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Nothing seems able to get offense running
By FRANK PASTOR
Published November 7, 2005
TAMPA - Center John Wade didn't have an answer. Tackle Kenyatta Walker refused to accept excuses. Guard Sean Mahan was confident it will get corrected.
Whatever magic was in the Bucs' running game appears to have disappeared when Cadillac Williams' shoes were shipped to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"We just aren't getting it done, as a whole," Williams said. (The running backs) aren't making the right reads and people aren't staying on their blocks, different little things like that. We are in a slump right now."
After averaging 166 rushing yards in their first three games, the Bucs have gained 87 the past two weeks, including 44 Sunday against the Panthers.
With Carolina bringing an extra defender up to the line of scrimmage, Williams was held to 29 yards on 11 attempts, an average of 2.6. No run went for more than 7 yards, and his first-quarter fumble set up the Panthers' first touchdown.
Though he pronounced himself "100 percent healthy," Williams looked nothing like the runner whose gloves and shoes were displayed in the Hall of Fame after he became the first player in league history to rush for more than 100 yards in his first three games.
The lack of a running game has put the Bucs in numerous second- and third-and-long situations and placed added pressure on quarterback Chris Simms, who has struggled in two starts since replacing injured Brian Griese.
The Bucs have lined up with two tight ends, sometimes three. They have tried draw plays and traps. But nothing seems to work, coach Jon Gruden said.
"We're just not getting it done right now running the football, and clearly that is a big reason why we are behind in the down and distance," Gruden said. "When you get way behind in the down and distance, it is tough sledding for any quarterback, let alone a young one."
Wade chalked up the line's problems to "a multitude of things," but wanted to see the videotape before getting specific. Mahan said Carolina didn't do anything the Bucs hadn't already seen.
No matter how many defenders crowd the line of scrimmage, Tampa Bay has to come off the ball harder, Walker said.
"I'm not going to say that eight-(man), seven-(man) front stuff ," he said. "It doesn't matter. It's just we didn't get the job done. I'm not going to lie. I'll never say they got eight or seven (in the box). We didn't play well enough to win."
Walker contributed to the ucs' problems with three false-start penalties on the same second-quarter drive, leading to a third-and-22 predicament.
His missed block later in the quarter contributed to left tackle Anthony Davis sustaining a right knee sprain. Davis was injured when Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers landed on the back of his leg after beating Walker for a sack.
The Bucs didn't do any better with Todd Steussie at Davis' spot, managing 10 rushing yards in the second half.
"We've just got to play better up front," Walker said. "There's no magic to it, no big question. We just have to play better."