Big day for McCray and Bucs
Here is how Megatron — Calvin Johnson, the best receiver in football — described the Megaplay that won Sunday’s game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 24-21 over the Lions: “I wanted to turn up, get up the field, and as soon as I did, the dude was right there.”
The dude. No license plate, just “dude.” Here’s the dude: “I just tried to hit him as hard as I could, knock the ball loose. It wasn’t any secret who the ball was going to. Next thing I knew, I saw Johnthan (Banks) running with the ball down the sideline. I must have done something good.”
Will our next mystery guest sign in, please? Sunday, Bobby Rainey was named Kelcie McCray. Backup free safety McCray’s hard knock late in the game on Johnson separated Johnson from the football, which then fluttered into the loving arms of Bucs cornerback Johnthan Banks at the Tampa Bay 3-yard line for a clinching interception — with Darrelle Revis on the sideline, no less.
It’s three wins in a row for the Bucs. “I was rushing to get to the quarterback,” Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “I turned around and I’m getting ready to run at the ball ... and the ball’s coming at me. I said, ‘Did we just win?’ ”
They won without Revis, who didn’t return after he injured his groin late in the first half. The best cover corner going, who’d ably marked Johnson for the first 30 minutes, was out. You would have thought Johnson would have feasted, that he’d need to wear a lobster bib or something. “One of the more gutsy performances I’ve seen from a team,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said.
Middle linebacker Mason Foster was already out with a concussion. Numskull safety Dashon Goldson was out, too, suspended. Then Revis went down, against the league’s third-ranked passing attack and, more to the point, Johnson, who had more yards and touchdowns than any NFL receiver.
It took an army of Mini-Mes to battle Megatron. When one made a play, you checked the jersey number and tried to remember who he was. After, you scanned the Bucs locker room until you found their stalls, side by side: Tandy, Gorrer, McCray, Johnson, Banks. Dude ranch.
They helped the Bucs force and grab five turnovers, including four interceptions off Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Leonard Johnson took his first-half pick in for a touchdown. Keith Tandy’s second-half interception near the Bucs’ goal line killed a Lions drive. Even when the Bucs offense, and kicker Rian Lindell, firmly refused to add insurance, the makeshift secondary held. “It means we won’t quit,” McCray said.
Like last week’s running back sensation Bobby Rainey, McCray is new to the Bucs and fresh from the scrap heap, having been dumped by the Dolphins and picked off waivers by the Bucs in early October. The guy who unloaded on Calvin Johnson still has his stuff in moving boxes. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik and his salvage crews are on a nice roll.
Before his big hit to end it, McCray had scooped up a fumble to spike a Lions series. Way before that, he wasn’t drafted into the league. Before that, he played for Arkansas State. He’s a second-year pro from Columbus, Ga. He had played sparingly since joining the Bucs. And that would have been the case Sunday if Goldson hadn’t been suspended. So, meet the new Bobby Rainey. The Bucs have a lot of those right now. “A lot of guys who you’ve never heard of, like me and Bobby, who’s my close friend from the Sun Belt,” McCray said with a grin.
The Bucs were up against it when Revis went down. They were ready. That included Schiano and his staff. The backup plan had rookie cornerback Banks on Johnson. Banks came to the sideline after the first series of the second half. He told Revis he was nervous. It was Calvin Johnson. “He’s about 6-6, 6-7,” Banks told Revis.
Revis informed Banks that Johnson was, in fact, human. “He’s normal,” Revis said. “Just cover him.” And so Banks did, with loads of help. “We banded together,” Keith Tandy said.
Johnson had four catches for 61 yards in the first half and only three for 54 yards in the second — and zero touchdowns all day. And with one minute left, as Megatron was about to change the outcome, a human named Kelcie McCray — yes, Kelcie McCray — changed it right back. Dude made the play.