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Air attack is slow to take off

The passing game needs a half to get in synch, and that can't happen in Detroit.

The temperature on the field at Raymond James Stadium was 100 degrees Sunday, but it still took a while for Shaun King to warm up.

The Bucs quarterback has not led his team to a score in the first quarter this season. And the passing game was so out of rhythm at one point against the Chicago Bears that the Bucs went 13 plays without a passing attempt.

That sounds like nitpicking in the wake of a 41-0 rout of the Bears in which King ran for a touchdown and threw for another.

But King and his offensive teammates know they must have a faster start Sunday against the Detroit Lions at the Pontiac Silverdome, where they have lost six of their past seven meetings.

"It is loud up there. I think it'll be important to go up there and get off to a good start, a much better start than we got off to (Sunday)," King said. "I've only been up there once, but once you let the crowd get into it, it does become hard. Because the tackles are at a big disadvantage if they can't hear the snap count and (Robert) Porcher is getting a jump on him. He's already a great rusher."

The Bucs were in a rush to get King and their passing game started against the Bears. Offensive coordinator Les Steckel called for nine passes in the first 13 plays.

But a dropped ball, a sack and a receiver getting tangled in the legs of his offensive linemen changed that strategy.

"As I've learned from years of coaching quarterbacks, there's one thing they have to have, and that's rhythm," Steckel said. "Initially, he didn't have that. Not because of his breakdowns but because of the various things that happened, from one guy tripping over another guy to a blocked pass, to a sack. All of a sudden I'm saying, "Don't keep doing this, now.' "For a quarterback to get into his rhythm, you can't go drop, poor execution, sack and bad pass. So all of a sudden, I said our motto is be physical and execute. Let's get back to the physical and go from there. What we did purposely there was pound it, pound it, pound it."

King was 4-of-12 for 45 yards in the first half and was sacked twice. But leading 20-0 to start the third quarter, Steckel opened up the offense again and the Bucs responded with a 90-yard drive.

King completed 6-of-8, including his 13-yard touchdown strike to receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

On their next possession, King hit receiver Jacquez Green over the middle on a pass play that resulted in a 58-yard touchdown. "When we got the ball back on Quez's play, I said, "Coach (Dungy), I said I promise you we'll get you 34 minutes (of time of possession),' " Steckel said. "But I know this play is going to work and we came back to it for a touchdown. Then he said, "Yeah, that's 15 seconds you gave us.' "

King said he was unable to explain why the passing attack was so out of synch to start the game.

"I just think we weren't clicking," he said. "I knew where I was going with the ball, I thought I was making pretty good throws. I think we got a couple pass interference penalties they didn't call early. I felt comfortable with my reads and that things would start happening for us in the second half.

"I thought we showed some good things on offense. We were in the same situation at New England and didn't put that team away. So I'm real happy about that first drive when we didn't have good field position and took it and scored."

King and the Bucs have been outstanding in the red zone, scoring all seven times inside the opponent's 20 with six touchdowns and one field goal. King, who owns a 96.0 passer efficiency rating, has not turned the ball over.

"He's played really well," quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen said. "He just hasn't made any bad decisions with the ball. I've been more than pleased."

But King is completing less than 50 percent of his passes (22-of-45, 48.9 percent) and is 5-of-15 on third down. King said it's just a matter of being patient.

"I've said all along, these first eight games we're trying to get everything oiled and get into a groove," he said. "The big thing for our offense is not to hurt ourselves, not to give up points and put our defense in situations they can't get out of. We were able to do that and you see what happens when we do it. As we get more comfortable, we'll get into the groove of the offense and you'll actually see us to come out and start to play real well.

"As long as we're winning, I'm fine. I think I have the ability to go out and win the game if I have to. But right now, we don't need that. We just need me to play smart and don't turn the ball over. Then we get chances and take advantage of them."