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Loss sours Keyshawn's re-emergence

On the Bucs' first offensive play, quarterback Brad Johnson dropped back to pass, found an open receiver and threw a 6-yard completion to Keyshawn Johnson.

That's right, Keyshawn.

Just like that, the receiver equaled his receptions in each of the two previous games. He finished with a team-high 10 catches for 124 yards, both season highs.

And he couldn't have cared less.

"Touching the ball makes a difference sometimes, but in this case, we lost the football game. So it doesn't really add up for me," Johnson said after the 17-14 loss to New Orleans. "It would have been great if the score had been different, but that wasn't the case. So we just have to find a way to win next week."

Johnson was the subject of controversy the past two weeks concerning the number of passes thrown in his direction. On Oct. 19, he caught one pass for 4 yards in a 24-7 loss to the 49ers. The next day, his agent, Jerome Stanley, criticized coach Jon Gruden for not getting the ball to the receiver.

On Oct. 26, Johnson again caught one pass in a 16-0 victory against the Cowboys. His 7-yarder was the game's only touchdown, though Johnson was the third option on the play.

Sunday, Johnson downplayed the issue.

"I haven't been frustrated at all," said Johnson, who had his 18th 100-yard game. "I've just been going along with the flow. I do everything that's asked of me from a game-planning standpoint. They ask me to block, I block. They ask me to run a route, I run a route.

"Obviously, when you're winning football games, everything is hunky-dory. It doesn't matter. But when you're losing games, you want to try to help the team. It's not about anything but being a part of and trying to help our football team move the ball and win football games."

Against the Saints, Johnson caught seven passes for first downs, including six for more than 10 yards. His longest reception was 24 yards, and he also caught one for 23.

Six more times, he was the intended receiver.

"He ran some great routes, and I felt like we connected," quarterback Brad Johnson said. "It wasn't like he was the primary (receiver) on all those receptions. Sometimes, he was the second, third or fourth guy. Sometimes, it goes in streaks, and he had a good day."

Trailing 14-7, the Bucs reached the Saints 30 with 2:31 to play. On the next three plays, Brad Johnson tried to go to the day's hottest receiver but could not connect.

On fourth down, Keyshawn Johnson came out of the game, and Keenan McCardell caught a touchdown on a perfectly thrown ball, beating Fakhir Brown to the corner of the end zone.

McCardell finished with five catches for 76 yards.

Keyshawn Johnson, who also came out on select third-down plays, said he was not dismayed at coming out in a critical situation, saying sometimes he took himself out because he was "dinged up."

Johnson denied tension between he and Gruden or that he ever demanded the ball.

"You haven't heard me say a word about, "I want the football,' " he said. "I just let (the media) do the talking. You haven't heard Keyshawn Johnson quoted saying he wants the football, not one time. Have you? That's SportsCenter and Fox and GameDay and all those people saying that. You haven't heard me say a dang thing.

"I've never had any issues between me and Jon. I play. He asks me to go on the field and take care of business with him, and that's what I do. I don't hold grudges against anybody for anything. I don't read into things too deeply. I make a lot of money, and I perform when I'm on the field and get the opportunity. And that's all you can ask of me."

Keyshawn game-by-game

Date Opponent No. Yds. TD

Sept. 8 Philadelphia 6 83 0

Sept. 14 Carolina 9 102 0

Sept. 21 Atlanta 2 25 0

Oct. 6 Indianapolis 4 62 0

Oct. 12 Washington 4 80 1

Oct. 19 San Francisco 1 4 0

Oct. 26 Dallas 1 7 1

Sunday New Orleans 10 124 0

Totals 37 487 2

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