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Pressure transforms O-line

Bucs work through penalties, snap-count problems to help team score 10 in the fourth quarter.

By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 16, 2002


DETROIT -- In the search for ways to describe Ford Field, the Bucs offensive linemen won't use words such as noisy, threatening or cold. None apply.

As for Cosey? That won't apply either.

In a relatively quiet stadium, the line struggled to keep quarterback Brad Johnson from being knocked down most of the game. It had problems with the snap count, committed six penalties and saw starter Cosey Coleman pulled for two series for ineffective play.

The news wasn't all bad. Coleman returned, and the line secured two fourth-quarter scores (10 points) and held off the Lions for a 23-20 win. The Bucs had 123 yards rushing, and Johnson never was sacked. But at one point during the third, the problems seemed too bad to be true.

"As far as the game is concerned, honestly, they just came to play," Coleman said. "I felt we did too, but everybody was having breakdowns at different parts and at different times. In a game like this, with them feeding off so much emotion, we knew we didn't want it to stay close because that was in their favor."

The Lions' experienced front four, led by defensive end Robert Porcher and defensive tackle Luther Ellis, kept it close by changing looks and hitting Johnson. They seemed to gain confidence through three quarters.

"We jumped up on them and should have scored seven on that first drive," Coleman said. "The key was to get a lead and we knew that eventually we could wear them down. We didn't. They kept it close, and we knew it was going to be dogfight."

Meanwhile, Coleman appeared to be losing his own dogfight. In consecutive series, the third-year pro out of Tennessee drew penalty flags for tripping (10 yards) and twice for false starts (5 yards each).

"I think the referees were messing with me," Coleman said. "I have to look at the film to double check, but I had three penalties called on me in a row. Now, I'm not going to sit up there and argue with the ref at that time, but I felt they were some (bad) calls. Regardless, they were costly and they hurt us because penalties kill drives, stop momentum and that's what I did."

Coleman was pulled from the game for backup center/guard Todd Washington.

"He struggled," coach Jon Gruden said. "I mean, he got called for tripping, jumping offside, had a protection breakdown here. Bring him off the field. Settle him down. We got to play better than that. He knows that. If his feelings were hurt, sorry. We're trying to win a ball game. But, he's got to come back and play next week. We need the big guy."

Coleman said he understood why the coaches removed him.

"I was not at all comfortable with (being on the bench), but I keep the mind-set that this is business 24-7 and you have to take things as they come," Coleman said. "I don't look at that as a personal take. They felt at the time I needed to come out of the game, I needed to be replaced. They wanted to give me time to calm down and get back into my groove."

Coleman wasn't the only one who had trouble. Right guard Kenyatta Walker (one penalty) and left tackle Roman Oben (two penalties) combined for their own miscues. Walker sided with his teammate about the calls but acknowledged the game must go on.

"It was of the most horribly called games that I've seen," Walker said. "It was just one of those days for us. It wasn't going our way. It's the NFL, they are paid professionals too. They have some great guys on their front four. But we got the win, and we're about to get up out of here."

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