Tampa Bay fans must be wondering why it took the Buccaneers so long to bench Trent Dilfer.
The embattled quarterback delivered his second solid performance since returning to the lineup after a one-week absence, throwing for 270 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's 17-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Dilfer was benched three games ago, ending a streak of 72 consecutive starts after the Bucs (5-4) stumbled to a 3-3 start while ranking 29th in the NFL in passing and averaging just 13 points.
"It was ugly. I get benched after a win. You know: `Can we win another game? Dilfer stinks. They can't score any points,"' Dilfer said. "The only way you can get through it is being enthusiastic, enjoying preparation, enjoying one another. I think that's something we've done."
The sixth-year pro threw for three touchdowns with no interceptions as Tampa Bay scored a season-high 31 in a win at New Orleans. Against the Chiefs (5-4), he was 17-of-27 and threw a long TD pass to Jacquez Green for the second week in a row.
"I think the last two weeks he's had fun. Part of that may be when you sit out a week you realize how much you do miss it," said Bucs coach Tony Dungy, who had declared the switch to Zeier as permanent.
"He was very fired up on the sideline, and he's been fired up all week. He's playing very loose and relaxed. I think our whole team is starting to play that way."
Green scored on a 52-yard reception, giving the Bucs a 17-3 third-quarter lead, and finished with seven catches for a career-high 164 yards. Dave Mooe caught a 35-yard TD pass in the second quarter.
Grbac was 7-for-9 passes for 66 yards to move the Chiefs from his own 20 to the Bucs 13 with 28 seconds to go. The threat ended two plays later, though, when Tampa Bay's Hardy Nickerson intercepted a throw intended for Tony Gonzalez in the end zone.
"I got greedy," said Grbac, who finished 23-of-38 for 202 yards, one TD and one interception. "I made a mistake and it cost us the game ... It's disappointing to get all those turnovers, and great field position, and not get points out of it."
Dungy wasn't sure what to make of Tampa Bay's generosity, which included five fumbles and an interception.
"We talked about it before the game if we made mistakes, don't worry about it. I guess they took me literally," the coach said. "It's unbelievable that you could win with that many turnovers and that many chances to put them away and not do it."
Alstott lost three fumbles and Dilfer and Warrick Dunn each left the ball on the ground once for Tampa Bay. Chiefs cornerback James Hasty intercepted a pass in the end zone to stop a Tampa Bay threat in the first half.
"You don't want to play a mistake-filled game ... But when you do, if you can make the plays to overcome them, you can still win," Dilfer said. "We had the mentality today, offensively, that we were going to make enough plays to overcome our mistakes."
The Bucs led 10-3 at the half, despite not taking advantage good field position and two turnovers by the Chiefs.
They failed to score after Warren Sapp sacked Grbac and recovered a fumble at the Chiefs 21, then settled for Martin Gramatica's 25-yard field goal when Derrick Brooks picked Donnell Bennett's fumble and returned it 4 yards to the Kansas City 13 just before halftime.
The interception Grbac threw on Kansas City's last drive was his first in four games. The Chiefs lead the NFL with a turnover ratio of plus-17, but fell to 1-4 on the road compared to 4-0 at home.
"This is a tough loss," coach Gunther Cunningham said. "I'm a firm believer in plus-turnovers ... We get this many, we should win."
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed