QB Brad Johnson has been cool under pressure this season, helping the Bucs succeed repeatedly in a hurry-up attack
Could the Bucs' 'two-minute' success in 2001 prompt the team to use the hurry-up attack at other points in the game?...Also, injury update
From 1997 through 2000, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were somewhat like John Madden: you could count on them showing up for the big game, but they weren't going to get there through the air.
Madden, the premier NFL broadcaster for FOX, still eschews plane travel for his Outback Cruiser this season, but the Bucs of 2001 have traded their grind-it-out game for an all-out aerial assault. Tampa Bay actually ranks second in the NFL in pass attempts, by one to the Detroit Lions (461-460), which prior to the season seemed about as likely as Mark McGwire laying down a series of drag bunts.
Not that Head Coach Tony Dungy is too thrilled by this development. The Bucs have generally thrown dozens of passes in situations where they had no choice but to throw dozens of passes. The latest example came on Sunday when, by necessity, Tampa Bay lobbed up 15 balls in the game's final five minutes. They had also used the closing minutes of the first half for a passing clinic.
"Basically, if you take out the two two-minute drives – we had 31 passes in the two-minute drives – other than that we had 31 passes and 23 runs," said Dungy. "For most of the game, I think we had a pretty good balance. The problem we had in the third quarter is that we didn't make any first downs. That kind of threw us for a loop. We didn't get many runs in the second half, and then we were behind and we had a 15-pass drive on the last drive of the game."
But here's the thing. That 15-pass drive worked.
The Bucs had five minutes to save their season when they got the ball back at their own 20, trailing Detroit, 12-7. Two minutes later, they still had the ball but were only at the Lions' 48-yard line. Five more passes ate up two more minutes but also got Tampa Bay down to the Detroit 13 with a minute to go. Two snaps later, it was Brad Johnson to Keyshawn Johnson on the most memorable touchdown pass of the season.
Throwing four times to his namesake, Johnson made the Bucs' hurry-up, or 'two-minute,' offense work when it had to. And it's been working all season.
While defining the exact parameters might be difficult, it's reasonable to say that the Bucs have worked nine long scoring drives out of their hurry-up attack this year, not including the long but ultimately empty march at the end of the first half of Sunday's game against the Lions.
It's enough to make you wonder if the Bucs ought to let Johnson run that mad-scrabble attack more often – say, in the third quarter when Tampa Bay's offense has mostly struggled this season?
"We talked about it," said Dungy, of using the hurry-up earlier on Sunday against Detroit. "As a matter of a fact we were thinking about doing that a little early in the fourth quarter."
However, one does not get the impression that Dungy is contemplating an expanded two-minute approach, though he does believe that the Bucs have the kind of cool-headed veterans to pull it off. What it comes down to is that Dungy still believes in seeking balance in the attack and has evidence that the Bucs can move the ball in a more traditional manner. Exhibit A could be the Bucs' 91-yard march early in the second quarter, which produced the game's first touchdown. Tampa Bay picked up 34 rushing yards on that drive, ate six minutes off the clock and actually produced 111 yards of total offense on the drive thanks to a couple overcome penalties.
"Well, we didn't really have a problem moving the ball in the first half," said Dungy. "We had 227 yards. We just had problems finishing drives and scoring. We threw an interception, got sacked out of field goal range one time. We moved the ball well.
"It not that the rest of the game isn't working. The two-minute offense, well we've had success. A lot of time you get an extra down, like we did. If that had not been late in the game we would have punted twice in that series rather than go for it on fourth down. A lot of times, it's that extra down that you have that lets you play a little differently, but a lot of it is our quarterback does a good job in that situation."
Even if the Bucs don't incorporate the two-minute attack into other portions of the game, it is still nice to know that the ability is there. Since it seems inevitable that every Buccaneers game is going to come down to the wire, it's comforting to know that the offense is capable of chewing up big chunks of yardage in short periods of time.
Here's a rundown of the Bucs' many successful hurry-up moments of the year: