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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

12-20-2003 - Post Game Quotes

Head Coach Jon Gruden

(Opening comments) "I'm just very disappointed, obviously, in defeat for our fans, for our players. We made some critical mistakes in the first half in regards to turnovers. (In) my experience in pro football when you lose the turnover battle you struggle to win. (I am) very proud of our football team (and) the character they showed in the last 15 minutes of that game."

(On the second quarter turnovers that resulted in 14 points for the Falcons) "That's hard to overcome. What can I say? We missed a couple of throws, very uncharacteristically. Brad (Johnson) struggled there for a period in the first half, but I'll say this, that was one of the great gut checks I've witnessed at that position working with the quarterbacks for a long time. It's unfortunate. We didn't get it done today, and I'll shoulder the responsibility for that."

(On the comeback) "Well, we had a great drive to score. Obviously, the turnover inside the five ignited the drive in which Keenan (McCardell) made a big play against their two-deep zone. Get a two-point play we're back in it. Get an onside kick, put together another great drive, and unfortunately we had a tipped pass there at the end of regulation."

(On the play of Brad Johnson) "Outside of two or three throws, he played very well. Once again, we get stopped on an early third-and-one. I believe our third possession results in a touchdown, and then for a period of about five to seven minutes there, those two two-minute drives, he just missed some throws. Balls got away from him. I don't know if it was the weather. I know he did get hit several times throughout the course of the game. We'll study and see his footwork, but it's just too bad."

(On this game being a must-win to keep Tampa's playoff hopes alive) "Well, we've been at gunpoint, we've been in a must-win situation for some time now. Obviously, if we had any hopes of advancing into the postseason we needed a win today. Atlanta got the opening kickoff. It wasn't a very good kickoff to start the game. They were able to get three points on the board. Shortly after that, a turnover helped them get into position to get a 10-point lead. (It) took our crowd out of the game. (It) took us out of the kind of game maybe we wanted to play. Then the two mishaps in the two-minute drill with field position really put us behind in terms of any kind of game plan we had hoped to get done today."

(On what he told the team at halftime) "I told them that we want to go out there and finish these last 30 minutes with Tampa Bay Buccaneer authority. We want to get something going on offense. Obviously, we need to generate a quick turnover to get back into the football game. I thought they showed great camaraderie and competition there in the second half. For that I'm very proud."

(On next week's game) "We obviously understand the circumstances in which we sit. We've got work to do to finish this season strong in Tennessee. We'll talk about all the off-season questions a little bit later. We've been hit hard with injuries. We've had some distractions to say the least this year. This football team week-in and week-out, I think we've lost seven games by a combined 15 to 20 points. There's a fine line between winning and losing. It's a hard lesson that we've learned if some of us didn't understand that. But we'll regroup. We'll respond. We'll reload if we have to, and we'll come back next season better than ever I hope."

LB Derrick Brooks

(On the character of the team) "With the exception of one game we have been in a position to win or tie a ballgame within the last minute of all our losses. In my opinion, that is the sign of a champion, fighting until the end."

(On this game) "We didn't get started as fast as we wanted to for some reason or another, and the clock ran out on us after we did get going. I won't make excuses. We didn't get it done."

(On his reaction after the game) "Right now it's making sure I come to work tomorrow like I was 15-0, showing the leadership skills I've been blessed with and finishing the season off with a win. It hasn't gone as planned or as I wanted it to, but there is a lot to be learned. From my standpoint, I have to make sure that the young guys find some reason to play next week, and hopefully I will be that energy. We have to finish 8-8, which won't be a losing season. It won't be a winning season either."

(On whether it is hard for him to deal with the season ending without postseason play) "No, for Derrick Brooks the glass is half-full. We need to focus on next week and end with a win and defend our championship with character, playing for each other in this locker room. That is what is going to be important in our preparation for next week."

QB Brad Johnson

(On today's loss) "We've had our share of crazy losses this year. This is one like it. And unfortunately, I kind of helped with that cause and put ourselves in that situation in the first half. It's unbelievable the way the guys fought, and I think that's why we were Super Bowl champions last year. Unfortunately, we came close and just didn't get it done."

(On the Falcons scoring 17 points on turnovers) "On one interception, I was trying to throw the ball away. I tried to throw it away – the one they ran back – (Juran) Bolden ran back. The one over the middle to Keenan I threw high and it kind of went through his hands, and I've got to be more accurate on that throw."

