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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Mike Williams held without a catch for the first time



Bucs receiver Mike Williams, for the first time in 30 games as a pro, was held without a catch in the Bucs’ 31-15 loss to the Cowboys. He was targeted just once by quarterback Josh Freeman.

Coach Raheem Morris said he still believes in Williams.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve lost confidence in him,” Morris said. “But last night was obviously a tough night for him.”

So, what was behind this performance by the Bucs’ leading receiver? The reasons are multiple.

Williams, the split end or ‘X’ receiver, suffers when the Bucs have difficulty protecting Freeman, as they did Saturday night. That’s because the pass routes designed for Williams are longer than other receivers and, thus, take more time to develop.

“Obviously, when you have protection breakdowns, the ‘X’ is kind of out of the (picture),” Morris said. “. . . When that stuff happens, you lose your ‘X’.

“Your ‘X’ routes are going to be deep digs, deep comebacks – the sorts of things Mike runs well. The routes that Mike catches are deeper routes, and (Saturday) night wasn’t a good process for us.”

In addition, Williams cited the extensive zone coverage the Bucs saw from the Cowboys – and their inability to solve it – as a reason for his lack of production.

“We’ve seen a lot more zone than we’ve ever seen in our lives,” Williams said of recent games. “(Defenses) know how to adjust. The first thing is reading the zone and knowing where to sit and being on the same page with the quarterback. That’s the biggest challenge. . . It can look like man (coverage) and if one person is off, thinking it’s man (coverage) and it’s not, it’s a bad play.”

For Williams, he said the lack of numbers doesn’t bother him.

“It’s never about catches and stats for me,” he said. “I just want to get a win.”

But his production is part of what will bring wins. And Williams, who is on pace for more catches than his rookie season, has – to an extent – been less productive in his sophomore season.

He’s down more than three yards in per-catch average, falling from 14.8 yards per catch in 2010 to 11.7 this season. Williams had 11 touchdowns in 2010 and has just three this season.

But two games remain, and Williams’ hope is that it can be the start of something.

“We have to use the last two weeks as the beginning of next year,” he said. “We have to start a winning streak.”

[Last modified: Sunday, December 18, 2011 2:45pm]


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