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Williams, Bucs real competitors
Cadillac Williams finished with 128 yards rushing on 24 carries in the Bucs' 19-3 win over the Bills.
By RICK STROUD
Published September 18, 2005
TAMPA - You could feel the electricity go out of the building, like someone had tripped over the cord.
You could sense it at the start of the second half, watching the Bucs offense stumble like they had broken a heel.
Cadillac Williams was done for the day. The excitement was sidelined with him.
Williams was forced to leave the game just before halftime because of a sprained arch he suffered in his left foot on his final carry of the second quarter.
But there is something new the Bucs learned about their rookie running back in Sunday's 19-3 win over the Bills.
Williams not only can play with pain, he can be a royal one.
"I got into a tussle with him," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "It's, I think, my 3,809th tussle on the sideline. He's a great competitor."
The injured Williams talked Gruden into allowing him back into the game and immediately ripped off a 19-yard run, a play that ignited an 80-yard drive and was capped by his second touchdown of the season.
He finished with 128 yards on 24 carries, breaking the will of the Bills defense and becoming the first rookie since Edgerrin James in "99 to begin his career by reaching the century rushing mark in back-to-back games.
Williams' performance enabled the Tampa Bay to gain an 18-minute advantage in time of possession Sunday, keeping the Bucs defense fresh for another dominant performance.
"Coming out at halftime, I felt like I couldn't go," said Williams, who took a needle of painkiller in the locker room. "Then once I told coach Gruden I wanted to go, they still wouldn't let me go. So I had to stress the point to him, you know, "I'm going.'
"At first when I went to him, he said, "No, you're done.' I just stressed to him, I said, "Coach, I can go. Let's go.' He said, "Well, okay."
Williams yards came on tough runs inside and explosive bursts on the perimeter that set up every Bucs scoring drive. His 23-yard run on first down in the second quarter ignited a march that resulted in Mike Alstott's 1-yard TD. His second carry of the fourth quarter was a 31-yard dash - his longest of the day - leading to a 40-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.
"At one point in the (fourth) quarter there, we had a drive where I didn't throw a pass and we went down and scored a field goal," quarterback Brian Griese said. "I can't remember the last time that's happened to me."
Much of the Bucs early game plan was to use two tight ends and a no huddle offense to keep the Bills in their base defense. "Rather than them blitzing us at the beginning of the game, we wanted to blitz them," Griese said.
It was effective because of Williams' ability to make yards after the first contact.
"He broke our back today, especially on those long runs," Bills safety Troy Vincent said. "He is a guy you can't count on going down until you're sitting on top of him."
With a heat index of more than 100 degrees on the field at Raymond James Stadium, the Bills defense wilted against a Bucs rushing attack that totalled 191 yards on 40 carries. Coupled with the 146 net yards rushing they had at Minnesota last week, the Bucs are establishing a run-first identity on offense.
"He's a determined kid," fullback Mike Alstott said of Williams. "Those three or four hard yards at the beginning of the game, you saw at the end of the game, they turned into 20-, 25-, 30-yard gains. You just have to keep your legs driving. He's excellent at doing that. He's a warrior, he really is. He's a tough kid."
The Bills defense, which held the Texans to 95 yards rushing last week, tried to intimidate Williams by talking smack to him early in the game.
"Oh, yeah. First quarter, they were definitely talking," Williams said. "Saying, "Cadillac, you ain't going to do this, you ain't going to do that.' Yeah, I love it. Once those guys start slowing it down, they're huffing and puffing, we're wearing on them. So that's the time to kick it up another notch.
"There's going to be times when guys take shots on me. They're going to have their shots. They're going to knock me down. But hey, I love the physical contact of this game, so you can't just hit me and expect me to lay down."
Or stay down for very long.
"He gets stronger as the game goes on and if his foot arch isn't a problem, he'll continue to prove what I believe," Gruden said. "He has intense stamina. This guy is a workaholic and he is at his best when a game is on the line and it is late in the game. That's is just his M.O. in high school, in college and (as a) pro."