Bucs' Season Lives And Dies With Garcia
Martin Fennelly, The Tampa Tribune, published 15 October 2007

You know this Bucs season has a fighting chance when the meat wagon makes its weekly trip to the field and Jeff Garcia doesn't limp aboard. You know there's hope when a quarterback gets hurt and it's their quarterback - Tennessee's Vince Young. In the clearing stands a boxer.

That 37-year-old bobber and weaver who takes the other guys' best shots and ducks the rest, who throws some of his own, who waits it out, who bides his time and who delivers like a deliverer, as he did in the Bucs' 13-10 last-seconds victory. He's Jeff Garcia and he leads.

He's Jeff Garcia and he's been extraordinary. He's Jeff Garcia and he's all alone. The Bucs ran for 30 yards Sunday. How long can this last?

'He's an ageless wonder,' said Bucs receiver Ike Hilliard, who's not so bad himself. 'All he needs is one more shot,' Bucs coach Jon Gruden said.

Garcia got one Sunday, and with more than a little help from Hilliard and the outrageously ageless Joey Galloway, Garcia led the 'dinosaur' rally that won it. Matt Bryant's field goal won it with 11 seconds left. Galloway's 69-yard TD catch was large. Hilliard's two catches in the final drive, including a 28-yarder on third-and-10, were larger. The Bucs defense left it on the field. But how do you not come back to Garcia?

If you don't like his game, you don't like football. He was masterful in the final minute, ducking, running, making plays. How do you not look at a guy who keeps not making mistakes?

He's the reason this team is 4-2 - period. How long can he elude injury or the searing reality that playoff teams have running games? Well, he lasted Sunday, 20 of 31 for 274 yards. And the offense wasn't even clicking. It was surviving, led by a survivor.

Garcia took a killer shot to his ribs. Would he get up? He did. Garcia lives. The man has yet to throw an interception this season. Dating to last season with Philadelphia, he has thrown 164 consecutive regular-season passes without a pick, the longest streak in the NFL and the longest of his career. Counting last season's playoffs, the number is 225. 'Without interceptions at this point of the year, I don't know if I've ever been around anything like that,' Galloway said.

The man wasn't sacked Sunday, though Tennessee tried and tried. How did Garcia not get sacked? How? He smiled. 'Well, when I was young, my dad put me out in the pasture to avoid the steers, you know, I bobbed and weaved. Learned it young, baby.'

He was kidding, we think. 'I don't really know how that sensory comes into play, but I think it's through experience, knowledge and understanding and awareness. It's just a feel I feel fortunate to have. And there's a natural clock ticking in my head at all times.'

It's his time. Still. He knew just when to step up in the pocket and exactly how to lead the remarkable Galloway, who had beaten everyone - and we mean everyone - downfield. Touchdown. But, really, it was all about the last drive, pulling one from the fires for the defense, which the stalled offense had left out there all second half. Now Tennessee had tied it at 10. There was 1:17 left.

'Who else would you want out there but Garcia?' Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan asked. 'You see it in his eyes,' Bucs center John Wade said.

Suddenly it was third-and-10 at Bucs' 20. In the clearing stood a boxer ... 'He bobs, he weaves, he sees it,' Wade said.

Garcia avoided the Tennessee rush, cutting this way, racing that way. The clock in his head ticked. He went to his third option, Hilliard. Hilliard made the grab and made the sideline. Garcia stepped up and hit Galloway, then eluded the rush to hit Hilliard. Bryant sealed it.

All Jeff Garcia needed was one more chance and that clock in his head. The meat wagon can stand down. Jeff Garcia lives. And with him a season.