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October 4, 2011 @ 2:06 am
Current rating: 4.00 Stars/1 Votes

Game Grades: Bucs Shine On Monday Night Football

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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With another second half comeback the Buccaneers moved to 3-1 on the season with their 24-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football. Beat writer Mark Cook reviews his Keys To Victory column and adds grades for each unit.

Key 1: Keep Freeney And Mathis Off Freeman’s Back
While it wasn’t a complete shutout, the Buccaneers offensive line gave Josh Freeman just enough time to find receivers, move the chains and ultimately attain the win.

Robert Mathis was credited with one sack but Dwight Freeney, who had three sacks coming into tonight, was held without a takedown. Freeney generated a lot of attention and even created a holding penalty in the first half against Donald Penn but was a no-show on the final games stats. He wasn't even credited with a tackle. It wasn’t pretty but it is pretty obvious not many of Tampa Bay's wins this season will be. And I’m assuming no one at One Buccaneer Place will complain.
Final Grade: B+

Key 2: Pressure Painter Into Mistakes
While there weren’t any glaring errors by Colts QB Curtis Painter, the Bucs defensive line gave the third-year pro and first-time starter fits all night with four sacks and multiple QB pressures.

Beginning in the first quarter with a Michael Bennett sack and fumble and recovery, the Tampa Bay pass rush made Painter uncomfortable for the majority of the game. While Painter did throw for two touchdowns, both were routine short routes that went for scores because of poor tackling. Painter never looked completely comfortable in the pocket and had several overthrows and underthrown balls.
Final Grade: B+

Key 3: Feed Off The Sold Out Stadium
With a sold out Raymond James Stadium and the national spotlight on Tampa Bay, the young Buccaneers were able to use the unofficial “12th man" to help beat the Colts, 24-17.

Several times, particularly in the second half, Painter and the Colts offense appeared to have trouble checking out of plays and ended up rushing the snap to beat the play clock. While there was a sprinkling of blue-and-white Colts jerseys in the crowd, the home crowd stayed loud and on their feet, especially in the second half.

Defensive players like Michael Bennett played off the crowd in between plays and after big moments during the course of the game and the defensive line in particular had more fire than we have seen in the prior three games, including two home contests.

A classy moment by the fans came early in the game when the JumboTron showed former Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy on the big screen and Dungy received a standing ovation by the nearly 65,000 fans in attendance.
Final Grade: A

Key 4: Keep Addai In Check
With a first-time starter under center it was imperative for the Buccaneers defense to keep Colts running back Joseph Addai and the other Indy running backs under wraps. The ability to hold the Colts to just 62 yards on 18 carries (3.4 yard average) was a huge factor in the 24-17 victory.

Addai came into Monday night's contest averaging 4.8 yards per carry but Tampa Bay’s defense limited the Colts' main running threat to only 3.7 yards per carry. Addai finished with 11 carries for 41 yards.
Final Grade: A

Key 5: No Red Zone Turnovers
Coming into Monday Night Josh Freeman has thrown four interception in the first three games, including three in the red zone. While there were a few passes that Colts defenders got their hands on, none were successfully completed to the wrong colored uniforms Monday night.

Both Freeman and offensive coordinator Greg Olson have talked over the last couple weeks about being smarter with the football and not making critical errors while in the red zone. As it turned out even one pick could have made the difference in the Buccaneers' victory, and Freeman was careful and smart taking care of the football.
Final Grade: A

Final analysis: While it was more difficult than PewterReport.com thought, the Buccaneers again proved their grittiness and an ability to come back in the second half and won a game that was crucial in keeping pace with the other teams in their division. It wasn’t a victory as the fans and probably the coaches drew up before kickoff, but no one can argue with Raheem Morris’ assessment: The Bucs are the best team in the NFC South through the first four games.
Cook’s Prediction: Buccaneers 28, Colts 10
Actual Score: Buccaneers 24, Colts 17

Unit Grades

Freeman was shaky in the first quarter, missing a few receivers and not hitting them in stride. Much like a diesel truck, sometimes the Bucs top signal caller takes a while to get running smoothly. And like the diesel, Freeman gets stronger the longer he runs.

Freeman finished the game 25-of-39 for 287 yards and one touchdown through the air and one on the ground and a QB rating of 94.7.
Grade: A

Running Backs
Coming into Monday night’s matchup with the Colts, Buccaneers running back LeGarrette Blount was still searching for his first 100-yard rushing game of 2011. With Tampa Bay driving late in the fourth quarter to possibly setup a winning field goal attempt, Blount had other ideas. The second-year running back took a handoff from Freeman on second-and-six and raced 35 yards for the deciding score in Tampa Bay’s victory, pushing him over the 100-yard mark.

Blount finished the game with 127 yards on 25 carries and helped pace the Buccaneers to a season-high 192 yards rushing Monday night.
Grade: A

Offensive Line
Much maligned, it doesn’t seem this group can do anything right by a segment of Buccaneers fans. But once again the offensive line was able to hold off a quality defensive line, giving up just two sacks, and also paved the way for a season-high 192 yards on the ground.

