Bucs sack Jets in opener

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2003

TOKYO Chris Simms helped make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' journey to Japan a success.

The son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms led a fourth-quarter touchdown drive and threw for 70 yards as the Super Bowl champions beat the New York Jets 30-14 Saturday in the American Bowl, the NFL's exhibition opener.

Though Simms is the Bucs' third-string quarterback behind Brad Johnson and Shaun King, coach Jon Gruden saw potential in the third-round pick out of Texas.

''He definitely has ability and he proved it tonight,'' Gruden said. ''We had solid execution and I like the attitude of our team.''

Simms was upset when he was drafted because he felt he had the talent to be selected higher than No. 97 overall. Gruden has helped the quarterback during training camp, going over the offense as they sat on a golf cart after practice.

The special instruction must have helped. Simms started the second half and led a drive that culminated with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Barlow 45 seconds into the fourth quarter to put the Bucs up 20-7. Simms finished 7-of-10 for 70 yards before a Tokyo Dome crowd of 43,601.

Ralf Kleinmann kicked two field goals, including a 36-yarder with nine minutes left, that made it 30-7.

''We've got a long way to go still,'' Gruden said. ''We enjoyed Tokyo enormously, but we're ready to go home now.''

Both teams seemed to have fun on the trip. Warren Sapp loved the sushi, while Gruden was impressed with a giant roller coaster next to the Tokyo Dome.

''I hate to say it but that roller coaster across the street is pretty cool,'' Gruden said. ''That's one steep deal, and I'd like to try that.''

The Jets got off to a good start but could not stop the Tampa Bay offense.

LaMont Jordan ran for a 1-yard touchdown on the opening drive, but the Jets were shut down until late in the fourth quarter when rookie Brooks Bollinger threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Reid.

''We have to stop giving up those long drives, '' Jets coach Herman Edwards said. ''But we're going to give the players a day and a half to get rested and adjusted to the time difference in New York.''

Most starters, including Sapp, Keyshawn Johnson and Jets quarterback Chad Pennington played a few series, so the reserves did most of the scoring.

Tampa Bay made it 27-7 with 12:07 remaining when Tim Wansley knocked the ball loose with a hit on Bollinger. Wansley scooped up the fumble and ran for a 47-yard touchdown.

Just as Edwards promised, the Jets got the ball to Japanese receiver Yoshinobu Imoto in the final minutes of the fourth quarter when he caught a 44-yard pass from Bollinger.

Imoto was one of two Japanese players in the American Bowl. Linebacker Shinzo Yamada played in one series for Tampa Bay.

''We were all rooting for him,'' Jets receiver Santana Moss said. ''We have been telling him all week that he has to do something big in his hometown.''

The trip to Japan is part of an effort by the NFL to broaden the appeal of American football in foreign markets.

Saturday's game was the 12th American Bowl in Japan. Last year, the Washington Redskins defeated the San Francisco 49ers 38-7 at the Osaka Dome in western Japan.

Sapp said the long trek was worth it.

''I had a blast here,'' Sapp said. ''The best thing I liked about Japan was the sushi.

"It's always good to win, and you don't want to get on that 13-hour flight after a loss.''

The Bucs scored in the first quarter when Martin Gramatica kicked a 37-yard field goal. Kleinmann kicked a 36-yarder in the second quarter to make it 7-6. Thomas Jones gave the Bucs a 13-7 lead with 12 seconds left in the half, scoring on a 4-yard run.

Pennington left after the first quarter and was replaced by Bollinger because the Jets held out backup Vinny Testaverde. King replaced Brad Johnson early in the second quarter and also had a strong game, going 11-of-13 for 121 yards.

''They're the best in football,'' Edwards said. ''We'll learn something from it.''

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