Bucs Can't Convert In Red Zone Or Twilight Zone
Ira Kaufman, The Tampa Tribune, published 20 September 2004

When the Bucs huddled up at their 12-yard line with 2:31 remaining Sunday, they were thinking about the end zone. Not the Twilight Zone. But with the game on the line, the last of Tampa Bay's 13 possessions evolved into an 88-second thrill ride that ended with a crash. The final drive began with the Bucs trailing Seattle 10-6 and quarterback Chris Simms harboring visions of a fourth- quarter comeback victory in his NFL debut. ``Chris was cool and collected in the huddle,'' Bucs center John Wade said. ``He knows this system, and he understands this system.''

The Bucs were still at their 30 at the two-minute warning, when Rod Serling drifted onto the field, penalty flag in hand. A first-down incompletion was wiped out when Seahawks left defensive end Chike Okeafor was whistled for roughing Simms. Another incompletion was voided by a pass interference call against right defensive end Grant Wistrom, who had dropped into coverage against tight end Rickey Dudley. ``A lot of times during two- minute drives, crazy things happen,'' Matt Stinchcomb said. ``Unfortunately, we couldn't take advantage.''

An incompletion left the Bucs across midfield with 1:44 remaining, ample time to score the go-ahead touchdown in this defensive struggle. Tampa Bay had momentum, field position, and, as the next play would reveal, good karma. On second down from the Seahawks' 46, Marcus Trufant intercepted a Simms pass intended for Bill Schroeder, apparently ending Tampa Bay's final drive. But a yellow flag kept the patient alive as Okeafor was whistled for yet another roughing-the-passer penalty. ``That drive was starting to look like Murphy's Law,'' Wistrom said. ``Whatever could go wrong was going wrong, at the wrong time.''

The Bucs had now moved 39 yards downfield courtesy of three penalties, compared with 18 yards on their own. A 5-yard pass to Tim Brown moved the ball to the 26, setting up the final act of this comedy of errors. ``The two-minute drill has been pretty good to us over the years,'' said Cosey Coleman.``We were on track and we got some breaks, but today just wasn't our day.''

Simms, on the run again from Seattle's relentless pass rush, tried to throw a second- down pass awry, but Michael Boulware, a rookie safety out of FSU, recorded his second interception in as many weeks. It was finally over. Maybe. The sight of officials huddling had Seattle coach Mike Holmgren braced for the worst. Had Simms' right knee hit the ground before the pass? ``I'm yelling at the officials, but really if I was Jon [Gruden] on the other side of the field, I am liking the calls,'' Holmgren said. ``We have to be smart in those situations. It did get a little intense there.''

As Bucs players and coaches paced, officials finally ruled the interception would stand. ``A lot of two-minute drives are bizarre - but that was one of the more bizarre ones,'' Bucs offensive line coach Bill Muir said.

Simms faulted himself for making a ``stupid throw'' on the last of his 32 pass attempts, saying he was merely trying to throw the ball away. According to Charles Lee, Simms is being too hard on himself. ``We didn't help Chris out like we needed to,'' Lee said. ``On that last drive, there was an aura, a presence that Chris was presenting to the guys. The confidence in the huddle was very high. But overall, we stunk up the joint again.''