By Jeff Berlinicke
TAMPA – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't have to look far to see what it is that
led the Seahawks and Steelers to the Super Bowl.
The similarities are amazing. Both Super Bowl contenders win with tight
defenses, consistent if not spectacular quarterbacks, and running games that can
eat up three to four yards per carry and not turn the ball over.
It sounds simple, but there's a reason the Bucs will be watching the game on
television. The Steelers win with ball control. Jerome Bettis eats up yards and
doesn't turn the ball over – except for the near fateful play in the second
round of the playoffs against the Colts. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn't
expected to make the big play; he's just expected to not make mistakes and hand
off. The Bucs quarterback Chris Simms has the same job. He succeeded, handing
off to Cadillac Williams when Williams was healthy, and not making the big
It's the same formula most of the recent Super Bowl champs have followed ranging
from Baltimore (2000) to the Bucs (2002) and New England's three championships.
Seattle runs the same type of system. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck makes few
mistakes and is content to hand off to Shawn Alexander or the dependable
fullback Mack Strong. Neither Super Bowl quarterback will throw for 300 yards
per game, just as Brad Johnson didn't do for the Bucs in 2002. It's all about
ball control. New England quarterback Tom Brady will never average 300 per game,
but he doesn't make mistakes.
The key isn't to have a Peyton Manning or Dan Marino, neither of whom has ever
won the Big One. It's having a Bettis or Strong who can chew up yardage,
especially in January.
That's what the Bucs are lacking. Williams will gain plenty of yards, and he
doesn't fumble, but he isn't durable enough to carry it 30 times per game.
That's necessary in January in Chicago or Green Bay. Michael Pittman is
fumble-prone. Williams missed six games this year with an injury to his foot,
and with his slashing style, Bucs fans can expect more of that.
Fans are going to shout for an offensive lineman to be the major off-season
focus, especially if the underrated Kenyatta Walker leaves via free agency, but
what the Bucs really need is a bus, just like the one that got he Steelers to
the Super Bowl while the Bucs stay at home watching.
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