QB Shaun King believes the Buccaneers will find an answer to their offensive struggles soon
Because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a Monday game before their bye week and a Thursday game after it, the team never got a straight week off in the usual manner. However, they did enjoy a long, three-day vacation this past weekend, if it is possible to enjoy such a layoff while chewing on a four-game losing streak.
The Bucs were back at the office on Monday, beginning the first normal week of practice in awhile. QB Shaun King, who spoke with the media just after Thursday night's loss to Detroit then was on his own for the next three days, came back to the same questions on Monday, perhaps with a fresh perspective brought about by the rest. To whit:
What causes the Bucs' attack to be strong one week and struggle the next?
"I just think as an offense that we've been making too many mistakes," said King. "You watch the tape, and it's not so much what Detroit did to us. It's what we did to ourselves. I think this is one of the growing pains of putting this thing in. It's something we've got to get corrected, and corrected soon."
Did he or the team do any extra work over the long weekend to straighten things out?
"I think we've been doing that all along," he said. "We've just got to play better on Sunday. We're prepared going into the game, but during the course of the game, for some reason, we're having a little lapse, mentally, and we're doing things we shouldn't do.
"We got some rest. It was good for us."
How is the mood in the locker room concerning the up-and-down offense?
"A lot of times when teams get into situations like this, they'll start finger-pointing and blaming other people," said King. "You don't see that here. I think the guys understand that we still have the talent, that we're capable of putting a run together."
Should the Bucs simplify the offense, as Head Coach Tony Dungy has suggested might happen?
"We can try it and see," said King. "You never know. I think it's on our shoulders, regardless of what we have in, to know what we're doing, where we're supposed to be and when we're supposed to be there. We haven't been doing that consistently in the last four games. We'll come out and we'll put some good drives together, then we'll start having mistakes and it hurts us. We were up 8-0 and at the worst, that should have been 17 for us. It's just little things like that right now, but they're all things that we can get corrected, and I think we're going to do it."
So just what should the offense's identity be?
"I think as an offense, we're still getting to a point where we're trying to find out what we do well," he said. "Like I told you guys at the beginning, this is a new group of guys. All the guys are talented, but we're not yet sure of what our strength is. We're still trying to find it."
King, Dungy and the Buccaneer fans believe they need to make that discovery soon, because a 7-0 Viking team is coming to town with a four-game Central lead over the Buccaneers. That same scenario played out in 1998, and Tampa Bay won in a shootout, 27-24, but the Bucs did that with an offense that clicked all day, particularly on the ground. Even the Bucs' 30-23 loss in Minnesota on October 9 was somewhat of an offense struggle. The Bucs punted just once in that game and helped King throw for a season-high 295 yards. King was asked if that performance made him confident of another strong passing game against the Vikings on Sunday, but the young hurler was still thinking in larger terms.
"I think we're confident just because we know what we're capable of," he said. "You take away us beating ourselves, and Detroit didn't stop us. I think we can look at that and get confidence. It's the same thing I said last week. If we come out and we play our ballgame, and we don't beat ourselves…that's just something we haven't done on offense the last four weeks."
The Bucs were strong enough on offense to hang with the Vikings for most of the evening in the last match, even taking a brief 23-20 lead early in the fourth quarter. But the rest of the final period belonged to Minnesota, and that is precisely what separates the two teams, according to King.
"You look at their team and you look at our team and the way things are going, and we're sort of the same way they are except we aren't having the good fourth quarters that they're having," he said. "They're sort of doing the same thing the first three quarters, playing decent, making a little mental lapse here, mistake there. But then in the fourth quarter, they're making the plays to win the game and we aren't."
The 2000 season, as Dungy likes to break it down, is nearing the end of the second quarter, and the Bucs will have to be stronger in the second half of the campaign than they have been on any particular Sunday, Monday or Thursday for the past month. Not surprisingly, the unflappable King was confident that they will be.
"I still think we're getting comfortable with everything," he said. "A lot of this stuff is still to new us in the sense that we're seeing new things defensively against it. But we're not making excuses. We've got to be able to adjust on the fly. During the course of the game, we've got to be able to make adjustments, and go out and make plays to win the game. Hopefully, we can do that on Sunday. We really need to."