QB Brian Griese says the Bucs will play whatever style is necessary to defeat the Chiefs
Can Tampa Bay engage the high-flying Chiefs in a shootout this Sunday? Will they have to? Brian Griese and the Bucs are prepared to win in whatever manner necessary
Late in the 2000 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won a wild, Monday night showdown with the defending champion St. Louis Rams, 38-35. It has been called the greatest regular season game in franchise history.
In 1998, and again in 2000, the Bucs took an underdog role against an undefeated and explosive Minnesota Vikings team, and they won each time, by 27-24 and 41-13 scores. Both games featured high-octane Buc offenses and both were clearly milestone victories for Tampa Bay.
Considering the low-scoring, slug-it-out formalities of many Buccaneer victories over the past eight years, those games are all very memorable. It's a special thrill when Tampa Bay, so dominant on defense, rises up on offense and trades blows with an established offensive threat.
At least it is when the Bucs win.
Shootout or slugfest, our style or theirs, it's all secondary to the outcome.
That's the thought as the Kansas City Chiefs come to town this weekend. The same Chiefs who have scored 101 points in their last two games. That's a lot of points. There are still three teams that haven't scored 100 points all season (Miami, Washington and Carolina). As Bucs Head Coach Jon Gruden recounted, somewhat incredulously, Kansas City has compiled 70 first downs and over 1,000 yards of offense over the past two weekends. This past Sunday, they won despite allowing Peyton Manning to throw five touchdown passes.
Against the apparent odds, the Bucs turned up the juice against the league's best offenses in 1998 and 2000. How would they feel about getting into a showdown with those end-zone regulars from Missouri?
"If we win? I'd feel great," said quarterback Brian Griese. "Whatever it takes to win. We're preparing ourselves offensively to go out and score as many points as we possibly can and give our defense a chance to rest."
Kansas City's defense is often maligned, and they certainly didn't rely on that part of their game to beat Indianapolis. On the other hand, the previous week's victory over Atlanta was dominating on both sides of the ball, as the Chiefs held the Falcons to 222 yards of offense, allowed only nine first downs and intercepted two passes.
"They have taken advantage of other teams," said linebacker Derrick Brooks. "They're getting turnovers and turning them into touchdowns. It's not just the offense it's the whole team – field position, the defense getting three-and-outs and just the whole team has contributed and they're scoring a lot of points."
Kansas City ranks 22nd in the league against the pass, allowing 228 aerial yards per game. That would seem to be an opportunity for Griese to build on his impressive start as a Buccaneer. In his three starts and three-quarters of relief against New Orleans in Week Five, Griese has thrown for 643 yards and four touchdowns, completing 71% of his passes and suffering just one pick.
But Griese, who played in Denver for five years, is more familiar with the Chiefs than most of his teammates and he cautions against assuming a rollover by the Kansas City defense. Given the proven effectiveness of the Bucs' D, Sunday's game could indeed be a slugfest instead of a shootout.
"You know, I've played against Kansas City for a number of years now and people say the same things every year: They've got a great offense and they're just trying to keep their defense off the field," said Griese. "But I think they have a pretty good defense, I really do. They have a great scheme; it's different than a lot of teams in the NFL so it's something that we have to prepare for and take advantage of."
Still, Griese concedes that there is opportunity in facing the Chiefs' defense, in part because of their powerful offense. The Chiefs can often be aggressive on defense, and that can work out for either side, as best reflected in the fact that they have allowed 14 touchdown passes through seven games but also snared eight interceptions.
"Well, they take chances defensively," said Griese. "I think they're confident in their offense and the amount of points that they score, so they can take some chances on defense. It was great evidence of that in the way they played Indianapolis. Indianapolis had a lot of yards, five touchdowns, but ended up losing the game. We don't want to end up in that situation."
The bottom line:
"I don't care if I pass for 50 yards – if we win the game, I'll take it."
From a fan's standpoint, a replay of the St. Louis or Minnesota game from 2000 might be more edge-of-the-seat thrilling. On the other hand, the Bucs have certainly proven the entertainment value of a well-played defensive struggle. One way or another, Sunday's game, featuring two teams who seem to be finding themselves at the season's midpoint, has the potential to be a memorable one.
"These are the kind of games that give you a chance to become a great football team," said Gruden.