Center Jeff Christy wasn't pleased with his team's protection of the quarterback last Sunday, but he's optimistic about the rest of the season
Jeff Christy was on the visitors' sideline in Raymond James Stadium on November 1, 1998 when Tampa Bay's Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn became the first pair of backs in team history to each go over 100 rushing yards in the same game.
Suffice it to say, he knows Tampa Bay's two-back system, with Alstott and Dunn sharing carries, can work.
However, the Bucs' running game has struggled from time to time this year and the team wasn't able to find as good of a Thunder & Lightning balance in 2000 as it has had in recent years. Then Alstott suffered a significant injury to his left knee and Chicago and suddenly the Bucs were down to just Lightning.
Christy thinks that can work just fine.
In their first game without Alstott, the Bucs beat Buffalo 31-17 behind 106 rushing yards from Dunn. It was the team's first 100-yard rushing game of the season and the first this year against Buffalo's stalwart defense.
Dunn got to 100 yards thanks to a 39-yard TD scamper in the fourth quarter. On the play, he cut back behind a Buffalo linebacker that had overpursued the play thinking he knew where Dunn would end up.
"On the long touchdown run, Warrick had run that play before in the game," said Christy. "If Mike had been in there, it might have been his first time with the play and he might not have made the same adjustment Warrick did."
Christy delivered a critical block on Dunn's six-yard touchdown run earlier in the fourth quarter. Christy took his man in a specific direction because he had a feel for which way Dunn would bounce the run.
"That's why you like to get in a rhythm with a running back," said Christy.
"I'm not knocking the two-back system because Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott are both good backs. They've had success with the two of them together here before. But if Warrick runs the same plays several times throughout the game, sometimes he sees something that he can use later."
The Bucs' offense had a bit more difficulty getting into a rhythm in the passing game against Buffalo, as Shaun King was sacked a career-high seven times, five times in the first half. The Bills even had sacks on three consecutive plays at one point, which is not something you see often, particularly from an offensive line that had allowed just 14 sacks through the first 11 games.
"They're a good defense and you've got to give them credit," said Christy. "But it's not like we were getting overpowered. We just made a lot of mistakes.
"The one I gave up, the double-team we had called was perfect, but I didn't see the linebacker shift and I stuck with the nose (tackle). By the time I saw him, he was already past me. I put that one on me."
Christy also had difficulty seeing around enormous Buffalo nose tackle Ted Washington. It wasn't an option to pick his head up to look around Washington, Christy explained, because with the tackle's size, it was important for Christy to get low and get leverage.
"That's part of their scheme," said Christy of the Bills' loading up with big defenders up front. "Some of their linebackers were bigger than I was."
At times, it appeared that King was contributing to the problems by holding onto the ball, but Christy feels that's an unfair criticism.
"He's been really good about that," said the center of his quarterback's decision-making with the ball in his hand this season. "The media has been getting on him this week for holding onto the ball, but it just kind of worked out that way against Buffalo. He has made good decisions about throwing the ball away, but he just happened to hold onto the ball in this game when we let the rush get right to him."
Christy seemed to still be seething a bit about the Bills' pass-rush success last Sunday, particularly over the play for which he took the blame. It's a good bet he'll take that frustration out on the Cowboys this Sunday.