By ROGER MILLS and SCOTT PURKS
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 27, 2000
TAMPA -- The Bucs led 17-14 with six minutes remaining, but they couldn't have been comfortable: Tampa's offense was struggling (94 yards through three quarters) and the defense was doing just enough to keep Buffalo in check.
Buffalo's Chris Mohr hit a towering, 57-yard punt to Karl Williams, who backpedaled and caught the ball on his 27-yard line -- and the game suddenly took a dramatic turn.
Williams cut left, followed a couple of crisp blocks and cut away from Raion Hill.
"I was breaking down to make the tackle," Hill said. "But (Williams) must have seen me and cut the other way. That situation is a double-edged sword. Sometimes he'll run into you. I thought I had a guy right behind me so I was trying to get him in a good position. It didn't happen."
What happened was Williams broke into the clear with only Mohr between him and the end zone.
"(Mohr) was flat-footed and I knew I had him," Williams said. "When you break through a hole like that and see the guy flat-footed, you just know."
Williams sprinted for a 73-yard touchdown, the Bucs' first punt return for a score since Ronde Barber's 23-yard deflected punt against Chicago on Nov. 29, 1998.
It was also Williams' third punt return for a touchdown in his career, and it brightened an otherwise frustrating season in which he missed three games after injuring his knee Oct. 1 against Washington.
"Nobody likes to get hurt, but when it happens you just have to keep working hard to get back," Williams said.
SACKING OUT: Bucs quarterback Shaun King spent about one hour on the training room table after being sacked seven times.
"I'll take the win but we can't continue to give up that many sacks," veteran offensive guard Randall McDaniel said.
Added right guard Frank Middleton: "We played awful. I played awful. I messed up on offense a couple of times. So I take fault on that. ... It's good to have your worst game of the year when you win. Every time the offensive line plays well we lose. When we play badly we win. So maybe we just need to start playing awful all the time."
There were moments in the first half when the pass protection was non-existent. In the first quarter, King was sacked on four consecutive plays. The first half ended with five sacks.
"If you're in this thing long enough, it's going to happen to you and it happened to us today," offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. "Let's hope it's out of our system."
PLAYING WITH PAIN: A week after dislocating his left shoulder against Chicago, an injury that many thought would keep him out several games, strong safety John Lynch was back again.
Lynch had three tackles and broke up several passes. "I thought about it and decided that at this point in the season, for this big of a game, I should play," he said. SPIKE'S IN THE HOUSE: Director Spike Lee attended the game and will remain in Tampa through Tuesday. The NFL has hired Lee to direct a commercial promoting the playoffs. More than 20 players from around the league (including Lynch) will be at Raymond James for Tuesday's shoot.
INJURED: Cornerback Brian Kelly (right hamstring strain), King (lower back strain), Middleton (right rib bruise) and running back Aaron Stecker (right knee sprain).