Head Coach Jon Gruden said the Bucs' desperate situation in the fourth quarter helped the offense dial up the necessary plays for victory
Sometimes a sense of urgency is all it takes to kick things into high gear.
For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a 10-point deficit with just over six minutes to play proved to be the impetus that led to a rousing come-from-behind victory Sunday. The Bucs had struggled at times against an aggressive Chicago Bears defense, but the end of regulation and the overtime period were marked by some frenzied late-game action...most of it in the Bucs' favor.
The end result was a victory for Tampa Bay and, Head Coach Jon Gruden believes, an amplified feeling of confidence for the team going forward.
Staring down a double-digit hole the likes of which no Buccaneer team had overcome in almost 10 years, the visiting team executed two hurry-up drives at the end of regulation to tie the score. The Bucs even sped things up a bit on the game-winning march in overtime, when the clock wasn't as much of a factor.
Gruden acknowledged that game situations necessitated the hasty play of his offense – clearly, no team is going to let valuable seconds drip off the clock late in a game they are trailing by huddling up before each play. But Gruden said he was very proud of the way quarterback Brian Griese and the rest of the offense executed during those do-or-die possessions.
"We had two two-minute drives and they both lasted," Gruden said. "One was, I think, a 65-yard field goal drive. One was a 90-yard touchdown drive. We pretty much stayed in the two-minute drill in overtime. We thought we had a pretty good thing going. A lot of people don't do that in overtime, going into the moving clock two-minute [drill], but it was working for us and Brian [Griese] and the offensive guys did a great job."
With 6:38 to go in the game, Griese and the offense took over at the Bucs' 20. Twelve plays and 63 yards later – with just 3:27 of game time elapsing due to the Bucs' no-huddle offense – Matt Bryant cut the deficit to seven with a 35-yard field goal. Most of the completions on the drive were over the middle, but the Bucs made that strategy work by hustling back to the line after every play.
After the defense forced a quick three-and-out from the Chicago offense, Griese took over at the Tampa Bay 21 with 1:49 to play. As the Bucs hurried down the field once again, Griese completed six passes, capped by a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jerramy Stevens that evened the score with seven seconds to go.
The Bucs struggled to get much going against a stout Bears defense for much of the first three quarters of Sunday's game, but Gruden said the late scoring drives were a result of the offense finally getting into a rhythm. With a field general of Griese's ability at the helm, speeding things up may have actually helped that process along.
"We had a lot of things that went pretty well yesterday, looking at the tape," Gruden said. "We felt good about what we were doing going into the game. We got into a little bit of a rhythm. I think one of the things you have going for yourself in that type of situation, at least towards the end of the game, is that you have four downs to make ten yards instead of three. So your mentality is a little bit different.
"You're more apt I think to check the ball down here and there, throw it away because you know you have four opportunities to get a first down. It is a fast break style of play, which Brian really likes, has always liked. That has been a big part of his success here, his ability to operate at the line of scrimmage with the moving clock."
Interestingly, Gruden said he wanted his offense to try out the no-huddle strategy in the Bucs' very first offensive possession of the day, but the tactic didn't work out as well early in the game as it did towards the end. Still, it may be something the Bucs look to incorporate in their attack more often this season.
"We did try to get in a no-huddle in the second play of the game, but it was so dang loud we couldn't get the calls communicated," Gruden said. "We had to take a timeout, but yes, that will be something we look into here in the future."
Whether the Bucs employ their hurry-up offense again earlier in games or save it for any other crunch time scenarios that may pop up, it's nice to know that Griese and the offense are comfortable executing late in games and have the confidence to win any way necessary.
And after winning such a heart-stopper on Sunday, Gruden hopes that good feeling carries on. Much like the rhythm his offense was able to get into when they sped things up, he hopes consecutive victories will get the entire team into a similar groove.
"You should gain confidence," Gruden said. "Winning is contagious. Good vibes are certainly nice; you like those to fester around your team. We have a tough game this week. We have a tough football game to prepare for and we will have some injuries we need to address. But I think that you can get momentum when you get back-to-back wins that is certainly good for momentum and confidence."