WR Jacquez Green ran all over the Metrodome turf on Monday
Not one of wide receiver Jacquez Green's 11 catches on Monday night gained more than 19 yards, and yet it is still accurate to render that assessment of Green's productive evening.
The Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay's opponent on Monday Night Football in Minneapolis, clearly respected Green's ability to stretch defenses with his world-class speed.
That much was evident on film, which showed Green averaging 25.8 yards per catch through the Bucs' first five weeks. That number could be even gaudier but for some near misses that almost turned into long touchdowns against the New York Jets and Washington Redskins.
Against the Vikings, Tampa Bay ran quite a bit more three-receiver sets than they had displayed in the season's first five weeks. Minnesota, of course, countered with a nickel package, bringing in a third cornerback. In that alignment, the Vikings tended to play a loose, 'sagging' zone with the three corners, giving the Buc receivers a lot of cushion.
That was something the Buccaneers had expected coming into the game, and they clearly chose to attack that sagging coverage with the passing game, if not necessarily Green.
"We didn't go in with the idea of getting any one person the ball," said Head Coach Tony Dungy. "We just felt that they were going to play a lot of eight-man fronts and we were going to have to throw the ball. We threw it effectively some, but not enough to win."
Repeatedly, the third-year wideout would sprint down the sideline as the Viking corners sagged backwards to protect against the deep pass. Green would then break off the route and catch a perfectly-timed pass from QB Shaun King.
This scenario repeated itself often enough for Green to record 11 catches for 131 yards. Not only is that reception total the best in Green's short career, *it is the most ever for a * Tampa Bay receiver.
Former running back James Wilder holds the overall team record with 13 receptions in a game against Minnesota in 1985. Wilder also had three 11-catch games during his Buccaneer career, and Green's teammate, RB Warrick Dunn, had an 11-grab outing on Halloween last year in Detroit.
The previous record for a Buccaneer receiver, however, was 10 receptions, accomplished on a variety of occasions. Green himself hit that number last season in Chicago on January second. That effort was under slightly different circumstances, with the Bucs using Green to pick on an inexperienced Bears cornerback.
Not once against the Vikings did the Buccaneers try to throw a straight bomb to Green, as they had at least once in every previous game. Instead, they continued to take what the offense was giving, and though Green didn't have a single catch to match the receptions of 30 or more yards he had in each of the Bucs' first four games, he did have five catches that netted between 10 and 19 yards. The yards add up in a hurry that way.
One Buccaneer scoring drive, in fact, was built almost completely on Green's receptions. Tampa Bay's first possession of the second half started out at its own 31 but quickly moved into Vikings territory when Green ran a comeback route on the left sideline. Green made the catch for 13 yards, then had 15 more tacked on for a late hit out of bounds.
The next pass went to Green for 18 yards on the left side. The next snap was almost identical and picked up 10 more. On third-and-17 from the Minnesota 20, the Bucs tried a slant-in to Green, who was supposed to catch a short pass and look for room to run over the middle. The Vikings stopped the play after six yards, but the Bucs did get close enough for a field goal.
Monday's game was another step in Green's rapid development. It has been an increasingly productive year for the diminutive but polished receiver, and he could go on to threaten some of the team's receiving records.
After six games, Green leads the team with 440 receiving yards (on 23 catches). That pace over 16 games would give the former Florida Gator 1,173 yards by season's end. The Bucs' single-season records is 1,422 receiving yards, posted by Mark Carrier in 1989. That was also the last time a Buccaneer receiver has reached the 1,000-yard plateau. The second-highest mark in team annals is Kevin House's 1,176 in 1981.
Green may eventually look back on Monday night's game as one of the top outings of his career, but the sting of the Bucs' third straight heartbreaking loss had him focused on the team's miscues in the locker room after the game.
Green and the Buccaneers felt they could have walked out of the Metrodome with a win. In fact, Tampa Bay had a chance to tie the game at the end of regulation if Green could have pushed his reception total to an even dozen.
With the last few seconds draining from the game clock, King threw a 'Hail Mary' pass to the front of the left side of the end zone. A variety of Bucs and Vikings went up for the ball, and it eventually dropped toward the ground, then bounced off the lower leg of one of the Minnesota defenders. The deflected ball went in Green's direction, but it skipped off the turf just before Green snatched it. The officials alertly saw the hop and ruled the pass incomplete.
That was about the only thing Green didn't catch on Monday night.