Deep thinking leads to success
John Romano, The St.Petersburg Times, published 25 September 1989

Fans who gathered in Tampa Stadium last weekend noticed that the Buccaneers were not throwing the football downfield very much. Apparently, the New Orleans Saints noticed too. The Saints came in Sunday expecting to see a short passing attack and instead were victimized by deeper routes in Tampa Bay's 20-10 win.

Bucs receivers ran the same type of slant and sideline-out patterns they had in the previous two weeks. But a few wrinkles were added Sunday. Instead of looking for the pass at the end of the short route, they would cut upfield and catch the secondary by surprise. “A big part of our offense has been the slant pass. New Orleans was set up to play our tendencies,” wide receiver Mark Carrier said. “So we thought we'd capitalize on that. They were biting on the fakes and we were able to get open behind them on some of those plays.”

Carrier did the best job of getting open. The Louisiana native caught five passes for 120 yards against the team he cheered for as a youngster. In three career games against the Saints, Carrier has caught 17 passes for 398 yards. “He wants to be great and it shows,” Bucs quarterback Vinny Testaverde said of Carrier. “He's going to be a superstar. That's the way to approach it. He wants to be the best.”

Tampa Bay receivers said they were pleased to have Testaverde throwing their way more this week instead of dumping the ball off to the running backs. Testaverde said it wasn't his decision. He said New Orleans made the choice for him. “The defense controls it. They dictate what you're going to do and they were giving us those passes,” Testaverde said. “We were just playing smart and taking advantage of it.”

The Bucs took advantage of it in critical situations. Five times Testaverde connected with a wide receiver or tight end Ron Hall in third-and-long situations. Hall caught his first touchdown pass in more than a year when the Bucs were faced with a third-and-goal from the 11 in the second quarter. “It's only the third game but we haven't gone deep too much until today,” said Hall, who finished with four catches for 43 yards. “They were looking for us to go with the shorter slant passes and we went deep on them a few times.”

Along with Hall and Carrier, wideouts Bruce Hill and Danny Peebles also played a bigger part in Sunday's outcome. Coming into the game, the two had combined for two catches for 13 yards against the Packers and 49ers. On Sunday, Hill had two receptions for 24 yards and Peebles caught one for 22 yards. It was the first catch of Peebles' NFL career and he paid dearly for it when he was drilled by Robert Massey and Dave Waymer.

Peebles eventually left the game with a dislocated left shoulder. He originally hurt the shoulder in college and took a shot on it again after making his catch Sunday. Later in the game, two Saints hit Peebles while he was blocking on the punt team and the shoulder popped out. Peebles said he expects to miss no more than one game. The shoulder was sore enough that Peebles couldn't take his shoes off after the game on Sunday. Tampa Bay's rejuvenated offense, however, helped him smile despite the pain. “This week we showed what we're capable of doing,” Peebles said. “We were running better routes and Vinny was doing a better job of getting the ball to us. We were more in synch.”