Big victory couldn't come at better time
Tom McEwen, The Tampa Tribune, published 9 October 1989

It could not have come at a better time, oh, unless it was for a championship. It could not have come against a better team, that is, a more appropriate team. It could not have come in a better setting. And, maybe, it could not have been more exciting.

Does anybody who cares care that the Bucs twice led by as many as 21 points, but only won by seven? Naah.

Does anybody who cares care that the Chicago Bears really came pretty doggone close to tying the game? Naah.

Does anybody who cares care that Vinny Testaverde threw a couple of interceptions? Naah.

Does anybody who cares care that the Bears scored 35 points on the Bucs? Nooooo.

The things that mattered on a historic Sunday afternoon at Tampa Stadium was that the Bucs beat the Mighties of the Midway before a humongous crowd, more than 72,000 in-house, and that the way they did it was with a balanced attack that really tipped a tad in the direction it hadn't, the passing game. What mattered was that the Bucs came off a rotten performance a week ago at Minnesota, a lifeless performance offensively in the 17-3 loss, to shoot to a 21-0 lead over the Bears, check a Bear challenge in the third quarter, take charge again, and preserve this precious victory.

What mattered was that Testaverde had himself a big, a really big game, against a really big opponent. His day of 269 yards and three touchdown passes is good against the scout team. Against the Bears? A trophy performance, that's what it was, particularly after a forgettable one at Minnesota seven days before. What mattered was that the Buc offense took advantage of turnover gifts of the defense, that receivers made stunning catches, that blockers blocked effectively, that runners ran fast and hard, such as a pivotal 48-yard sprint by Lars Tate to set up the sixth Tampa Bay touchdown and stretch the margin to 42-21, just as the Bears seemed ready to take charge.

What was important was that two wideouts, Mark Carrier and Bruce Hill, each caught passes producing more than 100 yards, that Tate himself gained over 100 yards against the Mighties. Hey, even that punter Chris Mohr took an errant extra-point snap, as a holder, and ran it in for a point that could have meant so much since the final was an attention-getting 42-35. Ray Perkins is not given to bold statements, high praise, nor celebrations. "This was a great win for the franchise and for the team,'' he said after the game. "This kind of win can go a long way toward getting us over the hump. This is the kind of win you build on.''

Perkins held a quiet celebration with his family as his home Sunday night. Reached there, he said, "You know this really, this really was a big win for us. "I couldn't be prouder of the way these guys responded to this challenge.''

Asked about Testaverde and his knee injury, he said, ""It's a bruise. He'll be all right. He'll play. We'll all play. "This is an important time for us.''

But the Buc performance was that strong. Maybe stronger. Does it mean the Bucs are playoff contenders? Mebbe. Need to come down out of the clouds long enough next Sunday to take care of Detroit at Tampa Stadium. Does it mean they are for real? Probably. Yes. Yes, it does. Barring injuries, they are capable of beating anyone left on their schedule. They gave evidence of that in the San Francisco near-win and in the victory over New Orleans. They established that Sunday with a win that not a man who contributed to it will forget, that not a Bucko fan in the stands or before a television set or beside a radio will ever forget.

Going overboard? No, not for this treat. "I definitely think we opened some eyes today,'' linebacker Kevin Murphy said. Wide.