WR Joey Galloway has been held without a catch twice this season, but the Bucs won both games
A line of zeroes for Joey Galloway in Atlanta? Don't worry; it didn't bother him as long as the Bucs got the "W," and it's not likely to start a trend…And other topics being discussed in the Bucs' locker room
Given the prevailing bluster of the position in today's NFL, one might expect a top-flight wide receiver to react negatively to a stat line full of zeroes. How annoyed might some of the league's premier receivers be after going an entire game without a reception, even if their teams won?
That's not exactly the type of thing that irritates Joey Galloway. Torn groin muscles, seasons lost to injury, losing – now those are things that chafe at Galloway like a wool turtleneck.
"I feel pretty good," said the Tampa Bay Buccaneers leading receiver. "I didn't have to deal with any annoying situations this season. I think that I have been able to have success in the offense. I've been able to hook up with quarterbacks, whether it be [Brian] Griese or now [Chris] Simms. I think I have just had success hooking up with [the] quarterbacks."
For the record, despite being fifth in the NFL in receiving yardage after 10 games, Galloway has had two games this season in which he did not record a single reception. The Bucs won both of those games, including last Sunday's critical division victory in Atlanta. Galloway knew quite well that he didn't truly come out of those games empty-handed.
"I've been around a long time and, really, I would just like to win games," he said. "However we do that, whatever the best way to do that is, that's what I want to do. The balls will come some days, sometimes they won't. As long as we win, that's all that matters."
If one made up a list of possible team MVP candidates this season, Galloway would be on the short list. There have been some games during the Bucs' 7-3 start – Detroit, Miami and Washington come to mind – that almost certainly wouldn't have been victories without Galloway's contributions. And even without any crooked numbers by his name in the stat books from wins at Atlanta and over Buffalo in Week Two, the 34-year-old receiver had a big impact.
In both of those games, the Bucs ran the ball very well, and very often. Whenever the running game is clicking the coaching staff is going to stick with it as much as possible. Getting the ground game to that point is a team effort.
"He's that deep threat and that softens the box a little bit," said center John Wade of Galloway, who has 51 receptions for 862 yards and seven touchdowns. "Obviously, sometimes teams are going to do whatever they want to do. If they want to put eight in the box, they're going to do that. But Joey's deep threat is definitely helpful in the running game in terms of getting the box unclogged."
Galloway's presence helps the other receivers on the field, too. Edell Shepherd caught the game-winning touchdown pass against Washington two weekends ago, but it's fair to say that the Redskin defense was keeping a nervous eye on Galloway at that point. The speedster had already caught seven passes for 131 yards and one touchdown before Shepherd's big grab.
"I know that is going to happen," said Galloway. "At times there are going to be days that I don't get the ball. But if we can run the ball with some success and win, that's fine."
In Atlanta, quarterback Chris Simms found an old friend at several critical moments, completing three passes for 48 yards to receiver Michael Clayton. The Bucs' offense had its lowest total-yardage output of the season against the Falcons (258 yards), but that was more a factor of the defense having trouble getting off the field. Tampa Bay ran just 46 plays from scrimmage against Atlanta's 77, and Simms threw just 19 passes.
That meant fewer balls to go around, and if one line of zeroes means the rediscovery of one of the team's most critical weapons, then that's alright with everybody on the offense.
"You knew he was going to be back," said Simms of Clayton. "He's a fighter. Probably, one of the toughest guys on this team, and that's rare to say for a wide receiver. He run-blocks, he's physical over the middle and he has unreal hands. He snatches balls out of the air. We need him, especially coming down this stretch in December."
Still, that doesn't mean you're going to see a lot of empty lines for Galloway. If a defense adjusts to take him out of the game and the Bucs' offense succeeds in other ways – Clayton, Cadillac Williams, Alex Smith, Mike Alstott – then attention will shift once again, perhaps at the critical moment.
