Clayton, Galloway Benefit As Griese's Targets
Brian Griese completed passes to nine different receivers Sunday. Actually, 10 if you include the deflected pass he caught himself. Even Tim Brown got in on the action. Brown snapped a five-game streak without a reception with two catches.
But it was rookie Michael Clayton and veteran Joey Galloway who benefited the most from Griese's most productive day as a Buc (36 of 50 for 392 yards and three touchdowns) in Tampa Bay's 31-24 loss. Clayton caught a career- high nine passes for 145 yards and one touchdown. Galloway had five receptions for 78 yards and two touchdowns.
Keenan McCardell, watching from the Chargers sideline with an injured hamstring, said he admired the job the newest members of the Bucs receiving corps are doing. ``Michael is having the same numbers that I had last year. He stepped in and played big,'' said McCardell, who led the Bucs with 84 receptions for 1,174 yards and eight touchdowns last year. ``Joey has come in, it's his first year of the offense and [he] is becoming more familiar with it. It's a wide receiver offense. It's a wide receiver's dream.''
It's a quarterback's dream to have receivers making big plays. Of Clayton's game-high nine receptions, seven were for first downs. Galloway picked up two first downs and added two touchdowns to his Tampa Bay total (three). He scored his first Bucs touchdown last week against Atlanta. ``Joey made some great plays today,'' Griese said. ``On the first touchdown, it was just pure speed, speed over the top. I laid it out there for him and let him go get it. ... He did a great job. He's got quick feet.''
Those feet came out from underneath Galloway late in the fourth quarter. He slipped during a punt return and was helped off the field suffering from cramps. ``That hurt us,'' Jon Gruden said. ``We ran out of gas a little bit. We had some penalties on early down run calls which put us behind in the down and distance, and Galloway's absence hurt us down the stretch.''
Clayton, who leads the Bucs and NFL rookies with 70 receptions, is 12 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season. He credits Griese for his success. ``You have to love the guy,'' Clayton said. ``If it weren't for him, I probably wouldn't have made it this far. He really sets the tone in the huddle and for a guy like me, I can feed off that. When he looks at you in your eye, it's confidence saying I'm coming to you, get open. It gives you a little bit more spunk running your routes.''
Clayton had to build up trust with Griese and is taking advantage of that dependability. ``He knows I'll catch,'' he said. ``I catch them in practice. I don't think I've dropped one catchable ball this season. He knows. He's pretty comfortable throwing the ball to me.''
Galloway also enjoys the benefits of Griese's confidence in the receivers. ``It's fun to play football when [Brian's] spreading the ball around,'' Galloway said. ``You know whenever a play is called, you better do your job because there's a chance he could find you.''
Katherine Smith The Tampa Tribune 13 December 2004