According to Tampa Tribune beat man Roy Cummings, The Bucs were down by three points early in the fourth quarter Saturday when Carnell Williams walked up to his offensive linemen on the sideline and made a statement that sounded a lot like a challenge.

"It's time," Williams said, "for us to take over this game."

Williams and the line took over, all right. During the fourth quarter and overtime of a game the Bucs eventually won, 27-24, Williams ran behind and through his line for 80 yards and a touchdown.

"He really came up big down the stretch there," Chris Simms said.

Williams has been coming up big down the stretch all season. Of his 1,097 yards, 418 have come in the fourth quarter and overtime. Four of Williams' six touchdowns have come in those periods as well.

"It's unbelievable the power he runs with in the fourth quarter," Simms said of Williams, who last week became the first Bucs rookie since Errict Rhett in 1994 to rush for more than 1,000 yards.

"He's gotten a lot of help from the offensive line, too. I mean, those guys have been unbelievable. But Cadillac just seems to be one of those guys who gets better as the game goes on."

Cummings added that Simms may be in that category, too. Though his passer rating for the first and second quarter is slightly higher, his 81.1 mark for the fourth quarter is still better than his overall mark of 80.4.

Simms is even better when the team is behind. He has an 81.4 rating when trailing by seven points or fewer in the fourth quarter. But he attributes a lot of his success in the clutch to Williams.

"When you're behind a touchdown and you still have that threat of a running game there, defenses have to respect that, so that's huge," Simms said. "It opens up passing lanes and makes defenses think.

"When Caddy's in there and running as well as he has been, defensive coordinators have to decide, well, do I want to put an extra guy in the box or do I leave him [in coverage]. That really puts the pressure on them."

Opposing defenses have often buckled under that pressure. Some of Williams' more sizeable gains, including an 81-yard run at Minnesota, a 79-yard gain at Green Bay and a 43-yard run at Carolina, have come in the fourth quarter.

Williams' longest run in that session Saturday against the Falcons was for 14 yards. He had a run of 11 yards in overtime to give him an average of 6.1 yards per carry in the final two periods.

That is slightly better than his season average. On 71 fourth-quarter and overtime runs, Williams has gained an average of 5.9 yards per carry.

"As the game goes on I just get stronger," Williams said. "And in situations like that, it's a matter of who wants it most. I see those guys on the other side getting tired and my attitude is, this is my time."

It's been his time, all right. But it's not just a matter of a strong Williams taking advantage of a tiring defense. As the game goes on, Williams takes mental notes on how opponents defend him. He keeps what he calls a "mental cheat sheet," so when the fourth quarter comes he has a better idea what lanes will be open and who'll be coming into the box.

"By the fourth quarter I usually have a pretty good idea of where I can run and whether the lane is going to be open or not and where the linebackers or the defensive backs are playing," he said.

"I just know how they're going to react to certain things and whether they're stepping up and even how physical they're going to be. That kind of stuff helps you a lot and it makes you better when you really need to be."

Conditioning helps, too. Head coach Jon Gruden marveled at Williams' conditioning all through training camp and there is little doubt his fitness level aided him early this season.

Williams said he lost some of that conditioning while he sat out for three weeks to rest his sore left foot, but he has gained it back through hard work and an old habit he learned during college.

"In practice, even when the play is over, I'll sprint another 40 or 50 yards after the whistle just to keep my conditioning," Williams said. "That helps keep you in good shape, and I think the time off helped, too.

"I mean, I feel like I would have been in good shape even if I had played those three games. I think I'd still be fresh. But I feel like that time off helped me to the point where now I'm extra fresh."

And, Cummings suggested, extra dangerous. ...

Also of interest. ... According to Pro Football Weekly, Simms impressed his teammates with his resilient play against the Patriots despite getting sacked a season-high seven times.

The team's veterans indicated Simms' performance reminded them of former Buccaneer signal caller Brad Johnson, who now plays for the Vikings.

They used to call Johnson "the Bull" because of the physical toughness he played with, and now they are trying to create a nickname for Simms. ...

Also according to PFW, Joey Galloway spent some practice time last week on the scout team wearing a No. 7 jersey and simulating Michael Vick. Galloway was chosen for the Vick role because he's the fastest player on the Buccaneers.

The plan worked.

The Buccaneers beat Vick and Galloway had a game-high eight catches for 97 yards.

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