The Bucs season started out 0-4 and the running game was going nowhere.
Since Michael Pittman returned from an NFL-induced suspension, the team is 3-1 and harboring playoff thoughts for the first time since training camp.
Pittman had a career day on Sunday in a 34-31 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. He ran for 128 yards and three touchdowns, but may have turned the season around with a franchise-high 78 yard score early in the third quarter that erased a deficit and gave the Bucs the lead for good.
Pittman took the ball deep in the Tampa Bay backfield and burst off tackle, dodged most of the Kansas City defense, and outraced everyone to the end zone to give the Bucs offense the pop it needed.
For all the attention given to Chiefs star running back Priest Holmes, who was injured near the half, Bucs coach Jon Gruden said it gave Pittman the motivation he needed.
"He had a great day, three touchdowns,'' Gruden said. "I think all of the credit going to Priest Holmes was well-deserved, but it fueled our energy a little bit. Without (Mike) Alstott and (Charlie) Garner, we had to lean on him. He's a warrior. He's a good player. I'm proud of him.''
Pittman said he ignored the talk of Holmes trying to dominate on offense.
"Coach Gruden just told us to be quiet and play our games,'' Pittman said. "Give credit to the offensive line.''
Pittman's first touchdown came on a 1-yard run early in the second quarter that gave the Bucs their first lead, but his final score was the most important. Trailing 31-28 early in the fourth quarter, Bucs quarterback Brian Griese drove the team downfield on a 9-play, 8-yard drive that was capped off when Pittman outraced the Chiefs to the corner of the end zone for a 3-yard score to cap off the scoring.
Pittman In It For The Long Run
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