WR Jacquez Green led all players in receptions and yards Sunday in Dallas
Wide receiver Jacquez Green caught a game-high eight passes for 75 yards on Sunday in Texas Stadium, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat Dallas, 10-6. That's a good day.
Wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson added seven receptions for 71 yards against the Cowboys. Again, that's a good day, just one shy of his 2000 single-game high of eight, as a matter of fact.
Now, when you put those two performances together, what you have is a great day.
Johnson and Green started together in all 16 of the Bucs' regular season games last year, and only once did they combine for 15 or more catches. In fact, either one or the other was limited to three or fewer receptions in 13 of those 16 contests.
That's not to say the Bucs' starting receivers were unproductive last fall. By combining for 122 receptions (71 for Johnson, 51 for Green), the duo put up more receptions than any Buccaneer receiving tandem since Mark Carrier and Bruce Hill (136) in 1989. But the Bucs' passing attack ranked 21st in the NFL in 2000 and was largely ineffective down the stretch. Tampa Bay passed for under 150 yards in six of its last nine games, under 75 three times.
On Sunday, QB Brad Johnson used his first full game as a Buccaneer to complete 26 of 35 passes for 195 yards and convert an impressive 50% of the third-down situations he faced. The most accurate career passer currently playing in the NFL (lifetime mark: 61.8%), Johnson got off on the right foot in pewter and red by completing 74.3 of his throws in Texas Stadium.
The last time a Buccaneer passer threw at least 30 passes in a game and completed over 70% of them was five seasons ago, when Trent Dilfer connected on 30 of 40 throws in a win over San Diego on November 17, 1996.
But what made Sunday's performance remarkable, at least in relation to recent Buc history, is that it wasn't built on dumpoffs to the running backs. Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott did catch nine passes between them, but Johnson was more likely to look to the edges for his targets. With the Cowboys playing an aggressive defense and blitzing often with their safeties, Johnson often needed his backs more as blockers than outlets, which meant he had to figure out a way to get it to Johnson and Green.
"Brad is going to deliver the ball to the right person at the right time," said Bucs Head Coach Tony Dungy. "We knew they were going to send (Charles) Woodson and (George) Teague a lot, so we had to keep some players in to protect him.
"We knew that they were going to play that kind of game and thought Brad was going to have a high percentage game."
He did so with deep outs – a deceptively difficult pass to throw – quick slants, and the occasional posts and digs when larger chunks of yardage were needed. There were, of course, some percentage-pumping passes directly down the line of scrimmage when the Cowboys' coverage played soft, but there were also precision passes under pressure, such as the 25-yarder fired Green's way on third-and-13 in the third quarter. Johnson's pass hit a well-covered Green just before he stepped out of bounds on the right sideline.
That was the first of three receptions for Green on that game-winning touchdown drive, two that converted third downs and one that put the Bucs at the Dallas four-yard line. Five of the eight successful third down plays run by Tampa Bay's offense were converted on a reception by either Johnson or Green.
Since we're only one game into the regular season, we won't insult you with statistical projections (128 receptions for Green? 112 for Johnson?). It does appear as if the Johnson and Green are well on their way to catching the '89 duo of Carrier and Hill. The Bucs would be satisfied if their wideouts remain a highly productive part of the offense.