Simms on the Upswing

Tampa Bay QB Chris Simms is beginning to make plays that help the Buccaneers when they need it most.

Simms is perfecting the fourth-quarter comeback. Twice in each of the last two weeks, the Bucs quarterback has engineered fourth-quarter drives to tie or win the game.

"When the offense looks at the quarterback, and he conveys a calm image, then they'll be calm in the whole situation as well," Simms said. "We've stayed very poised.

"I think we're more confident as an offense now as opposed to then. As far as me personally? Probably the same goes."

That's a big change from the way Simms played in his first start of the season at San Francisco.

With 1:49 remaining in the game and needing only a touchdown to take the lead, Simms was sacked and lost a fumble. On his next try, he was sacked and lost another fumble but got the ball back when the 49ers were penalized for holding. That led to a third sack as the final 17 seconds melted off the clock without another play.

Contrast that with two weeks ago when Simms twice led the Bucs from behind against the Redskins in the fourth quarter, including a 30-yard touchdown pass to Edell Shepherd with 58 seconds left that set up the winning two-point conversion.

"Once you get one of those under your belt, you're like, 'Give me the next one,'" quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett said.

That opportunity came Sunday at Atlanta. The Bucs took over midway through the fourth quarter trailing by a touchdown, and the 71-yard drive said more about how far the offense has come.

It began and ended with Cadillac Williams running through huge holes over the left side. But in between was Simms' completion to tight end Anthony Becht, another on a bootleg to Michael Clayton, and a third under pressure to Williams.

"In that situation, what you are focused on is to get things moving," Simms said. "Completions. Start the drive off with a completion. I think that would be the rule for any quarterback. And really, just being calm. Especially last week in a very loud dome. And no penalties jumping offsides. That was huge. That was maybe the difference in the game right there."

Even though Simms had help, coach Jon Gruden says his quarterback is responsible for the outcome of the drive.

"He's got three receivers who are standing over there in the midst of all the noise and excitement, and they need to know what the signal is, what the route is," Gruden said. "The line needs to know the protection. The back needs to be set properly. Then you've got to execute your drop, you've got to see the coverage, and you've got to throw the ball. Then you've got to hustle and run and get on the ball again. What's the down and distance? Which hash is it on? We help him a little bit because of the walkie-talkie to a certain point. He really deserves a lot of credit.

"In that drive, there were guys out, there was a guy coming free, he was hitting him as he was throwing. I mean, it's all a process."

That process began three years ago in the off-season when Simms and other quarterbacks took turns practicing the two-minute drill.

"That's a product of Jon forcing the guys out here to do it all the time," Hackett said. "And they do it with the first team, second team, third team. Everybody gets it. And I think this spring when we were out here and Brian (Griese) wasn't taking a lot of reps and Chris was taking a ton of reps, a lot of that was two minutes."

Simms also has more time to throw. Sacked 11 times in his first two starts this season, Simms has not been sacked in the past two games.

Simms and the pass protection will be tested against the Bears. The defensive line produced all eight of the team's sacks in Chicago's 13-3 win over the Carolina Panthers.

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