The How of It Does Not Matter
Tom McEwen, The Tampa Tribune, published 3 November 2008

Frankly, much of Sunday afternoon I and perhaps others as well, saw little hope for the Tampa Bay Bucs in their game at Kansas City, beginning with the first balanced K.C. 69-yard drive for a touchdown, followed by an Earnest Graham fumble on his first run, and the touchdown that followed that Buc misdeed. Then, as it advanced to 24-3, I thought we ought to bottle this and send it to Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, once a Buc football teacher, for his feel-good file.

I thought the Chiefs were playing as good as a team said to be maybe the worst in National Football League could, and that Buckos were playing like most hereabouts had expected the Tampa Bay team to play after the turn downward at Dallas. Well, at the start against Kansas City, the Bucs seemed still to be on that bad track.

When it was 24-3 Sunday, I was thinking how the Bucs had blown a great opportunity, for going to Dallas, at 5-2, with Dallas no world champs still, with a poor Kansas City a week away, followed by an open date, the Bucs were simply sitting pretty.

They went to Dallas and did what better-than-Cowboy teams often do there, playing just bad enough to lose, and they did. So, I ó we - figured a win over a near-winless team awaited. A win at Dalls would have put the Buckos at 6-2, resting for a later return to the football wars. Troubles were the Cowboys beat the lackluster Bucs, 13-9, putting much more heat on this Sunday past trip to Kansas City.

Jon Gruden told the Bucs to be careful. Bad things can happen in Kansas City, where Edwards coaches, and where the third-string quarterback the Bucs would face, Tyler Thigpen, was plenty good despite a small-college background at Costal Carolina. Coach Gruden and defensive chief Monte Kiffin told them to beware of being bushwhacked.

The coaches were right. The Chiefs were armed and waiting. The slightly favored Buckos were in for the fight of their lives. The grittier Chiefs, at the start and through the half, dominated. It was 14-0, K.C. It was 14-3, then 21-3 on a wild 37-yard end-around pass play that fooled both Buc defensive back Ronde Barber and me.

A 97-yard kickoff return by Tampa speedster Clifton Smith made it 24-10, then a halfback pass by Earnest Graham made it closer still. Three field goals by Matt Bryant kicker kept the Bucs in the game and when it was 27-19 and only 19 seconds left, Buc quarterback Jeff Garcia, on the run and chased, threw a ball to the end zone sideline.

Antonio Bryant reached up and caught it for a score. It was a 24-yard play to advance Tampa to a 27-25 position. Garcia, best in these times, drilled a low pass to the belly that only tight end Alex Smith could have caught.

Wonder of wonders, Rhonde Barber won the coin toss for the overtime when he called heads. Garcia had more magic left, this time hitting Michael Clayton and Ike Hilliard on key plays to keep the drive alive. They positioned Matt Bryant for a field goal at the KC 25. There was some posturing, a kick that did not count, but one that did and that was that, a 30-27 win for which the Bucs will not pursue a replay.

Tampa was good and Tampa got some breaks. But there was not much difference in these two clubs. About an overtime field goalís difference, I would say. Oh, the Kansas City folks will be saying they let one get away. May have. The Chiefs won the first half 24-13. The Bucs won the second half, 14-3, but most importantly the overtime as well, 3-0.

John McKay, the old Buccaneer coach none of us will ever forget, once said of his kicker, ďI canít pronounce the little son of a gunís name (was that it?), but Iíll just call him sir.Ē The little man from another place had just place kicked a winner, at Green Bay, I think. McKay asked me if I would call him sir, too. And I did.