Staff changes ahead?
In addition to speculation linking Bill Cowher to the Bucs, more buzz surfaced about the team's staff.
Pro personnel director Doug Williams interviewed Saturday with Southern University for its head-coaching job, raising the possibility he could return to coaching. Williams had a successful stint at his alma mater, Grambling, where he succeeded legendary coach Eddie Robinson and was a three-time Southwestern Athletic Conference coach of the year.
Southern has a fierce rivalry with Grambling, with the two teams facing each other annually in the Bayou Classic in New Orleans. There is no word on a timetable for the school's decision. Williams' contract with the Bucs expires after the season.
Meanwhile, ESPN reported Sunday that three assistants likely won't return. The report named defensive backs coach Joe Baker, co-defensive line coach Robert Nunn and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia.
Bisaccia was said to be joining the University of Tennessee staff, but he would neither confirm nor deny the report.
He hadn't tasted the feeling since Nov. 19, 2006. Yes, Bucs RB Cadillac Williams practically forgot what it felt like to rush for 100 yards in a game. Against the Saints, he finished with 129 yards on 24 carries, his most since a 150-yard performance against Atlanta on Dec. 24, 2005.
"I'd be lying if I said (100 yards) didn't mean a lot," Williams said. "But most of all, I wanted to get a victory for this team. These are young guys out here, but they're starting to play some ball. You can see it. It's special for me because of all I've been through with back-to-back knee injuries, to be able to put good stuff on film is really a blessing."
Williams was stoked about the continued effort to run the ball despite the early 17-point deficit, and he rewarded offensive coordinator Greg Olson for his faith.
"He showed total commitment to the running game," he said of Olson. "Think about it: We were down 17-0, and he was still running the football. Man, like I've always said, in this league, everything starts with the running game. Just ask the New Orleans Saints. They're one of the top rushing teams in the league. When they were throwing the ball all day (in previous seasons), they finished 8-8 and couldn't do anything."
The effort of the offensive line was key to the Bucs' first 100-yard rushing performance this season. The unit had one of its best performances, and it was quite satisfying.
"I was talking to Davin (Joseph), and I said, 'I love that we won, but it was a lot of fun getting Cadillac 100 yards (Sunday),' " RT Jeremy Trueblood said. "It took 15 games, but … it felt good."
Hayes late but plays great
The Bucs arrived at the Superdome on Sunday morning, and much to everyone's surprise, starting OLB Geno Hayes was not among those preparing for the game. Turns out, he failed to account for the change to Central Standard Time and the resulting noon kickoff. The Bucs quickly dispatched an official to the nearby Ritz-Carlton to get him, but there still would be a price to pay. Hayes had to sit during a first quarter that was grueling to watch as the Saints jumped to a 14-0 lead. But when the former FSU standout got a chance to take the field, he showed up in a big way. "I feel like I let my team down," he said. "The attitude was a little more enthusiasm because I really felt bad." Three quarters later, he had 10 tackles, two for losses, a sack and a forced fumble. The fumble, recovered by CB Ronde Barber, prevented the Saints from potentially putting the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
Can you hear me now?
The decibel level at the Louisiana Superdome was off the charts as usual, making communication for the Tampa Bay offense a challenge. The evidence: the three false-start penalties the Bucs incurred. But the team's rookie quarterback showed no nerves in a venue that has a reputation for being nerve-racking. "It was extremely loud," Josh Freeman said. "Our team showed a lot (Sunday). We're a resilient group." Freeman finished 21-of-31 for 271 yards, though he threw two interceptions. He now has 16 this season. But he remained headstrong. "It wasn't my best game," he said, "but we found a way to win."
Winslow's new high
Bucs TE Kellen Winslow established a franchise mark for tight ends when he reached 828 receiving yards this season, surpassing Jimmie Giles (786 yards in 1981). But it wasn't so much his numbers as the timing of his plays that mattered most. With the Bucs' passing game disjointed for much of the day, Winslow proved the most consistent threat and exploited the Saints' soft downfield coverage. With the Bucs' running game working well, the Saints used two-deep coverage that often gave Winslow favorable matchups. "They wanted to let Josh (Freeman) beat them," Winslow said of the Saints. "We didn't capitalize early, but we made a few adjustments and stuck with it and came out and did it." Freeman joked afterward, "Kellen, if you listen to him, he's open on every play. But Kellen did a great job (Sunday) of beating man coverage (and) working the zones. It was just a matter of Kellen understanding the coverages and running good routes and us being on the same page." What struck Winslow, however, was the fortitude of his young teammates. "It's just coming together," he said. "Our record is what it is, but we're progressing. We've had a lot of these (close games) when you look back on the year. We're just preparing for the big moments here and in the future."
WR Micheal Spurlock, left, was a last-minute addition to the roster last week, a fallback after the Bucs lost two returners (Clifton Smith and Sammie Stroughter) to injury. But he wasn't just any journeyman. Spurlock remains best known for becoming the first player in Tampa Bay franchise history to return a kickoff for a touchdown, doing so in 2007. But he was released at the start of the 2008 season and had bounced around since, even spending time in the UFL. But in his first game back with the Bucs, he darted 77 yards on a punt return for the tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter that, along with a missed Saints field goal, sent the game into overtime and positioned the Bucs to win. The play was simple: a "middle return" designed to create a running lane. "Then you make it happen after that," Spurlock said. "It turned into a footrace. I was telling the guys, 'If you keep the fliers out of the way and let me (catch) the ball, I think I can do the rest.' We knew it would be there. If you watch special teams, it's something we hang our hat on." Among the blockers credited for contributing: Brian Clark, Derrick Roberson, Sabby Piscitelli, Elbert Mack and Adam Hayward. "When a big play like that happens, a lot of guys get the credit," special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia said.
• Bucs RB Earnest Graham left in the fourth quarter with what was thought to be turf toe. The severity of the injury wasn't clear. Starting DE Jimmy Wilkerson left in the first quarter with a left knee sprain, but he will undergo further examination today to determine whether the injury is more severe. Rookie DE Kyle Moore and DE Tim Crowder played in his absence.
• Tampa Bay's 98-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter ties the longest in team history, matching a march against Carolina on Dec. 30, 2007.
• The Bucs became the first two-win team to defeat a 13-win team in league history.