TAMPA — For the second straight week, Bucs wideout Ike Hilliard made his presence felt in a big way despite not being a starter. The 12-year veteran, playing behind Joey Galloway and Antonio Bryant, caught four passes for 41 yards, including three third-down receptions from quarterback Brian Griese in the first half that produced clutch first downs. His fourth catch, in the third quarter, went for a first down, continuing an amazing pattern for him as a Buc. Through 49 games with the team, Hilliard has had 63 percent of his catches (89-of-142) result in first downs, including nine of 10 this season. We spoke to Hilliard about his effort after the Bucs' win over Atlanta.
You still find a way to make impact plays, starter or not.
It just so happened today that I was in a position to make some grabs, and fortunately I was open. It's good to be a part of it.
Early in the game, you made a key 13-yard catch deep in your territory, which kept the team from punting from the end zone. Can you describe that?
The nickel guy left me quick and went to Joey. It was a busted coverage, and they were really paying attention to Joey. Brian's eyes worked back to me, and I happened to be open.
Can you talk about your two first-down catches during the second touchdown drive? That seems to be your trademark.
That's Coach (Jon) Gruden. You have to talk to him about that.
How does it feel to have made a contribution in each of the first two games?
I just think that's what I get paid to do. I'm just enjoying the game as much as I can in my old age. It's a lot of fun to be out there, more fun, obviously, when you win. We definitely feel like we let one go last week. As sloppy as it was in terms of this week, we still got a win. So we'll take the win, look at the tape and focus on Chicago.
How did it feel with Brian running the offense?
We still have a lot of work to do. We had some false starts and other things. I wouldn't necessarily say timing was off, but we just missed a few opportunities that we felt we should have connected on. We'll figure that out.