Many factors contributed to Tampa Bay’s win, and the offensive line certainly deserves a big part of the credit keeping the duo of Freeney and Mathis in check.
Grade: B

Tight Ends
Both Kellen Winslow and Luke Stocker had fairly quiet but solid games in Tampa Bay’s win over the Colts Monday night, catching a combined seven passes for 41 yards.

Winslow came close to his first TD of the season in the third quarter as the former Hurricane ran a seam route from the Colts 16-yard line, beating the linebacker. But Freeman’s pass sailed and Winslow was unable to make the grab. Winslow finished the game with five catches for 33 yards but also had two penalties, one for holding and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a facemask that negated a seven-yard reception by Blount.

Stocker had only two receptions for nine yards but was an important piece of Tampa Bay’s success running the ball with his blocking. Stocker did have one dropped pass in the second quarter on a low-thrown Freeman ball that appeared to bounce off his knee.
Grade: C

Wide Receivers
Overall this group had a productive night receiving, blocking and working hard to get open when Freeman was under pressure.

The Buccaneers’ receivers totaled 11 catches for 179 yards, and were inches from adding another 62 yards had Arrelious Benn not stepped out of bounds in the first quarter.

Mike Williams, who had been challenged by head coach Raheem Morris in recent weeks, had his most productive game of the young 2011 season, snagging five receptions for 66 yards including a long of 23 yards.

Preston Parker continues to impress, as the former North Alabama product led all receivers with 70 yards on five receptions and a touchdown.
Grade: B+

Defensive Line
Easily the most impressive unit on the entire team tonight, Tampa Bay’s D-line actually played even better than last week’s win over Atlanta.

Combining for 17 tackles and four sacks [Michael Bennett (2), Gerald McCoy and Adrian Clayborn], and limiting the Colts to just 62 total rushing yards, the Buccaneers defensive line is quickly becoming the standout unit on this football team.

Ronde Barber commented after the win that he loved seeing the young line perform in the spotlight. Gerald McCoy told PewterReport.com that at halftime the defensive line decided to play angry and it showed, as this group took over in the second half.
Grade: A+

With only seven tackles on the stat sheet, some may think Tampa Bay’s linebackers had a poor game. But with the Colts only attempting 18 running plays and the defensive line having five tackles for loss, it was a fairly routine and easy night for Tampa Bay’s mid-line of defense.

Rookie Mason Foster continues to blow the learning curve out of the park, and was seemingly in position for most of the night. Geno Hayes added two tackles and Quincy Black notched one takedown.
Grade: B

Probably the unit that played the worst (although not terrible), Tampa Bay’s secondary allowed two routine short pass plays to turn into long touchdowns.

Aqib Talib was victimized by Pierre Garcon early in the game taking a bad angle, then missed a tackle that resulted in an 87-yard score. Later in the game, a quick out pass, also to Garcon, turned into a 59-yard catch, run and score.

Other than those two passes the secondary was effective for the most part, making sound tackles and nearly picking off Painter at least three times.
Grade: C

Special Teams
Continuing their steady play, the Buccaneers special teams unit once again didn’t allow the big play and was solid in kick coverage, both on punts and kickoffs.

Punter/kickoff specialist Michael Koenen continued his Pro Bowl type season averaging 44.0 yards per punt, landing three inside the 20. Koenen’s kickoffs all reached the end zone and three resulted in touchbacks.

Preston Parker’s punt return average took a bit of a hit as he only could find 5.7 yards per return. Parker did add one kickoff return for 24 yards.
Grade: A

Last modified on Tuesday, 04 October 2011 04:22

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  • avatar

    What in the world is wrong with Williams this year? He was great last year, but he has been a bust this year by comparison. I realize he may be getting more attention now from Defensive Coordinators. Parker is the only receiver that has impressed me so far this year. I would like to see more opportunities given to the backups at wide receiver if Williams and Benn don't pick up their games, or play more two tight end formations. The offensive line is now doing very well, as is the defensive line, which both bode well since Pro games are won in the trenches. Thrilled with the kicking, which once again shows DOM's brilliance in free agency. Great running, and good to see Freeman being used successfully on QB sneaks, as I have been urging forever when there was such worry about Blount's lack of ability in that situation. Blount was terrific in this win doing what he does best--running over people. We're 3-1 and in great shape!
  • avatar

    What a bunch of Negative Nellies. Nearly 500 yards and controlled the ball for nearly 40 minutes and you're complaining about the offense? Manning doesn't play middle linebacker folks.
  • avatar

    Clayborn scares me... He's as good as advertised. He's fast strong and mean just plan mean.
  • avatar

    I just like the fact that with four minutes left on the clock, the Bucs have been able to grind out a win with Blount instead of giving the other offense a chance to win the game.
  • avatar

    you guys realize your complaining about an offense that racked up 488 yards of offense? Dude, give them some time. youngest team in football.
  • avatar

