were on us right off the snap.''

That's been a problem for most of this year, and once again it nullified some potential scoring drives. As has often been the case, Martin Gramatica bailed out the offense. He kicked four field goals, including three in the fourth quarter to rally the Bucs. The third of his four came after the Bucs got the ball back via a Steve Smith fumble. On the winning kick, the Bucs drove the ball 44 yards into scoring position. ``That was a good drive for us,'' right tackle Kenyatta Walker said. ``It was good for us to end with that. It was good for our confidence and good for us to prove to the defense that we can get the job done.''