Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Offense Holds Back Bucs' Drive Defense Showed Up, but Wasn't Enough

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Offense Holds Back Bucs' Drive Defense Showed Up, but Wasn't Enough

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS --- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' season is over because, ultimately, they proved to be the half-a-Bucs.

All defense. No offense.

Although history will show that the St. Louis Rams won the NFC Championship 11-6 on a 30-yard touchdown reception by Ricky Proehl with under five minutes remaining, the truth is Tampa Bay heads into the offseason knowing that it could be playing in the Super Bowl if only the offense had been able to find the end zone.

"You know our defense is going to give us a chance to win it and the offense has got to pull it out in the end, but we couldn't get it done," Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp said.

It was a formula that worked for Tampa Bay in last week's 14-13 playoff victory over Washington, but the Buccaneers' inability to take advantage of favorable position --- two possessions inside the Rams 10, plus two other drives inside the St. Louis 25 --- doomed them. The Bucs managed only two field goals and 203 total yards.

"It's a very tough feeling, to be that close to a Super Bowl and not get it done," Bucs coach Tony Dungy said. "They shut us down in the red zone."

The inexperience of Shaun King, trying to become the first rookie quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl, was costly down the stretch. Early in the fourth quarter, with the Bucs up 6-5, an 18-yard completion to Bert Emanuel to the Rams 17 was nullified by a delay-of-game penalty, forcing Tampa Bay to punt.

"I thought we got it off with one second remaining," King said. "The official made the call and we have to live with it."

Tampa Bay must live with the fact that it missed two ideal chances to extend a one-point lead in a defensive struggle. On the team's next possession, King threw a short pass behind Warrick Dunn and it was intercepted by Dre Bly and returned to the Bucs 47. Seven plays later, Kurt Warner hit Proehl for the game's only touchdown and Proehl's first score of the season.

"My timing was off just a little bit on that interception," King said. …

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