NFL: Cadillac driving Bucs toward playoffs

— When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took Carnell "Cadillac" Williams with the fifth overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft, Bucs fans started buzzing.

After a stellar career at Auburn, there was good reason to hope.

Williams showed Saturday that Bucs fans' faith was placed on the right man.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Carnell Williams (24) celebrates with quarterback Brian Griese after scoring during the third quarter of a September game against the Buffalo Bills in Tampa.

Associated Press

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Carnell Williams (24) celebrates with quarterback Brian Griese after scoring during the third quarter of a September game against the Buffalo Bills in Tampa.

The rookie assaulted the Tampa Bay record books with his 150-yard, one-touchdown performance in the Bucs' 27-24 overtime win, and he had a few teammates singing his praises.

"He's a workhorse," quarterback Chris Simms said. "He's so talented in the open field and, when you look at him you wouldn't think it, but he goes up the middle with tremendous power."

Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden has never been afraid to give a healthy Williams a horde of carries (though some may argue that heavy early-season workload contributed to his mid-season injury issues). Gruden loaded Williams with carries again today, handing it to the back 31 times.

He became essential in overtime, carrying the ball seven times for 45 yards. That 6.4 yards-per-carry average kept the chains moving and kept Tampa Bay in the game.

Williams became just the sixth player in franchise history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark, a mark hit only nine times overall in Bucs history. He's also just the second rookie behind Errict Rhett to accomplish that feat.

Rhett had held the Bucs' rookie rushing record with 1,011 yards, but Williams' 1,097 beat that. Williams' yardage total is the seventh-most by any player in a single season in team history. He also broke the record for most 100-yard games in a season with his sixth. Four Buccaneers had shared the record with five.

All those honors took a backseat emotionally to Saturday's roller-coaster win, Williams said.

"(Hitting 1,000 yards) did feel great," he said, "but this 10th victory and controlling our own destiny, to come out next week and maybe even win the division, that's an even sweeter feeling."

Williams made sure to thank his offensive line, a much-maligned crew after last week's loss to New England. In that game, Williams gained only 23 yards on 14 carries. Saturday's game was much different.

Williams went untouched into the end zone on his touchdown, which sent the game into overtime. He took the handoff inside, bounced out to the corner and jogged in to the end zone.

"I think much of my offensive linemen, the tight ends, those guys, they need much of the praise," Williams said. "They paved the way."

Linebacker Derrick Brooks said Williams is doing some dazzling things himself.

"The offensive line gave him a crack," Brooks said. "He's doing what he does. He runs hard. He runs tough. He gets a lot of yards after the hit.

"I think most people are starting to see that, especially our offensive line," he added. "They know that if they get this guy some surge, he's going to get them four or five yards."

The Bucs didn't even have a 1,000-yard rusher on their Super Bowl championship team, and Williams' toughness and running versatility gives them an wrinkle that could take them on a good playoff run.

And the Bucs know it.

"He's carrying our team right now," Simms said.

© 2005 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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