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King silences critics with a career day

Shaun King's 4 TDs and zero interceptions should keep naysayers at bay - for now.

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 30, 2000


TAMPA -- Face it, first you started thinking it. Then, you started whispering it. And after Bucs quarterback Shaun King threw three interceptions Thursday against the Lions, you may even have been silently asking for it.

That would be the backup quarterback. Well, back up.

At a time when King's offense was looking cold and his team needed some heat, the second-year player lit a convincing match.

King threw a career-best four touchdowns, completed 16 of 23 for 267 yards and led the Bucs to an emotionally uplifting 41-13 waxing of the previously unbeaten Vikings.

"They put the ball in his court," Bucs receiver Reidel Anthony said. "It was no pressure, no nothing. They just told him we're going to let you go out and throw the ball and do what you do best -- make your decisions, make your reads and hit the right guy. They gave him all the leeway, and it just shows that when you give a person that much leeway and the pressure's not on them, they just can go out and do a lot of things for you."

But more importantly, King proved something he and his offensive teammates have been proclaiming all season: The Bucs have a passing game and can score when needed.

"I was happy because it's about time that we started throwing the ball," receiver Jacquez Green said. "Usually, he throws the ball better when we come out early and throw the ball, not necessarily when we fall behind and have to throw.

"Like most quarterbacks, he has to be in a rhythm, and once he's in a rhythm, he throws it really well.

Particularly relieving for the panic-inclined was that despite only 16 games under his belt, King seemed unfazed by the pressure to perform amid intense criticism. In the first half, he was 9-of-13 for 140 yards and three touchdowns.He threw no interceptions in the game.

"Shaun always carries himself well and goes out with a lot of confidence," said tight end Dave Moore, who caught a 20-yard touchdown pass for a a 21-10 lead.

"But all week we said we were going to have to win it with the passing game because we would be able to pound it in the end once we get it going. We were going to have to air it out and that's exactly how the game plan worked out."

Added offensive tackle Jerry Wunsch: "He was poised. He was the Shaun that I know. He was in there making plays and nothing was going to falter what he was doing. When he's on like that, we're going to be tough to beat."

Particularly important to King's display of solid quarterbacking seemed to be a midweek meeting with receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who caught six passes for 121 yards and scored the first touchdown of the game. On Wednesday, at King's house, Johnson talked to his quarterback for 3-4 hours and tried to convince him that he should develop a trust in Johnson. "As long as he continues to keep going like that and trusting in me, I think he'll be a hell of a quarterback," Johnson said. "That comes from trust and understanding who I am and the person I am.

"I gave him seven weeks without saying anything to him and I said enough is enough. I chatted with him and said we're going to do this together."

King, who said he had meetings with a number of players, said he appreciated Johnson's input and agrees that trust is critical.

"You talk to him and you start to understand what type of competitor he is," King said. "The most interesting thing he said was to start developing a trust in him.

"Watch Daunte (Culpepper) and Randy (Moss), you know Daunte has all the trust where he knows at worst, it's going to be incomplete. As a quarterback, when you have that trust in a receiver, it makes it easier to take chances in a game. That's what I think we're starting to develop."

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