TAMPA — The exhausting, come-from-behind overtime win at Chicago made for a quiet plane ride home for the Bucs on Sunday night. But quarterback Brian Griese thinks that type of victory, which is rare in the NFL, could energize the team for weeks.
"I think these types of wins can really propel your team," Griese said. "I think the biggest thing that I'm going to take away, and hopefully every guy in this locker room will take away, is a belief that no matter where you are in the course of a game, you're going to get it done in the end. That's a powerful thing for a team — for everybody to believe in each other, offense, defense, special teams. That's a big piece of having a winning team."
The victory improved the Bucs to 2-1 and left them tied atop the NFC South with Carolina and Atlanta. Preseason favorite New Orleans fell to 1-2.
Griese, who threw three interceptions in the Bucs' 27-24 overtime win over the Bears, attempted a club record 67 passes, completing 38 for 407 yards and two touchdowns in his second straight start.
After rallying the Bucs from 10 points down in the final 3:16 of regulation — and throwing passes on 22 consecutive plays in the final two fourth-quarter drives — Griese said he was tired and his arm was sore.
Apparently, Griese wasn't alone. The marathon game took its toll on several players, including fullback B.J. Askew and defensive tackle Ryan Sims, who suffered hamstring strains.
"I thought a lot more guys would be celebrating than they were, but I think everybody was just pretty exhausted. There were a lot of guys just knocked out," coach Jon Gruden said of the plane ride back. "It was a hot day. … Just a lot of football played, and guys were really tired. I think they're very proud, not only of themselves but of their teammates. There was good camaraderie and it was fun for a while, but the lights were out pretty early on the plane."
Griese, 33, said the Bucs benefited from going to the two-minute, hurry-up offense. He said Gruden approached him early in the third quarter and told him he didn't think the Bucs could run (they finished with 47 yards on 17 carries).
So Gruden essentially put the game in Griese's hands, and he responded with a memorable performance against the Bears, his former team.
"He was great down the stretch; it's hard to duplicate that," Gruden said. "It's hard to beat that, what he did in the last 25-30 minutes of the game. We had some balls that were catchable that weren't caught. … I thought he played an outstanding game against a heck of a defense. It was loud and we weren't able to run the ball, obviously, very effectively. We put a lot on him, and he hung in there and responded for us. A great performance."
Kicker Matt Bryant, who booted the winning 21-yard field goal in overtime, said the win ranks with the best he has ever seen in Tampa Bay.
"Going onto my fourth year here, I don't ever remember us doing that," Bryant said. "To begin with, it was a great game to watch, no matter what side of the stands you were on. I think it showed a lot in this team to come back like that, to score 10 points in 3½ minutes against that kind of defense. That's an awesome defense.
"As far as the regular season, we've had some good games, but that was pretty dang good."
Of course, it won't get any easier. The Bucs host the Packers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. But wins like the one in the Windy City could give the Bucs a boost.
"I'm very proud of these guys," Gruden said. "Winning is contagious, and good vibes are certainly nice. I think you can get momentum when you get back-to-back wins."
Rick Stroud can be reached at email@example.com.