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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Run First

Monte Kiffin has noticed a more collegiate mentality to how many NFL teams are using their quarterbacks this season


The Bucs should expect Minnesota QB Daunte Culpepper to run the ball on Sunday, even before the pocket breaks down

Here he comes again.

You've seen a lot of him lately. He's supposed to stand in the pocket and throw but he seems awfully prone to moving around, picking up yardage on runs or broken-play passes. He has been on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' schedule every week.

'He,' of course, is that 'mobile quarterback' of which you've heard so much this season. By this point, you've probably read enough about the mobility of Quincy Carter, Brett Favre, Daunte Culpepper, Steve McNair and Kordell Stewart, and what thatt has done to the Bucs' defense this year, to rattle off each passer's strengths and weaknesses.

We won't belabor the point, because it's quite obvious that the Bucs face the same challenge this week with another game against Culpepper and the Minnesota Vikings. What Tampa Bay Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin wants you to understand is that the Vikings are going to come into Sunday's game specifically looking to put their quarterback on the run, just like Pittsburgh did.

While heady passers like Favre and McNair run when necessary, more often than not to buy time to find an open man, Stewart and the Steelers utilize plays set up expressly to have the quarterback tuck it and run. Stewart ran seven times for 32 yards on Sunday, most of them on designed plays, such as the one near the end of the first half that robbed the Bucs' of a final chance to get the ball back in good field position.

"Right before the half, it's third down and Kordell runs a quarterback draw with a lead blocker," said Kiffin, shaking his head. "You don't see that very often."

But you will, perhaps as soon as this week. After watching Minnesota beat the previously first-place Green Bay Packers, 35-13, on Sunday, Kiffin believes the Vikings are doing the same thing with their behemoth of a quarterback, the 6-4, 260-pound Culpepper. The Minnesota QB ran nine times for 71 yards and a touchdown against Green Bay and, according to Kiffin, it wasn't just improvisation on Culpepper's part.

"Not now," said Kiffin. "If you look at them now, they're doing the same thing (as Pittsburgh). They're using Daunte (that way) now. So we'll have the same problem we had with Kordell.

"Those are designed runs, not scrambles."

Perhaps it's the newest craze in the NFL, like the West Coast offense or the run-and-shoot. Kiffin definitely sees a change in the way teams are utilizing – and perhaps, risking – their quarterbacks.

"The league has gone more towards college – the quarterbacks are running the ball," he said. "They've thrown caution to the wind. These are designed plays, designed runs by the quarterback just like in college. You never had to worry about the quarterback running before. Some quarterbacks could scramble, but I'm talking about designed plays. It taxes you a little on defense."

Kiffin said that the threat of Stewart's mobility affected when and how often the Buccaneers' defense chose to blitz. It also is probably a major factor in the team's mystifying struggles on third down.

"This has been a good third-down team, and the first game against Dallas we were one for 10," said Kiffin, noting that the Bucs have been at or near the top in third down defense for several years running. "Since then…we're out of whack right now on third downs, whether it be coverage, the quarterback scrambling or a trick play."

Of course, mobile quarterbacks aren't a completely new phenomenon, and the league as a whole isn't having such troubles on third down. Head Coach Tony Dungy expects his defense to go back to their efficient ways on third down, disagreeing with the notion that there has been a fundamental change in the unit's effectiveness.

""I don't know if they're not what they were," said Dungy. "They're just not coming up with the big plays that we need to make. A lot of times the difference between a 96-yard drive or a punt is one play. Some times it's just one person on one play and every thing else can be the same. One guy gets his hand on the ball or one guy gets the ball carrier down an inch short of the first down and they punt instead of keeping the drive going. We aren't making the plays we need to make and that's what has to come."

Kiffin wants his team to do something about it this week, even if another dual threat awaits the team at quarterback.

"The only thing worse than 2-3 is 2-4," he said. "Let's do something about it."

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