For Shaun King, the win over the Redskins was the greatest of his career. For Brad Johnson, it was a bitter ending to a great season.
By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 24, 2002
TAMPA -- Time heals wounds. People move on.
But for Bucs quarterbacks Shaun King and Brad Johnson, any meeting against the Redskins at Raymond James Stadium brings back memories of a thrilling 14-13 Bucs playoff win on Jan. 15, 2000.
Start with King, who will see considerable action in the second half of tonight's game.
Then a rookie, King's greatest moment as a pro came that night. Trailing 13-0 in the third quarter, King helped rally the Bucs to two second-half touchdowns, a victory and a place in the NFC Championship Game.
"When I think about that game, I think about perseverance," King said. "We really didn't have a great first half, but we hung in there and kept grinding and were able to make big plays at the end. We kept fighting."
King's most memorable play came in the final minutes. King took the snap at the Redskins 1-yard line, and in the face of defensive end Ndukwe Kalu, King lobbed a perfect pass to tight end John Davis in the end zone. Flattened on the play, King could only guess by the crowd reaction that the Bucs had scored.
"I told John to make sure he got out, and luckily that's how we practiced it," King said. "John did a great job. I flicked it up to him and went down and couldn't see. I was on my back, but I heard the crowd so I figured something good happened."
That was the last time the Bucs scored a touchdown in a playoff game.
"I don't know if that's necessarily good because I've played two more (playoff) games since then," King said. "Sometimes, it's how the ball dropped. That's why we're working our tail off here."
On the other side of the field stood Johnson, the Pro Bowl veteran who seemed to have finally arrived as one of the league's elite passers. Johnson, expected to start tonight, had passed for a career-high 4,005 yards and 24 TDs for the Redskins that season.
Though one of the league's best offenses that season had been kept out of the end zone, Johnson and the Redskins looked ready for the championship game. That was before safety John Lynch picked off a deep pass from Johnson and set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Mike Alstott "We were so close to so many things," Johnson said. "We had an unbelievable year in Washington. The team hadn't been to the playoffs in 10 years and we were a bunch of unknown guys. We had a chance to win. We were up 13-0 going into the fourth quarter, and we had a couple turnovers and they had a couple of unbelievable plays."
But even after King gave the Bucs the lead, Johnson responded by driving downfield. With the wind at their back, the Redskins set up for the potential winning 52-yard field goal with 77 seconds left.
Brett Conway was the kicker. Johnson was the holder. Dan Turk was the snapper. The snap went awry and Johnson, holding the ball in his hands, saw the season come to an end.
"We made the drive, that's all you want and then there was a bad snap and it was over, that fast," he said. "We were worried about taking care of protection. The snap rolled back to me and the whole season flashed in front of me and the whole season was over, just like that."
Long removed from his Redskins days, Johnson said he learned from playing in Washington and is happy with how things have gone.
That team's totally changed. There's probably only seven or eight guys still there. It's no rematch of the ages. It's two different coaches, different players, different uniforms. ... It doesn't really matter now."
Except to King.
"It does for the mere fact that we're still competing for the (starting) job. It's my opportunity to go and play well and make the case for me being the guy."