Simms makes his voice heard
The play call was a run, simple and safe. But when quarterback Chris Simms got to the line of scrimmage, he saw a chance for something big. Some might not have taken the risk. Simms went for the reward.

On the Bucs' first possession of overtime, Simms recognized single coverage by a Falcons cornerback on receiver Joey Galloway. Simms coolly changed the play and lofted a 30-yard pass down the sideline to the Atlanta 9 to set up a potential winning field goal. The 27-yard kick failed, but the shrewd audible was a signature play for Simms, who continues to mature into a quarterback the Bucs can take to the playoffs. And vice versa.

"I told him after he audibled to me on the sideline there's not a lot of guys in this league that would make that kind of audible in that situation," Galloway said. "He has grown up tremendously over the course of the season. And as long as he continues to do that, it's going to be interesting and fun to see how good he can be."

In a game with more twists than Chubby Checker, Simms directed a tying touchdown drive at the end of regulation and two drives in overtime that put Tampa Bay in field-goal range. During those possessions, Simms completed 7 of 10 passes to four receivers for 95 yards. He managed the clock, commanded the huddle and kept a tired team moving in the right direction. In his 11th career start.

"What happens when you get in real tight situations like that for young guys, it's not the passing and the running," quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett said. "It's running the team. It's running the offense, getting in and out of the huddle. The guys are exhausted and he's got the enthusiasm; he's got them going. He's changing plays at the line of scrimmage in a very calm way with explosions going off all over the place. The play to Joey was spectacular. He says, "Hey, I'm throwing it.' That shows his confidence."

Simms first earned a cool-under-fire reputation in November, when he led consecutive fourth-quarter comebacks against Washington and Atlanta. On Saturday, he took another step. He shook off two first-half interceptions that led to 10 points for the Falcons. And, knowing Dallas' upset at Carolina gave Tampa Bay a revived chance to win the NFC South, he set an energetic example in overtime. "Chris was going crazy. He was fired up," rookie guard Dan Buenning said. "The game was grinding and grinding and it was getting later and later. He just kept the fire going within us. He really was a leader in a different way than he has been before."

At times, it was hard to tell whether the Simms in the Bucs huddle was 25-year-old Chris or his famous father, Phil, a former Giants quarterback who led the team to victory in Super Bowl XXI. "He was left-handed, so that was Chris," Hackett said.

Apparently, poise is genetic. "All year long we just continue to fight, no matter what the circumstance is," Chris Simms said. "When we need to put together a drive, more often than not, we come through. We've had the confidence to know that if we need a touchdown the last drive of the game, three points, whatever it is, we've been able to go do it."

Joanne Korth, The St.Petersburg Times 25 December 2005