Keep On Keepin' On
It was, as Jeff Garcia said afterward, "a matter of perseverance."

That's probably as good a way as any to describe what went on Sunday at Ray-Jay. The Bucs - and Garcia, particularly - found a way to beat Minnesota 19-13 despite losing top running back Earnest Graham for all but the first play of the game.

They persevered despite an offense that generated just one touchdown on five trips to the red zone. We could spend more time talking about the things that went wrong, but what went right is more important. The Bucs greet this morning 7-3 and are still in the middle of things for the playoffs.

But then, that's what this team does. That's what this quarterback does. Even when there are logical reasons why they should lose, such as there were in this game, the Bucs often find a way to win. Garcia's postgame interrogation by the media was delayed so he could get stitches to close a wound in his chin, the residue of a hit midway through the second quarter by Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards. "It's nothing new to this chin," Garcia chuckled.

It didn't slow him even a little bit. He finished with 23 completions in 30 passes for 255 yards, but his play exceeded the sum of even those strong numbers. The Bucs are in a tough spot right now as injuries have sapped their depth at running back. Somebody has to keep things going. Sunday, Garcia was that "someone." "He really competed," Jon Gruden said.

Garcia had only two official carries for 9 yards, but he kept plays alive with his jitter-bugging against the Vikings' pass rush. It bought time and helped compensate for the loss of Graham, who suffered an ankle injury. Don't know about his status yet, but we do know about Garcia. "That's one of the best games I've seen him play as a Buccaneer," Gruden said.

He was at his best on their first drive of the third quarter. The Bucs trailed 13-6 but reached the Minnesota 17. What followed was basically slapstick comedy, although Gruden wasn't laughing. A holding penalty cost 10 yards. Another holding penalty nullified a 27-yard touchdown pass.

But on second-and-25 at the Vikings' 32, Garcia dropped a beauty of a pass to Jerramy Stevens between two defenders. It put the ball at the 1, from where B.J. Askew scored the Bucs' only touchdown of the game. "He does what he does every week," Stevens said. "He doesn't turn the ball over. He makes clutch throws, good plays, runs when he has to. He makes great decisions. He was huge for us today."

There were a lot of huge people out there. Warrick Dunn had to pick up the slack left by Graham's absence, carrying 20 times and catching four passes. The defense sacked Gus Frerotte five times and recovered two fumbles. It held uber back Adrian Peterson mostly in check.

It still came down to the guy under center, though. He is the guy who was all but forgotten earlier this season but seems indispensible now. It might not have been an easy road to get to this point, but sometimes you have to persevere.

Joe Henderson, The Tampa Tribune 17 November 2008