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Offense perfect -- but not perfect enough -- in red zone

By ERNEST HOOPER, Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 12, 2000


TAMPA -- The Bucs are still at 100 percent in red zone scoring, but they are not perfect.

Tampa Bay has produced points on each of its 18 possessions inside the opponents' 20-yard line; 12 of those drives have resulted in touchdowns. The Bucs' touchdown percentage dropped from 78.6 to 66.6 percent after getting one touchdown Monday on four drives inside the 20 against Minnesota.

On two drives, the Bucs committed penalties inside the red zone, a cardinal sin.

"Several of the players said to me today, "We're brainwashed on the green zone stuff,' and here we were, so untypical of us, to jump offsides and have a penalty," offensive coordinator Les Steckel said Wednesday. "We've still maintained our goal of scoring every time, but we should have scored touchdowns instead of field goals the other night."

The frustration from failing to score touchdowns is compounded by the Bucs getting inside the Vikings' 5 twice. In the second quarter, the offense saw a third and 2 play from the 3 go backward when defensive tackle Chris Hovan broke through and tackled Mike Alstott. Steckel said Hovan was offside.

A third and goal from Minnesota's 2 in the third quarter went awry when quarterback Shaun King was penalized for taunting after he hit defensive tackle Tony Williams with the ball. Williams tackled King after the whistle was blown for a false start against tight end Patrick Hape.

King thought he was hit late on the previous play, too.

"Yeah, but I got to do better than that, though. That's not me," said King, who joked about not getting enough protection from the officials. "I might have to get them some doughnuts or something. I've got to do something to get them on my side."

Overall, Steckel and King are pleased with the offense's progress.

"We're getting to where I thought we would be at this time," King said. "I thought the first couple of games, we would have a couple of good games, a couple of bad games and an average game or two. Hopefully, we're on our way up and getting better.

"I said midway through the season we would probably really be getting to a point where we could go in and play consistently and play well for four quarters."

GOOD DEBUT: Coaches and players spoke highly of Nate Webster's performance in his first start. The rookie linebacker from Miami was pushed into the lineup because Jamie Duncan was recovering from a concussion.

"It was everything I thought it was going to be, a lot of fun," Webster said. "But it just didn't go our way. I got a feel for a big game. In other games coming up, I shouldn't have those little jitterbugs.

"I was real comfortable, especially with Derrick. With Brooks out there, he knows everything going on."

Duncan is expected to reclaim the spot when the Bucs face Detroit on Oct. 19. NO INFIGHTING: Despite the three-game losing streak, players insist team unity has not been threatened. Coach Tony Dungy politely scoffed at that suggestion. "Yeah, we're all finger-pointing. I'm pointing at everybody, and everybody is pointing at me," he deadpanned. "No, I don't think that's the type of team we have. This time is a time to really zero in on our football team, and I think we're going to do that."

NOW HEAR THIS: More than 64,000 at the Metrodome set a record by roaring to 130 decibels.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that is about as loud as stock cars, jack hammers and hydraulic presses. The Vikings are eager to retake the title of loudest home stadium away from Kansas City and Arrowhead Stadium, but Terri Huml, the Vikings' vice president of sales and marketing, said the team lowered music levels from 103 decibels to 97 to compensate for the fan noise.

Huml might have a difficult time convincing Dungy the volume was lower.

"What they do is they take their FM radio station and turn it on as loud as they can turn it for the 15 seconds you're in the huddle, and it makes it hard," Dungy said. Asked if the Bucs would treat the Vikings to a similar music barrage when the teams play in Tampa on Oct. 29, Dungy said, "We don't play a lot of music; we just shoot cannons."

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