Count Warrick Dunn among those frustrated by the unit's struggles.
By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 17, 2001
CHICAGO -- About the Bucs offense Sunday, these are the truths:
It threw 40 times and failed to get in the end zone. It rushed for 61 yards on 18 carries and never seemed capable of sustaining drives. It committed four turnovers, all at critical times in critical spots.
Standings and statistics aside (the offense entered the game ranked 20th in the NFL), the Bucs had their descriptions of the offense:
"It's doo-doo," receiver Keyshawn Johnson said.
Added running back Warrick Dunn: "We're not a very good offense. We have to look ourselves in the mirror and not make excuses of why this and why that. That's what we've been doing. We can't make those excuses. Time is running out."
It was an offense Sunday that converted two of its 14 third-down opportunities. It was an offense that squandered first down at the Bears 31-yard line by giving the ball away on its third possession.
And even when the Bucs moved the ball, even when they got within smelling distance of the end zone, disappointment followed.
Quarterback Brad Johnson, who has one touchdown and seven interceptions in the past five games, found Keyshawn Johnson for an exhilarating 47-yard catch and run, only to see the receiver stripped of the ball by cornerback Walt Harris. The ball rolled to the 1-yard line and into the hands of Bears safety Tony Parrish.
"The one particular time we thought we caught a break and I fumble the football," Keyshawn Johnson said. "I was just trying to basically get down to the red zone. I was just trying to make something happen."
Brad Johnson said: "I felt like that was a momentum play. It was one of our biggest plays of the day. I felt like something was going to happen from there. He made an incredible catch and run and the guy made a great play to recover and knock the ball. Today when we had chance to make plays we didn't make plays. They made the big plays and the crucial ones."
Three of the Bucs' four turnovers came in the first half, and Tampa Bay was down only 13-3 at halftime. With the first possession of the third quarter, the Bucs punted after gaining 1 yard in three plays.
"You know, you have to turn it back to a one-score game and we didn't do that," offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said. "It was very important, but it was one drive of a bunch of them that didn't function properly. The whole first half you had those opportunities and couldn't take advantage of them."
"Options are definitely being lessened," said Dunn, who was dropped for a 3-yard loss on the Bucs' first play of the second half and totaled 27 yards on 10 carries. "Each week we always talk about we need to get the running game going and it seems like it's not taking that step. I know I'm trying to do my job. We have to be accountable and everybody has to be accountable for themselves. If they say they've been doing it then obviously they are doing their best. If not, then they have to buckle down and do better."
The Bucs hinted last week that they would give Dunn a few chances to run behind rookie fullback Jameel Cook, who has been busting holes for Mike Alstott. But that never happened Sunday.
"You saw the game, did I have any holes?" Dunn asked. "I have no idea (what to do). It's been tough for me especially because I haven't had that one crease where I can hit the hole and just take it. I have to try to stay positive and hopefully things will work out."
Christensen said he has agonized over finding ways to spark the running game and return Dunn to the form he showed at the end of last season. Dunn's frustration is obvious, Christensen said.
"I think it's been an incredibly disappointing season for him mostly because he hasn't been able to do what I think he can," Christensen said. "We haven't seen a 100 percent Warrick since (the opener against) Dallas. I know the game means a lot to him and he's a tough guy. He's one of our best players and we have to continue to give him the ball."
Asked how to fix the offense, Keyshawn Johnson replied: "I don't know. I'm going to play. You know I'll be there regardless of who's calling the plays or who's coaching. Now, whether or not anyone else is going to follow, that's on them. To make their minds up and say, 'You know what, I'm going to make this happen.' What you want me to do, grab these (expletive) by the throat and make them play? I can't do that."
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