"If you told me Joey Galloway would have no catches and we'd still win, I'd have been pretty shocked before the game," said Simms. "I think it shows the respect they have for him and our deep passing ability. Hey, if teams want to play defense like that, they're rolling the dice, too. The way our offensive line is blocking right now, and Caddy is running the ball, it's going to make it real tough with the safety 20-yards downfield.
"Because one of these times, he's going to get one-on-one with one of those guys, they're going to miss and he's going to be 80 yards to the house."
Galloway's importance to the Bucs' offense wasn't the only topic being discussed by Buccaneer players during preparations for Sunday's game at Raymond James Stadium. Here are a few more things we overheard in the locker room this week:
QB Chris Simms on the Chicago Bears defense: "They're a great defense, the number-one defense in the NFL right now. But again, nothing that we haven't seen before, especially after playing a team like a Carolina a couple weeks ago, with that great front four. We know we have to be on our A-game. They're definitely a very well-rounded defense, so we'd better be ready."
RB Carnell Williams on the Bears' defense: "A really, really impressive defense. The main thing that they've got going is that they play hard. You see eight, nine guys around the ball every time. It's going to be a big challenge for us, but we're in a situation where we've got a chance to do something against them and we're looking forward to it. We're definitely going to be ready."
LB Derrick Brooks on the Bears defense: "They deserve to be where they are ranked. You respect that. And for us we just got to make sure we tighten up our screws on defense. And make sure we go out there and give our best effort to stop the Chicago Bears offense."
CB Ronde Barber on if what is happening with the Bears' defense is similar to when the Bucs put it all together: "Yeah, it is, it is. There's no doubt that they're playing smart football; that's the reason they're ranked number one. They don't give up a lot of big plays, don't let anybody cross their goal line. It starts up front. It's that "mo," man, and they've got it."
S Dexter Jackson on Chicago's top-ranked defense and comparisons to the Bucs' defense: "We know they're a great defense. They're disciplined, first of all. Lovie Smith is a disciplinarian; he was here and we know what he brings to the table. That's been the Bucs' portrait for the last 10 years. When a great defense comes in here, we feel like we're challenged. We just want to play as hard as we can and say we've got the best defense on that Sunday."
CB Brian Kelly on how Chicago benefits from Lovie Smith knowing the Tampa Bay defense: "I think it's a benefit for them. They've seen this scheme for a long time. They are comfortable with what we do. They've seen us, they know what works against us, what doesn't. So, I think it will help our offense knowing that they have gone against us for a long period of time."
Brooks on what Lovie Smith meant to the Bucs' defense: "Just, me as a player, obviously coming in and coaching me. Now being a good friend of mine, it's always special. It's almost like when you play a former player that you used to play with. He's done a tremendous job of getting his guys to believe in the right way to do things. They've bought into the leadership that he's providing. They've bought into it and obviously it's working for them."
C John Wade on if going against the Bucs' defense in training camp helps prepare for Chicago: "I think it can be an aid, but you can't discount what they do just because, hey, we might have seen it before or might have some familiarity with their defense. There are always going to be a few new wrinkles every week and you still have to go out there and execute against whatever they present to us. But there are some similarities, so hopefully it will help us carry over to game day, just from the prior knowledge of working with our defense spring and summer."
Williams on if Chicago's game against Carolina is a wake-up call for the Bucs: "You've got to give credit where it's due. We're not going to back down from them or anything like that, but they are a good defense."
Wade on the Bears' defensive line playing well: "They really are. Their front four is a good group. They play really well together; they've been together here a couple years and it seems that they understand the scheme very well. They play very hard, so it's going to be another big challenge for us as a defensive line."
DT Ellis Wyms on Monte Kiffin challenging the defense with Chicago's defense coming to town: "Definitely. Everything in the NFL is a competition and everyone wants to be better than the next guy, whether it is the defense, or kicking field goals, or it's running the ball. So it is definitely a little pride thing. You want to put a better performance on the field than the other defense and that is just the NFL. Everything is competition from top to bottom so we want to be the better defense this week."
