Bucs At Loss For Words To Explain Breakdowns
The Tampa Tribune, published 15 September 2003

The most anticipated film of the next several weeks isn't the third Matrix movie. Not among the Bucs players involved in giving up two blocked field goals and a blocked game-winning extra point in Sunday's 12-9 overtime loss to the Carolina Panthers. ``I really can't tell you [what happened] until I see the films,'' disheartened Martin Gramatica said.

``I'll have to look at the film and see where the pressure was coming from,'' long-snapper Ryan Benjamin said.

``It's one of those things. I don't know if you can really explain why it happened, but we've got to fix it,'' Todd Yoder said. ``We'll watch the tape, figure out what happened, and get better.''

The Bucs will have to get better on special teams if they are to contend for another Super Bowl trophy. Besides the blocks, the punt team surrendered a 52-yard return to Steve Smith, which set up John Kasay's winning 47-yard field goal. This much was evident to the naked eye on the blocked kicks: The Panthers came through the middle like floodwater breaking a dam. Tackle Kris Jenkins appeared to come right through Benjamin for the first block on a 38-yard try in the second period. Julius Peppers also came through the middle on the second block, on a 47-yard attempt in the fourth quarter.

The kick team had one last chance to get it right after Brad Johnson hit Keenan McCardell in the back of the end zone for a game-tying touchdown as time expired in regulation. But Jenkins shot through and blocked the extra point, forcing the overtime. ``Honestly, we got overpowered,'' Jon Gruden said. ``It was all middle rush - nothing from the perimeter.''

Some credit goes to the Panthers, who also blocked two kicks in a victory against Jacksonville a week earlier. Jenkins said the Panthers haven't been doing anything unusual. Indeed, Sunday's performance appeared to be nothing more than brute force taking advantage of a vulnerability. ``We saw some of their tendencies on film,'' Jenkins said of the Bucs. ``We looked for an area and we exploited it. I got one, Pep got one, then I got me another one. I lined up on the left side for my first one, and I lined up on the right side on the second one.''

Jenkins said the plays happened so fast, he didn't know who faltered for the Bucs. ``The pace is so fast you just have to go when you can and get what you can get,'' he said.

Clearly, the Bucs haven't corrected the problem on kick execution that surfaced in the Super Bowl, when they had a field goal and a punt blocked. ``It's not something we're accustomed to,'' Benjamin said. ``You've got to go up there and do your job like it's going to go through every time. You can't go up there thinking it's going to get blocked, or it's not going through.''

Smith's punt return followed the Bucs' only possession in overtime, which began at their 18 and fizzled at the Carolina 42. Tom Tupa, aiming to pin the Panthers deep in their territory, punted 34 yards to Smith, who scooped up the ball and broke free on the right sideline. He was corralled by Dwight Smith at the Tampa Bay 40. ``It wasn't missed tackles,'' Smith said. ``The ball bounced, and when the ball bounces, guys tend to get out of their lanes. But he's [Smith] on scholarship, just like we are. He's entitled to make a play.''

Said Steve Smith about the apparent missed tackles, ``That's that jelly I got. I don't know if they missed or I made them miss. I try to work with it and not let them get any clean good hits on me.''