TAMPA - Chris Simms still is waiting to throw his first career touchdown and is making his first NFL start Sunday at New Orleans.
The second-year quarterback has a lot to prove. But it's hard to imagine him doing much worse than the Bucs have inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
Tampa Bay is 1-for-7 inside the red zone, the worst touchdown ratio in the league.
Simms' mobility may give coach Jon Gruden more plays in terms of rollouts or bootlegs near the goal line, providing a run-pass option.
Simms, however, has contributed to the poor red zone showing, fumbling a snap near the goal line in his relief appearance against Seattle.
"There are a lot of things," Simms said. "Last week, (the Broncos) just played good defense. It's hard in the NFL right now. Red zone scoring is not easy. Defenses are doing a good job. Of course, the field's tighter because you're closer down there. But at the same time, we've just got to find a way to get in, somehow, some way. We need to either start running the ball better down there or just find a way. There's no real answer to it. We've had our chances, we just need to capitalize on it."
BUC-LING DOWN: The defense still is among the NFL's best, ranked sixth overall and having allowed just one offensive touchdown in three of four games.
But Tampa Bay's D has had trouble getting the ball back in the fourth quarter in losses to the Redskins and Broncos.
"It's tough. It's frustrating because you are in a situation where you are trying to get the ball back," defensive tackle Anthony McFarland said. "Sunday, we played like ourselves for a lot of the game. The game of football is simple. The team that makes the most plays wins. It isn't hard. You can come up with all of these different scenarios, but if you make plays, you win. If you don't, you don't. We haven't made enough plays in crucial times."
SUPER DISAPPOINTMENT: Not all is lost for the Bucs, except four games. Gruden believes there have been some bright spots on offense, some that compare favorably with the Super Bowl season.
"Actually, we look back at where we are as an offense and four games into the season we've probably played better throughout these first four games than we did two years ago when we won a lot of games," Gruden said. "I don't even know if we scored a touchdown against St. Louis. I know we were behind on the road at Cincinnati and we lost miserably at home to New Orleans. But we kept grinding, we kept working and some guys took off at the right time."
Actually, the Bucs were better in 2002. After four games, that team held an advantage in offensive touchdowns (8-3), total yards (1,231-1,098), rushing yards (503-324) and completion percentage (66.35-63.2). The only category this year's Bucs are better: passing yards (774-728).
INJURY REPORT: McFarland (groin) returned to practice and is expected to play against the Saints. Receiver Frank Murphy was placed on injured reserve with a torn Achilles'. Receiver Joey Galloway is out with a groin tear.