Barber on if the Bucs are trying to let the Bears know who has the best defense: "I don't know if we're trying to let them know that. They're it. There's no doubt about it. They're number one by a ways. We know what kind of game this is going to be and we go in every week saying we've got to out-play our opponent's defense. If we want to have an opportunity to win this game we've got to try to play better than them. We know what they're going to bring to the table against our offense."
Brooks on how hard the last two weeks have been on the Bucs' defense: "We won the games. Let's not get that confused. Our job is to win games and that's what we've done. Obviously, we haven't performed in all areas like we want to, but we can improve on that. That's what we're going to do. We're not going to panic or get down on ourselves because we played well when we had to and we won the games. We're looking to get out of the starting gate and improve in areas where we needed to improve the last two weeks."
Barber on the team just missing some sacks: "Yeah, Sim [Simeon Rice] was on his legs a couple times and he was able to run around him. It just felt like that kind of game. He beat us. You give him credit for being the player that he is, but we've definitely got to get back to the drawing board and not let that happen again."
Kelly on the Bucs' defense requiring a lot out of a defensive back: "Yeah, it requires a lot but it's all things that we can handle. It's nothing that's just so out-of-the-box. It's just things we've been doing all year. It's no different than what we were doing at the beginning of the year when we were playing well. The same plays and coverages we were calling then we're calling now, we've just got to execute it."
CB Juran Bolden on what can be improved in the secondary: "Look at the break out plays, and see what we could have done differently. Or if we were in a bad position on certain plays, just see what your mind set was at that time. Just go back and grade yourself. And when you come into this week, work on the things that got you in trouble."
Kelly on QB Kyle Orton: "He is playing smart. He's not losing the game for them. They are not asking him to do a lot. But he is very effective in what they are asking him to do. He's got good players around him, in [Muhsin] Muhammad. Got a good running back in [Thomas] Jones, and he is making smart decisions."
Brooks on RB Thomas Jones and QB Kyle Orton: "Thomas [Jones] obviously, tremendous year he's having. [Brian] Urlacher is back from the injury. Kyle Orton is showing tremendous poise in the pocket for a rookie quarterback. I am very impressed with the way he is handling that offense. And it all goes back to running the ball very well. He is doing a good job of managing the game. Like I said right now they're playing good team football."
Kelly on WR Muhsin Muhammad: "He's very good. To be at his age and be playing smart. He's a crafty veteran. Plays big, he's physical, blocks well. He does a lot of good things well."
Simms on Carnell "Cadillac" Williams: "I think he's probably just back in the groove after fighting an injury for a few weeks. Now he's back, healthy, 100 percent. I can't talk for him, but I think he was just hitting the hole with 100 percent full forward force. There was no dancing on Sunday. He made a lot of tough runs, which has always impressed me. When there's no holes, he does an unreal job of still getting three or four yards."
Wade on Williams' cut-back runs in Atlanta: "I think he played well. He had good reads and good burst in the hole."
Williams on how the offensive line blocked in Atlanta: "Those guys always play hard and I always give them credit. But you could see a difference in them. They were just coming off the ball and blowing those guys off the ball. There was a lot of running room."
Simms on the offensive line: "They've been awesome. The last two weeks have been unreal, with the way they pass protected against the Redskins, picking up all those blitzes. And then going into this last week against Atlanta, they had a lot of blitz looks. Now, add the running game to it and it's unreal. They won the game for us, period. Them and 'Cadillac' [Williams] and [Mike] Alstott and [Michael] Pittman back there, they were the workhorses of the day and they came through."
