Bucs' Late Threat Proves Idle
The Tampa Tribune, published 21 December 2003

It had a Carolina feel to it. Actually, it was a New Orleans feel. The Bucs were rallying - again. This time, it was against the beleaguered Atlanta Falcons, who led Tampa Bay 30-7 heading into the fourth quarter. ``It was just like any other game,'' said wide receiver Karl Williams, who caught a 2-point conversion from Brad Johnson to pull the Bucs within eight with 1:25 remaining. ``In the huddle, you couldn't tell we were behind. Brad was taking charge, and everybody was listening and trying to put some points on the board.''

They needed a lot of points. With a 30-14 lead in the fourth quarter, Atlanta was doing its best to run out the clock - until running back T.J. Duckett fumbled. Greg Spires recovered at Tampa Bay's 4-yard line, breathing new life into the Bucs. Three plays later, Johnson connected with Keenan McCardell for a 76-yard touchdown and converted the 2-pointer to Williams. That was followed by a successful onside kick, the first for the Bucs since the 1992 season. Dwight Smith recovered Martin Gramatica's kick at Tampa Bay's 38-yard line. ``That was a big high,'' said safety Jermaine Phillips, who plays on the kickoff unit. ``You could just feel the momentum shift, and we just knew things were going to go our way.''

With 34 seconds remaining, Johnson hit fullback Jameel Cook for an 11-yard touchdown, but his 2-point conversion pass to tie the game was batted down. McCardell argued he was held on the play, but no penalty was called. ``I had some choice words for that official today, but I will be a gentleman and not say them,'' McCardell said. ``When he looks at the film he will see - I believe I was tackled. I don't see how, when a guy has both his hands around my waist and holding me [it isn't a penalty].''

Tampa Bay attempted a second onside kick with 27 seconds remaining, but Atlanta recovered and took a knee to run out the clock - the fourth this season in which the Bucs have rallied in the second half only to come up short. ``We've had a lot of bad endings this year,'' Johnson said.