King's fleet feet feats can't save victory
Shaun King kept pulling the ball down, but it did not help him pull the game out. Fourteen times in Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Bears, King dropped back to pass but could not squeeze the trigger. The result was 10 scrambles for 70 yards, including a game-tying 9- yard run in the third quarter. But as has been the case in most Bucs defeats, it was King's two interceptions that were the difference in the outcome.

The first was returned 38 yards by safety Tony Parrish for the Bears' only touchdown with 48 seconds remaining in the first half. The second was picked off by rookie linebacker Brian Urlacher at the Chicago 21 and ended any comeback hopes with two minutes left in the game. "You have to give them credit. They held us to 10 (points)," King said. "We were hurting ourselves, really. If we protect the ball and we convert some of our third downs, I think it's a different outcome."

King finished 12-of-19 passing for 91 yards - his career low as a starter - and the two interceptions. The Bucs converted 3-of-11 third- down situations. As King goes, so go the Bucs. In Tampa Bay's six victories, he has thrown 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. In the five defeats, he has two touchdowns and has been picked off eight times. Sunday's game marked the 16th regular-season start for the 24- year-old King, whose record dropped to 10-6. "Shaun will be all right. He's young," Bucs receiver Keyshawn Johnson said. "This was his 16th game. People act like he's been here for a long time. He won the game last week and no one said anything."

However, some Bucs players said King's inexperience no longer can be used as an excuse for inconsistency. "He's a pro player. He's been starting for us for awhile now," guard Frank Middleton said. "All these excuses about he's a young player, young this, young that. Hell (with) that. I've got to make the blocks, he's got to make the passes. We don't have any young people on this team. We've got a team trying to do something great. And all that young s--- has got to go out the window."

King's first interception Sunday, a pass intended for tight end Dave Moore, was the result of miscommunication. "I had outside technique and I ran in and he expected me to turn around," Moore said. "It was a lack of communication. He let it go before I turned around, anticipating me just to turn around, and I broke away from the guy because the strongside linebacker came on the inside."

The interception by Urlacher essentially iced the game. Needing a field goal to send the game into overtime, King passed for two first downs to Jacquez Green and ran for two others. But on first down at the Chicago 40, his pass to Johnson was underthrown. "It was just one of those things when you see something and your body just doesn't react," Johnson said. "That was one of those situations. He saw it. He wanted to do A and wound up doing B. If he throws it over the top, it's a touchdown. And that comes with time. That comes with experience and working with a guy. It's just unfortunate Urlacher made a good play for the Bears and that's why he's the linebacker that he is."

Said King: "That's one where we've got a chance to win. If I'm going to throw that, it's got to go where I want it to go. I can't throw that one and have it do that. That really put a dagger in us."

A wind blowing at 15 miles per hour from the south made passing conditions difficult for the Bucs in the first and fourth quarters. Chicago also was able to get pressure on King using a variety of blitzes, sacking him four times. "They did a pretty good job of covering," coach Tony Dungy said. "They had some blitzes going and Shaun had to scramble a lot, but we didn't hit many balls up the field, especially. It's tough throwing the ball when you were going one direction. So for two quarters, the (defensive backs) could sit down on people and make it tough throwing that way. But when we had the wind, we didn't take advantage as much as we would've liked."

Rick Stroud , The St.Petersburg Times 2000