Wade on Simms saying the team is winning on offense because of the offensive line: "I'm just happy to be winning. I'm out there executing. I think we're all on the same page, and we're just trying to adjust to whatever they throw at us. The last two weeks it seems like we've been jelling pretty well. We just need to continue that and not get complacent by any means. It's a constant uphill climb and you need to attack it every week like it's a new challenge, which it is. Every time schemes a little bit different. It could be familiar to you, but there are subtle nuances and you really need to stay focused and keep your nose to the grindstone to try to improve every week."
Williams on if the running game needs to click at this time of the year for the Bucs to have success: "It does. This is crunch time here. On this level and in this league, you've got to run the ball to win ballgames. We've got six big games, so I'm really looking forward to what the offense is going to do."
Wade on how important it is to have a lead back to lean on during the stretch run: "It's huge. Anytime you get into this time of the season, this late, teams are playing well. Teams have been playing together 10 or 11 weeks now, so everybody's kind of getting into their mid-season, or a little past midseason, form. I think it's very important that the running game is the best it can be."
Williams on how important the running game is to the rest of the team: "I think the running game is very important. For one thing, it's going to rest our defense; it's going to wear the other team's defense down. If we can just get the running game established – not only me but Mike Alstott, [Michael] Pittman, all those guys – it's going to be hard to beat us."
Simms on if the line used more max protections: "A few times. Coach always calls it. Maybe in the Redskins game we called it a few more times than normal. But last week, we stayed with our normal game plan. We just kept running the ball, pounding away, and did a few fakes off of that to throw the ball. The game is easy when the offensive line plays like that."
WR Joey Galloway on the offense running the two-minute drill better: "I think everyone has raised their level of play, including Chris [Simms]. You know I think when things were going bad, I don't think it's one guy's fault. And when things are going good, I don't think it's one guy's fault. I think everyone has raised their level. And we expect to be successful in those situations. And it's worked out for us."
Simms on the Bucs' offense successfully running the two-minute drill: "I think we're more confident as an offense, compared to [the San Francisco game]. As far as me personally, probably the same goes, just more confident. In the San Francisco game, we really didn't get a chance to get into a two-minute offense. The first play, I got hit by Bryant Young and fumbled, then, basically, got the ball back with 30 seconds left. That's a tough two-minute drill there, But I think our offense is real confident right now, especially the offensive line. We've won games a lot of different ways and proved to ourselves, and hopefully the defense, no matter what the situation, that we can do out there and make something happen."
Simms on what he concentrates on in the two-minute drill: "Completions. Start the drive off with a completion. I think that would be the rule for any quarterback, and really just being calm. When the offense looks at the quarterback, and he conveys a calm image, then they'll be calm in the whole situation as well. We've stayed very poised, especially last week in a very loud dome. And no penalties jumping offsides, that was huge. That was maybe the difference in the game right there."
Wyms on if the Chicago game is going to be physical: "Definitely it is going to be a tough game and it is going to be two really good defenses on the field this week. I think that it is a game that will be played close to the vest and they are going to come to run the ball and keep the game tight and close. They have a rookie quarterback, so they do not want to put too much on him, on his shoulders, especially early. So we are going to have a tough, physical running game coming in here. We are going to have to stop the run and force the rookie to beat us."
Jackson on how he feels: "I'm feeling pretty good right now. I'm just recovering, trying to rehab every day – sometimes twice or three times a day – with [Head Trainer] Todd [Toriscelli]. Right now I'm just training to get the conditioning part back, just trying to stay in shape."
Jackson on if he thinks he's close to returning: "I feel like I'm very close. I'm going to go out today at practice and see where I'm at. I'm going to test [the injured hamstring] and see how it feels. It was a tear so we have to make sure it's healed before I go back out."
Simms on if his mental toughness has ever been questioned: "No. No one really has. I'd have to say that's the first time. That's one thing I've always kind of prided myself in. In the environment I grew up in, being the son of Phil Simms, you had to be mentally tough. Especially going to the Giants games and hearing people yell at your dad in the stands. If it was one thing I did, it was taking pride in being mentally tough."