Welcome back, Karl.
Bucs receiver and returner Karl Williams was flying so low in October he had fallen off the radar screen. After scoring the winning touchdown against Arizona in Week 5, Williams went into a tailspin, misplaying punts and kickoffs in losses to Green Bay and Detroit.
Williams started spending time before practice fielding punts to improve his play, but there was little to show in October for his extra effort. Williams had four receptions for 42 yards and averaged 4.6 yards on 10 punt returns.
"My teammates and my coaches kept my head into it," Williams said of his outlook. "I was struggling a little bit, but my teammates and my coaches kept my confidence up."
Sunday, Williams stepped into the RCA Dome and out of the doldrums, helping the Bucs to a 31-28 victory over the Colts with two touchdown receptions and three punt returns for 99 yards.
"It's probably the biggest game so far," Williams said. "Two touchdowns, real good on the punt returns. It's real good."
Williams continues to display a knack for big plays, and no one could be happier than Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer. Dilfer said Williams had been lost in the shuffle in past weeks because he was playing the slot receiver and running routes underneath the coverage. Against the Colts, Williams played outside where he is more comfortable, Dilfer said.
"After our minicamps and after our off-season workouts he was unbelievable. He came back a new man," Dilfer said. "He was running faster. He runs our best routes as a receiver. He probably has the best hands out of all the receivers."
Asked to name the most important of his big plays, Williams had an interesting choice. He bypassed the 63-yard return that set up the Bucs' second touchdown, the diving 6-yard reception that gave the Bucs a 21-10 lead just before the half and the 24-yard catch and run that tied the score at 28.
Williams, the consummate team player, was most proud of a 21-yard return to Indianapolis' 45-yard line that helped set up the winning field goal by Michael Husted.
"It was a freeze return," Williams said. "All the guys were blocking. I knew the middle would be open so I just wanted to get as much as I could, secure the ball and go from there. That was my biggest play right there."
Williams has nothing against Houlihan's Stadium, but the RCA Dome may be his favorite stadium, and not just because he had a huge game in the arena. The sun and the wind, two elements that disrupted Williams' punt returns last month, were outside the dome Sunday, and the artificial surface also gave Williams confidence.
"I'm a lot quicker on the turf, so I knew I had a pretty good chance," Williams said. "I knew the guys were blocking real well in practice, so I knew I would have a couple of opportunities, so I took advantage of them."
Williams also took advantage of the Colts secondary. Dilfer praised him for the route he ran on the 6-yard touchdown: "Karl came off the ball so hard that corner must have thought 10 different routes in his head."
On the 24-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, Williams caught the ball near the sideline just beyond the 10-yard line and juked his way past cornerback Dedric Mathis.
"He just came up a little too quickly and I just gave him a move outside and cut back inside," Williams said. "It wasn't anything spectacular. He went for the hard hit instead of the sure tackle and I just made the play."
Dilfer said Williams has an intangible that will have him making more plays this season.
"He's got that thing. I don't know what that thing is, but he's got that thing and he just does that all the time," Dilfer said.
Truth and nothing but . . .
The game-by-game stats of Bucsreceiver/returner Karl "The Truth" Williams with receptions, punt eturns and kick returns. Touchdowns in parentheses:
Game Rec R KR
49ers 3-74 1-8 2-49
Lions 1-18 5-30 2-36
Vikings 0-0 0-0 0-0
Dolphins 1-3 3-30 2-48
Cardinals 1-31 (1) 4-57 2-48
Packers 0-0 1-0 0-0
Lions 2-20 4-23 2-1
Vikings 2-22 5-23 0-0
Colts 2-30 (2) 3-99 1-20
MEASURING THE BUCS' OFFENSE
Avg./game vs. Colts
Avg./ games: 293.6
vs. Colts: 234
RUSHING (net yds.) PASSING (net yards)
122.9 Avg./game 171.1
84 vs. Colts 150
1997 total vs. Colts
15 Touchdowns 3
6 Interceptions 0