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Ironing out the kinks

Bucs accept the win, but appreciate the need to increase their output on offense.

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 3, 2001


Bucs accept the win, but appreciate the need to increase their output on offense.

CINCINNATI -- The record books will show a win for the Bucs and, truth be told, little more is important.

But if Tampa Bay is going to make a run at the playoffs, the offense it displayed in Sunday's 16-13 win against the Bengals probably won't cut it.

The Bucs offense failed to score a touchdown and seemed to be allergic to any piece of grass beyond the Bengals 20-yard line.

To compound the issue, Tampa Bay seemed passive at times, and that, receiver Keyshawn Johnson said, is a frightening prospect.

"We didn't go after them, we didn't attack them," said Johnson, who had seven catches for 85 yards. "We didn't do the things we said we were going to do at the beginning of the week or all week long. It's coming to a point where it's getting a little frustrating.

"You know, you continue to keep winning 13-3 and 10-3 and playing close to the vest instead of attacking them. We could have thrown on them all day long; their secondary was terrible. ... It's like we took the air of them early but we didn't stay with it. In the NFL you can't afford to do that. We're not going to go anywhere doing that."

Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen took some of the blame for that.

"I really felt like I struggled to get them into a rhythm," he said. "That's my job to get them in a rhythm to make plays. It just never felt like it was flowing. Below average. If the question is, 'Is the measure of an offense its ability to score touchdowns?' then obviously, it was not a good day. I think that's fair to say."

But it was more than just not scoring touchdowns. It was being dropped for negative gains. It was giving up sacks and making mental errors.

"We turned it over in the red zone, we gave up too many negative plays, there were too many minus-yard runs, too many sacks, there was a fumble, a missed field goal; there were some things that cost us," Christensen said. "Obviously, we let opportunities go."

Added running back Warrick Dunn, who rushed for 42 yards on 21 carries: "Right now, we're an average offense that can be good or great because we have great players. We're not living up to expectations of being a good offense. We're doing average things."

Quarterback Brad Johnson passed for 231 yards and completed passes to seven receivers, but he was 5-for-14 on third down. Dunn and Alstott managed 65 yards on the ground and averaged 2.2 yards a carry. The offensive line gave up six sacks.

The Bucs moved the ball but squandered a number of opportunities once they got inside the Bengals 30, which included missing a field goal and fumbling after a catch.

"I felt like we did that the first five games of the season," Brad Johnson said. "I kept talking about that and no one listened to me. We moved the ball effectively today and I was pleased with that. We did some really good things out there today. But right at the 30-yard line, there were a lot mishaps. ... "You take everything in this game personal. You take the third-down conversion personally. You take your record personally. That's what this business is."

The offense had one bright spot for the Bucs.

Receiver Jacquez Green said in midweek he was capable of being a major contributor and hinted that play-calling was one-sided toward Keyshawn Johnson.

Though few doubt Johnson's value, Green's seven catches for 67 yards was a good sign for the Bucs.

"I just got a chance," Green said. "It's not like I enjoy complaining, because Key is doing such a great job, but I wanted my chance in the passing game. I just think I'm more than capable of making a play on our team, that's how I think."

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