WR Joey Galloway is on pace for a personal best in single-season receiving yards, as well as a Buccaneer record
Joey Galloway's long run on Sunday in San Francisco took him right past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' bench…not that there was much time to see what was going on.
Blink and you missed it.
Early in the fourth quarter of the Bucs game against the 49ers, with the visitors trailing 12-3 and struggling all day to sustain a drive, Galloway ran a quick hitch up the right numbers. Quarterback Chris Simms delivered the ball on the money as Galloway made his turn back to the line of scrimmage, providing a bit of separation between the receiver and cornerback Bruce Thornton. Galloway easily looped around Thornton and was one-on-one with safety Mike Adams.
Galloway not only trumped Adams' angle on the sideline, he got all the way past the defender and raced 78 yards for a touchdown. It was his second score of at least that length this season, and it was over in a heartbeat.
Cornerback Brian Kelly was standing on the Bucs' sideline when Galloway flashed by. He was surprised at how quickly it all happened.
"I haven't seen anybody run that fast in a long time," said Kelly.
Now, this is a man who had the same view for Joe Jurevicius' 71-yard catch-and-run past the Bucs' bench in the NFC Championship Game in January of 2003, when Jurevicius seemed to catch a burst of speed out of nowhere. Kelly also saw, from a different perspective, cornerback Ronde Barber's 88-yard interception return for a touchdown to seal that same game, another long run that went right past the Bucs' bench.
Galloway's touchdown on Sunday won't have the legendary staying power of those two plays – the Bucs, after all, lost to the 49ers, 15-10 – but it was certainly not short on drama. Kelly said it gave the Bucs' bench life, reducing the gap to 12-10 with about 10 minutes left in the game.
"That was rejuvenating for us," he elaborated. "The whole sideline got up a little bit. I never thought we were out of the game, but you could see some faces there, when that touchdown happened, some guys got a little energy. It was a great individual effort by that guy."
Galloway has definitely produced some of the team's best individual efforts of the season. With 648 yards on 39 receptions, he is the team's leading yard-gainer in 2005, by a significant margin. He has 11 touchdowns in his last 12 games, dating back to last season, and leads the team with five scores this year. He has had at least 87 receiving yards in five of the Bucs' seven games and he's picking up an impressive 16.6 yards per catch.
Galloway's yard-per-catch numbers might be even higher if he was only a deep threat. However, the Bucs are running him on just about every route imaginable. His touchdown in the Bucs' previous game, a 27-13 win over Miami, came on a quick slant play in which he made the catch and fought through a tackle to extend the ball over the goal line. Against Detroit four weeks ago, he produced the Bucs' longest play of the season by running a precise post route and splitting two deep defenders for an 80-yard touchdown.
Galloway is on pace to gather 1,481 receiving yards this season, which would be a Buccaneer record and his own personal best, even at the age of 33, going on 34 in about three weeks. Ask him if he cares. Even after producing the only consistent offense the Bucs had in San Francisco, Galloway wasn't too pleased.
"It was a little inside hitch and Simms put it on me," said Galloway, explaining the long touchdown play. "Once I caught it I knew that it was just me and the safety, and if I could get an angle on him I'd have a chance to score. Fortunately, I did score. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough."
Simms said the Bucs had been looking for that particular safety coverage, but still called the touchdown and "unreal" play by Galloway. Thanks to that score, the Bucs' offense managed to rack up a respectable total of 232 net passing yards against the 49ers. As Galloway would say, that wasn't enough, and that means he and his offensive teammates have to pick up their games.
"What I do know is that [Simms] has to play better, I have to play better and the other guys on the field around him have to play better," he said.
Galloway knows that the Bucs can't afford to rest on the successes they have had. Whether or not the schedule gets tougher during the second half of the season, it's undeniable that all six of the Bucs' intra-division games are on tap over the next nine weeks. Galloway, who could be en route to one of the finest seasons by a receiver in franchise history, believes that everything to this point has been little more than a tune-up.
"We'll find out next week [how good we are]," he said. "We've got Carolina next week. Everyone here is looking forward to Carolina. This game is over with and done. We will find out what we can do next week. That's when our season starts. We've got to see Carolina twice, New Orleans twice, Atlanta twice. We've got Washington and New England. Our season will start next week and we're all looking forward to it."