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Opening up attack generates points

King, Bucs find spreading wealth means good news for offense.

By ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Coaches frequently use stories to motivate players, but in one of the many speeches Tony Dungy gave to the Bucs last week, he made it clear the NFL is no place for fairy tales.

"Sometimes you can wait on the knight in shining armor to make the fairy tale come out with a happy ending, but you need everybody," Dungy said. "You need all your guys doing their jobs. When everyone does their job, that's what makes a team. And we have a lot of guys that can make plays. That's why I laugh when someone says, "We've got to get it to this guy, we've got to get it to that guy.'

"That's why you have 53 guys."

The team, and the offense in particular, took the message to heart in Sunday's 41-13 win against Minnesota. Not only did the Bucs have one of their most productive outings of the season, everybody played hero. Sure, Shaun King threw for 267 yards, and Keyshawn Johnson had six catches for 121 yards, but five other players also had receptions.

Receiver Reidel Anthony, who was shut out against Detroit on Oct. 19 and had three receptions in the past four games, had three receptions for 36 yards and a touchdown. Dave Moore, who hadn't reached the end zone since Week 4 against the Jets, had two receptions for 27 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown catch.

Running back Warrick Dunn had his first touchdown reception of the season. And backup running back Aaron Stecker got into the act with a 15-yard reception, the first of his NFL career.

One key to a successful manufacturing business is distribution, and the Bucs are no different when it comes to producing offense.

"I think it's important, just in the sense they're really good players and they are capable of making plays," King said. "I tell you what it does when you get Dave a touchdown, when you get Reidel a touchdown. You can say what you want. If you go into a game at a skill position and you don't think you're going to get the ball, you're not in there giving that extra 20 percent.

"So it really helps to get them touchdowns and make them feel like they're a part of this, which they really are. Now you get guys downfield blocking. You get guys that are blocking one guy and they get up and go block someone else."

Offensive coordinator Les Steckel said that when receivers' routes are crisp, defenses have more trouble discerning who is the decoy and who is the go-to receiver. Happy receivers force defenses to play honest.

The chance to spread the ball around and energize the offense comes only when the offense is converting third downs and extending drives. It's not a coincidence that in their four wins the Bucs have converted 47 percent of third downs and in four losses they have converted 30 percent.

In the Vikings game, the Bucs converted three of six third-down opportunities and avoided difficult third-down situations by averaging a team record 8.4 yards a play.

"We can say that in games that we've lost, a lot of different guys haven't been able to contribute," Moore said. "But that's because we haven't kept ourselves on the field long enough to have that opportunity."

The successful Sunday was particularly meaningful for Anthony, who has bounced back from a disappointing 1999 by coming up with key receptions. He has nine receptions, but a team-high three have gone for touchdowns.

Anthony said the key for the receivers and running backs is to be patient and realize there is only one ball for everyone.

"It was very exciting to get more than one or two looks a game," Anthony said. "I just try to take advantage of it, be patient. I know my big game is coming. It was a tuneup for a big game that hopefully I'll have sometime in the future.

"You have Keyshawn and 'Quez out there making plays, and you have me. You've just got to pick and choose when you're going to use each one of us. You've also got to get (Mike) Alstott balls and Warrick balls. In football, there's never enough balls to go around, so when it's your turn to make the play, you've just got to go out there and capitalize."

For Moore, the season has not turned out the way he envisioned during the summer. After leading the Bucs with five touchdown receptions in '99, Moore had higher hopes because Steckel came to Tampa Bay with a reputation for using tight ends.

But Steckel also puts a premium on protection, and Moore frequently has stayed in to block defensive ends and blitzing linebackers.

"The only frustrating part is when you're not winning. We went up to Detroit and I stayed in most of the game because of the noise factor and because their defensive ends were rushing," Moore said. "I stayed in to help those guys probably 75 percent of the pass plays. I had no problem doing that because we were running. We scored 31 points and we were moving the ball up and down the field.

"Like any player, when you're not moving the ball ... let me have an opportunity to make some plays and keep those chains moving."

- Staff writer Roger Mills contributed to this report.

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