Alive and Kicking

Tampa Bay's kicking woes get a lift after newcomer makes 50-yarder and adds 8 points in Bucs rout over Atlanta. Playof hopes are still lingering.

There was no pressure; none whatsoever. All Jay Taylor was asked to do was kick a 50-yard field goal on his first career attempt in the NFL in front of over 66,000 people who had dealt with way more than enough from the field goal kickers of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When he got his first chance as a Buccaneer during Sunday's 27-0 shutout of the Falcons, Taylor made his kick with about a half yard to spare. "I didn't get as good a hit on it as I would have liked,'' Taylor said. "I just had to watch that one to make sure that it went in, but I was glad that it did.'' So was the crowd at Raymond James Stadium, which had grown weary of Martin Gramatica since the start of the 2003 season. Gramatica was only 10-of-19 on field goals in 2004 and missed three in a brutal loss to the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 28 that put the Bucs' playoff chances in serious jeopardy. Gramatica was signed by the Colts on Dec. 8, but only to kick off. It's doubtful he'll have another chance to put any points on the scoreboard this season. Taylor, 27, has earned most of his experience in the Arena Football League. He has tended bar, worked construction, and spent time in several NFL camps before getting his shot with the Bucs after coach Jon Gruden had enough of Gramatica. Ironically, he spent most of his AFL career with the Orlando Predators, mortal enemies of the Tampa Bay Storm. Still, he came off as a local hero in the win over Atlanta on Sunday. He earned a game ball for his efforts, adding a 40-yard field goal to the 50-yarders, and three extra points. He also sent the kickoffs deep into the end zone, something with which Gramatica struggled. "Coming in, you are never quite sure how people will react to you, so they definitely gave me a warm welcome,'' Taylor said. He also had no qualms about making his debut with a 50-yard attempt before a hostile crowd staring. "It felt the same as going out in practice and kicking,'' Taylor said. "I never really felt pressure or anything out there. I had the mindset that I was going to make it and I went out there and did that. I don't really tend to see how far the kicks are, especially when you get back to the 40, where I knew it would be a 50-yard field goal. I was happy with how the game went.'' Gruden, who has made decisions this season to go for it on fourth down rather than take a chance on Gramatica, said he never had any doubts about sending Taylor on to the field. "It makes a big difference what he did today,'' Gruden said. "It's a credit to him.''

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