In a word, Bucs invent physicality
Mick Elliott, The Tampa Tribune, published 29 December 1997

This was one of those rare, sweet moments in Tampa Bay, a heretofore wasteland in athletic competition. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had just erased some of the ugly off their lifelong image as the NFL's version of a CARE package.

A playoff victory against the Detroit Lions had ignited euphoria rarely witnessed in the history of Buccaneer football. Fireworks were blasting in the background. Fans were refusing to leave, standing, clapping, demanding a curtain call from their heroes. It was a moment to freeze. A time to celebrate. But first Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer would explain how the Bucs made it happen. "Physicality," he said.

As the wild celebration went on around him, Dilfer had been pushed in front of a Fox television camera for the proverbial postgame reaction. In an effort to explain how the Bucs had claimed their first playoff victory in 18 years, Dilfer summed it up with a single word. Even if it isn't a word. Yet. "Physicality. That's going above and beyond your physical capability," he said. "I used it on Fox tonight, now it has to become a word. I don't want to be the laughingstock of the country. So write it down. It's a word now."

Why not? If the guy can take the Bucs into the second round of the NFL playoffs, who's to say he isn't qualified to amend the English language? Besides, if Webster's isn't interested in Dilfer's work, then Rand McNally should be because this has turned into quite a trip. "It's amazing. It's different when you win a playoff game," Dilfer said. "This was the hardest I've ever had to work at controlling my adrenaline in a football game. I was juiced from the get-go because the electricity was unbelievable. Just awesome."

Nevertheless, the play wasn't fancy. It was football by the numbers. Basic. Uncluttered. Efficient. Dilfer and the Buccaneer offense did what was needed. They took the football and held it like Tony Dungy holds his emotions. The offense kept Detroit superback Barry Sanders on the sideline enough that the defense could keep him out of the end zone. The Bucs took the lead early and did nothing to give it away.

At the end of the first quarter, the Bucs led in time of possession 11:24 to 3:36. At halftime the Bucs had owned the football for 20:41 of the 30 minutes. Even Barry Sanders can't score from the sideline. "Our offense really did a good job, especially in the first half," Dungy said. "We talked all week about not letting Barry get going. We counted on the offense to move the ball and keep them off the field. Then when our defense did go out, they were fresh and got them stopped. We controlled the clock in the first half and I thought that was the key to the game."

Mike Alstott ground out 68 yards on 11 carries, including a 31-yard third-quarter touchdown run. Warrick Dunn did his part with 72 yards on 18 carries. Even the Buc wide receivers - missing in recent weeks - made an appearance, helping Dilfer complete 13 of 26 passes, including a 9-yard TD to Horace Copeland. "We weren't here just to show up, we were here to make an impact and win games," Alstott said. "If you can control the clock and get points out of long drives, you're doing things that will win ball games. And most importantly, we kept Barry off the field."

And the crowd cheered. "I'm happy for Mike," Dilfer said. "He is one of our superstars and he's been hurt and sick. When we found out the field was wet this morning I knew Mike was going to have to have a big day and he did. And it was not just his running but his blocking on a lot of those big plays Warrick had up the middle. "The offensive line, everybody who blocked were physical. That's what won us the football game tonight." And created a word.