(On how you respond to situations like the first half) "Every quarterback is going to go through something like that at some point. I've talked about it on good days and bad days. Unfortunately that's about the worst four plays that you can get. Other than that, it was some very good football. The second half was about as good of football as you can get. Four bad plays kind of hurt us. Unfortunately, that's part of playing the quarterback position and playing in the NFL. You've got to be consistent, and those four plays hurt us."

(On the Lombardi trophy not returning to Tampa this year) "It was here last year. You've got to go out there and earn it. We didn't earn it this year. That's part of being in the NFL. It's hard to win it once, let alone try to do it twice. We're going to try and finish this week strong, going up to Tennessee, and we'll go from there."

(On how shocked he was with the slow start) "We actually did some good things. Unfortunately, the turnovers put us in kind of a bind, and they (the Falcons) did a good job of controlling the clock a little bit. At the same time, we never gave up, and it went down to the last second. That's the way it was."

(On the two-point conversion that failed) "We've had a lot of bad innings this year, and for whatever reason, we had the perfect play call. They made a great play. I felt like they were holding a little bit on Keenan, and (we) didn't get the call. Sometimes you've got to create your own breaks, and we didn't get our breaks at the right time there."

(On what changes he made from the first half to the second half) "We were actually moving the ball the first half – we just had the turnovers. That's pretty much the difference. Everything was there – we had a high completion percentage and we ran the ball effectively. We did some great things today, but turnovers killed us."

(On what Coach Gruden said at the end of the game) "He talked about how you never give up. That's what the character in this team is – the kind of guys we have. We took it down to the bitter end, but unfortunately, it didn't bounce our way today. That's part of being in the NFL. You've got to be a man about it. There's going to be other great days and great years around here."

(On what accounts for his interceptions) "The first one slipped out of my hands, throwing to (Aaron) Stecker. He was wide open, and that just slipped out of my hands. One, I was trying to throw the ball away, got hit, it popped up, and Bolden ran it back. The other ones – I just can't remember."

S John Lynch

(On no postseason for the Buccaneers) "It's going to be real strange, but that's where we are. We knew coming in that we couldn't control Minnesota or Kansas City or what happened with Seattle, but we could control this. That is what's so disappointing because we had control of this and couldn't get the job done."

(On whether the distractions this season contributed to the Buccaneers' record) "There is no doubt about it. There were a lot of distractions, including injuries, but we refuse to use those as an excuse for what's gone on this year. Injuries are the most tangible reason, but other teams have had those and they stepped up. What went on, on the field went on, on the field. We just didn't do a good enough job."

DT Warren Sapp

(On the disappointment of almost coming back from a 17-point deficit) "It was just us starting off [bad]. We just didn't come out and play well early, and they built a nice lead. We just couldn't come back from it. We turned the ball over all day long. If you lose the turnover battle, you are going to lose the ballgame."

(On what the Buccaneers' comeback says about their resolve) "I wasn't worried about them quitting. I wouldn't worry about any of us quitting. We were going to come out and play with everything we got. We still have one game left, so on to Tennessee."

(On the elusiveness of QB Michael Vick) "That one he just pulled on his own, like Peyton Manning. If you look at there and you see no one there, you pull it. Other than that, he had one other play going. The turnovers were the big difference today."

(On if this is the toughest loss to take this season) "Yeah, because it ends our playoff chances. It has to be."

(On not repeating as Super Bowl champions) "Well, at least we can say we had it once."

(On his future plans) "I'm going to go out and have Christmas with my family. Other than, I don't know where I'm going to be except Sunday in Tennessee. We'll all wait, and we'll all see."

(On how this season makes him feel) "Sick. Sick. You look at it early in the year and looked at some of the teams that hadn't made it, and you kind of laughed at it. It's a reality now."

T Kenyatta Walker

(On the second half performance) "I thought we fought our (tail) off that second half. I mean, who would've thought the Bucs could have come back from a three-touchdown deficit but were still not making it to the playoffs. We can't defend our championship."

(On the difference between this season and last season) "Last year we just won the close games. Last year we would've won this game. It's disappointing. "

(On whether he feels changes should be made with the team) "I don't know, that's the decision of the front office and the coaches. It's a business, and some people need to make some decisions for the benefit of this team."

Atlanta Interim Head Coach Wade Phillips

(On defeating the Buccaneers) "Any time you knock off the World Champions and take them out of it (the playoffs), it's an important win for our team. One of the real important things is that we have not played real well against this team."

(On the Buccaneers coming back from their halftime deficit) "They did not give up and deserve a lot of credit. They took it right down to the end."

