By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 1, 2001
PHILADELPHIA -- After a midseason four-game losing streak, the Bucs offense seemed to correct its problems.
Receiver Keyshawn Johnson joked that the key to getting the offense to produce was "to feed No. 28 (Warrick Dunn) and No. 19 (Johnson)."
And in the games the offense delivered -- against the Rams, Cowboys and Vikings -- Johnson and Dunn had their fill.
So, the position players who had produced the bulk of the offensive highlights this season entered Sunday's playoff game knowing the more they feasted, the more likely the Bucs would score.
The Bucs didn't have their best appetite against the Eagles.
Asked how much of that was the play-calling of offensive coordinator Les Steckel, Johnson did not comment, but he changed his facial expression distinctly from his usual smile.
"I would have put the rock in mine and Warrick's hands," Johnson said. "I would have liked to have been a part of this a little more. I was getting it done early, and they just went away from me."
Early in the game, Johnson showed that he could have another huge game. His first two catches were for 10 and 14 yards, and both were for first downs. The 14-yard catch came with 13:35 left in the first half, and Johnson didn't touch the ball again until he made a 3-yard grab with 6:30 left in the game and the Bucs trailing 21-3.
He finished with six catches for 106 yards, but three of them came late.
"Hopefully in the off-season, we will take a long look at what we have gone through," Johnson said. "Hopefully the coach will look at what we're doing offensively and see how we can get more productivity."
Asked if he was stunned by the offense's inability to get into a rhythm, Johnson replied: "That's been the case for the most part of the season, I would say."
For Dunn the game was just as frustrating. The Bucs' leading rusher couldn't get into the running rhythm he says he needs to be productive. He carried the ball on the first play, gained 1 yard, and finished the first quarter with two carries for 5 yards.
To compound the problem, Dunn frequently was buried behind the line of scrimmage and had losses of 5, 4 and 2 yards.
"I just didn't have a chance to really get into it, into a rhythm," said Dunn, who finished with 1 yard on eight carries. "I don't know, man. They knew where I was going to be, and they did what it took to get there. We couldn't control the line of scrimmage and couldn't establish a running game. We got behind and had to start throwing the ball.
"The guys played their butts off for 16 games to get to this point, and not to come and play the way we're capable of playing, that's what hurts."
Johnson came to Dunn's defense, saying that in a game like Sunday's, getting him more touches is critical.
"Look, 13 touches for Warrick Dunn? That's a joke," Johnson said. "He's too good to just get 13 touches."
The end result? The Bucs' two most deadly weapons mustered 135 yards of offense, and 85 came in the last drive, with the outcome all but settled.
"Compliments to our defense," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "I have a lot of respect for the Tampa Bay running game and Warrick Dunn. Any time you can hold Dunn to 1 yard rushing, that's a great job."