Prehistoric Win
Roy Cummings, The Tampa Tribune, published 15 October 2007

A motorized cart drove off the field carrying yet another Buccaneer regular Sunday. That image may come to symbolize the Bucs' 2007 season. It has yet to define it, though. Battered, beaten and down to their third running back and third fullback, the Bucs keep asking new players to step up. Every week it seems someone does.

On this particular Sunday, it was kicker Matt Bryant. With 11 seconds to play, he stepped into a 43-yard field goal that gave the Bucs a 13-10 victory against the Tennessee Titans at Raymond James Stadium and kept them tied with the Carolina Panthers atop the NFC South at 4-2. Bryant, though, only finished off what Jeff Garcia, Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway started.

They call themselves 'The Dinosaurs.' Hilliard gave them the nickname weeks ago. When you consider all three are in their 30s, it seems a fitting moniker. When you see them perform the way they did late Sunday, it doesn't.

It was just one drive, six plays. When everything is said and done, it may be the drive that defines the Bucs' season. With the exception of one 3-yard pass play to Earnest Graham, who was filling in for injured tailbacks Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman, it was all Garcia, Hilliard and Galloway.

Funny, but it's been that way a lot this year. The Bucs are nearing the midway point of their season. Hilliard leads them in receptions with 27; Galloway is tied for the team lead in touchdowns with three; Garcia just leads. 'I can't even tell you how valuable he is,' Bucs coach Jon Gruden said of Garcia. 'He never gets rattled, and all he needs is one more shot. If you give him one more shot, he's capable of doing what he did.'

What he did Sunday bordered on remarkable. After all, he was facing a defense that hadn't allowed the Bucs to run all day and hadn't allowed a fourth-quarter point all season. 'It was gut-check time,' Garcia said matter-of-factly of his stretch-run performance. 'It was about not giving up, about finding a way to persevere.'

It started with two passes, one to Hilliard, one to Galloway; both fell incomplete. On third-and-10, Garcia (gut-)checked down to Hilliard, his third option, who caught the pass and dodged an array of defenders for a 28-yard gain. Graham got the ball next, gaining 3 yards. Then came another throw to Galloway for 14 yards. Finally, with 22 seconds to play, Garcia threw once more to Hilliard, this time for a gain of 10.

Bryant trotted onto the field a few seconds later. In the locker room about half an hour after that, Bryant gave a lot of the credit for his game-deciding kick to Garcia and 'The Dinosaurs.' 'Obviously, it took the offense to get down in that position to make the kick,' he said.

Give the defense some credit, too. They limited the league's fourth-best rushing attack to a measly 2.9 yards per carry, sacked its quarterback three times and intercepted him once. That interception figure would have been three, but two apparent picks by Ronde Barber were challenged and overturned when replay officials ruled Barber failed to secure the ball properly and landed out of bounds, respectively.

The Bucs were pretty stingy, too, allowing the Titans, who lost starting quarterback Vince Young to a quad injury midway through the third quarter, two trips inside the red zone. That said, Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin seemed more interested in talking about Garcia than his own defense. 'Joe Montana was unique,' Kiffin said, 'but I'm telling you, Jeff Garcia's got similarities. He can find the third or fourth receiver, and he's got pocket presence.'

He had it best during a first-and-10 play from his 31 late in the third quarter. The game was tied at 3, and the Titans' zone coverage was forcing the Bucs to either run, which they couldn't do, or throw to their backs. With crunch time looming, Garcia decided to take a shot downfield anyway. He threw into a two-deep coverage to (who else?) Galloway and hit him right in stride on what proved to be a 69-yard touchdown pass.

The Titans had spent the week concentrating on not allowing big plays like that. Up until that point, they had done a pretty good job. But that throw to Galloway and the 28-yard pass play to Hilliard midway through the final scoring drive destroyed an otherwise solid outing by the Titans defense, one that allowed 30 rushing yards, the fewest gained by a Bucs team during a victory.

'You have to take your hat off to Garcia,' said Titans coach Jeff Fisher, whose team fell to 3-2. 'Our plan was not to give up big plays and we gave up two. Jeff made them both. He did what we hoped he wouldn't and found a way to make a play.'

Sort of like the Bucs as a whole. They lost tight end Alex Smith with an ankle injury early in the fourth quarter for who knows how long. It didn't faze them. They found a way to win. On this particular Sunday, they did it with defense and 'dinosaurs' - Garcia completing 20 of 31 passes for 274 yards and a touchdown, including four completions each to Hilliard (59 yards) and Galloway (97 yards).

'What can I say, we had guys step up for us once again,' Barber said. 'I've been saying all along that what we can't do here is allow these injuries to distract us from what we're doing. If we keep doing that, we're going to be OK.'