(On the Falcons' defense preventing the Buccaneers from converting a two-point conversion at the end of the game) "[Interim defensive coordinator] Emmitt Thomas suggested a blitz. We felt like they were going to throw it. We knocked the ball down. The blitz got there."

(On new general manager Rich McKay earning his first win with the Falcons) "Rich McKay is 1-0. He actually suggested that deep ball on the left side. He is a winner — A proven winner."

Atlanta TE Alge Crumpler

(On his touchdown reception) "We set it up with a couple of tight ends, trip sets and doubled up on Simeon Rice. They finally bit on it."

(On the Falcons' gameplan) "We wanted to create some turnovers, so we could work on our offense and not give ourselves a chance to be always on defense. That is what hurt us. We've had many games where we didn't get a chance to get our offense working and get a flow in our run game."

(On the Falcons' defense) "Tampa relies on a lot of turnovers, but this time we were able to dominate and use these turnovers to score and eat up clock."

Atlanta RB T.J. Duckett

(On the Falcons' running game) "We were able to run the plays that we practiced during the week. God bless the offensive line. They blocked well and opened up holes for us."

(On his fumble at the goal line) "I wanted to score. I saw the end zone, and I knew if I got in the end zone the game was over. Maybe next time I'll realize we have three downs left to get in the end zone, but I was trying to win and the ball got away from me."

(On how he felt after his turnover) "It was tough on the sideline during the last few minutes, but the defense bailed us out as a team."

Atlanta WR Brian Finneran

(On defeating the Buccaneers) "It's a big win for us to come in and beat the World Champions. To get them out of the playoffs feels good."

(On the rivalry between the two teams) "It's an ugly rivalry out there, and some tempers flared during the game. But we stayed composed and put a bunch of points up, and our defense did a good job hanging on in the end."

(On his touchdown reception) "We had a play called where the inside guys run little out routes. I told Mike [Vick] in the huddle, 'If they blitz, just throw it up and give me a chance' because we knew [Ronyell] Whitaker was kind of their weak link out there, being the third corner. He [Vick] did a great job giving me a chance to make a play."

(On if the Falcons approached today like a playoff game) "We knew we were out of the playoffs a long time ago, and every game going in is a playoff atmosphere for us."

(On the Falcons' recent improvements) "If we limit the mistakes on offense and keep getting turnovers on defense, we're going to keep rolling. We are looking forward to playing Jacksonville next week to keep this thing going."

Atlanta QB Michael Vick

(On figuring out the Tampa Bay defense) "I wouldn't say we figured the defense out, but I would say that we came out and played our type of football. We came out and threw the ball down field, and challenged them. That's what it takes to beat great defensive teams like the Bucs."

(On Atlanta's running game) "That wasn't conservative, that was trying to pound the run. Our game plan was to run the ball against them and counter act with some big plays. We were able to counter act with some big plays down the field. T.J. (Duckett) ran the ball well and I have to take my hat off to the guys up front who did an exceptional job blocking, pass protection, run blocking. I think they deserve all the credit for this win."

(On his fourth-and-inches conversion) "It was actually my fault. I went the wrong way. I handed the ball off to him, then snatched it back out. I didn't want to have him running it. I figured I had a better chance to get it to the corner. I took it upon myself to try to get outside and try to get a first down. It was big for us. It was a big play that gave us a lot of confidence."

(On how it feels to beat the Buccaneers) "It feels great. After three straight losses, we haven't beaten them in two or three years. We came down here last year and played them in a big one and they blew us out. So for us to come down here and knock them out of playoff contention was big for us. That was our goal all week. If we can't go, they can't go."

(On throwing a touchdown pass to Brian Finneran who was guarded by Ronyell Whitaker, Vick's college roommate) "I know Ronyell's tendencies, I know what he likes to do. I know he's an aggressive little corner. He's a good player. I told him last night when he was in my hotel room that he better be ready. We visited last night. We're great friends."

(On if Atlanta's plan was to run the football) "We always feel like we can run the football. It's just the game plan we come into the game with. We don't come into the game the game planning on (me) running, it's done instinctively on broken plays. Once those plays break down, and we have good routs going with guys going down field, I'm able to make plays down field. So it's all about how we come into the game with our gameplan."

(On if new general manager Rich McKay talked to Micheal about the Buccaneers' defense) "He didn't say anything about that team, he didn't have to. We know what type of team Tampa is. We know their tendencies, we know they're aggressive. They're great up front and overall, on defense, they play real good football. They are a very smart team. We knew what was at hand and we knew the task, but we had to come out and show them that and we did it."

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