    Great to have the win. But sick of the Olsen comments. I guess his call to bring in Johnson was a bad play call too! I think he is doing a great job IMO. The only play I wish he would take out of the book is Freeman throwing anything into the end zone. Keep up the Good Work Bucs!!!
  • avatar

    This was a good win. we are 3-1 for the first qt. of the season. this is were i thought we would be looking forward to see if were ready to take the next step in the development process. We now beat the teams were supposed to beat let's see if we can now play with the contenders of the NFC. BIG STRETCH coming up! let's keep it going! "BUCS WIN" ..."BUCS WIN" ... "BUCS WIN" I agree with all your grades, although i would like to see more from our core of WR'S as a whole. we need to spread it around more.I gave the WR'S a "C" for just being average. this was a big stage I expected more from them.
  • avatar

    What is impressive the most is that we won in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The key for me was the front four of our defense versus the front four of theirs. Their front four has a history of dominating games and after watching what they did to Pittsburgh last week I was concerned on how we would hold up. I really like the move of putting Zuttah in for Larsen as I considered him our weak link. Our defensive line dominated all night even with 3-5 step drops we were stiil getting to their QB all night and it really showed up in the second half controlling the time clock as much as we did. Look for us to really shake Alex Smith cage next week as we will need them to even be better,I look forward to seeing Biggers get a interception with more focus on him than Talib.Go Bucs
  • avatar

    Coach, Freeman & Blount all said it was an ugly win...so what?! The Bucs are 3 & 1. Before the season started, how many of you would have been extremely glad for a 3 & 1 record at this time. Wins in the NFL ain't easy to get. Chill & enjoy it my friends!
  • avatar

    Man you guys are ridiculous in talking about Freeman. The dude had a couple mistakes but overall had a great game that should have been a lot better if not for penalties on more than a few key plays. The dude brought us back again and won the freaking game. You guys sound like a bunch of idiots. The Colts have been playing great ball and still have talented players. Give me a break.. Freeman was awesome and had the only stat that counts.. A Win..
  • avatar

    Key1: A-, Key2: C+, Key 3: B+, Key 4: B, Key5:B QB: B-, RB: A, OL: A, TE: C, WR: B, DL: A, LB: C+, Secondary: C+, Special Teams: C+.
  • avatar

    Think we are overrating the offense quite a bit. Freeman was bad early, pretty good late, but he should have been picked in the end zone. Williams had 2 bad drops, and Benn almost made 2 explosive plays, but he made that bone-headed mistake. I don't see how you can give the whole team an A when we beat an 0-4 team at home by a TD. We overcame a lot, which is the important thing, but we did not look great.
  • avatar

    freeman shoulda had another redzone pick. This is starting to be disturbing. Our redzone offense is terrible!!!!
  • avatar

    Still a sloppy game played by the Bucs. They barely got by a team playing with a backup QB and looking for their first W.
  • avatar

    Yeah it was a win which we all want. But I have a bad taste in my mouth this morning for the embarrasing play in the throughout the game. We won in spite of ourselves INHO and we are not yet ready fror prime time. I realize this is a glas half empty sentiment which is not my usual take....and I've come to see that we are what we are ala Herm. I suppose this is what you get with a youngrry team amd a lockout so I'd better get used to it. But taking into consideration that it was MNF, and supposed to be an introduction for the Bucs, the penalties and the play were just too painful to watch. Nice to see the stadiium full tho.
  • avatar

    You need to take a prozac and go watch the game again on NFL rewind and you'll see that it was probably the best game we've played as a 'team' so far. Penalties are gonna happen and a lot of those penalties were questionable at best. That game wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated. We dominated on both sides of the ball.
  • avatar

    All though the Colts didn't run the ball much, still no splash plays from the linebackers. Take Foster off the field and you wouldn't have known we had any linebackers out there.Would like to see how we look with Black playing weak, and getting Watson on the field at strong.
  • avatar

    Grade for Gregg Olsen Gruden-like play calling has to be a C-. The dink and dunk stuff is junk. Regis Benn was wide open for TD on final drive in first half and we go with the dump pass over the middle - apparently our new bread and butter play. We've got great wide outs - let's use 'em!!!!!
  • avatar

    Dman those dinks and dunks were gimmie plays. When a zone defense plays 15-17 yards off the line of scrimmage you have to take those. Not sure why the dbs were playing that far back but those dinks and dunks gained a ton of yards and kept drives going.
  • avatar

    Dman - - - - - - The play calling was great. The Colt defense has two premier pass rushers that initially forced them into a lot of quick throw and Blount pounding. - - - - - After that, the Colts defense dropped back and essentially played 3 deep at safety with the middle LB back there in the middle (Tampa 2 to an extreme). ---- They gave them the dump passes underneath for 10 yards a pop. ------------------ Olsen would have been an idiot if he DID NOT take that. - - - - - - - besides, it is not like other WRs aren't running routes. If Freeman sees something else that is not risky, he can take it, but why risk something when you are guarenteed 8-10 yards?
  • avatar

    Exactly!! The clock is either your friend or your opponent. When you are playing ball control offense like we did and eating up the clock (We dominated time of possession) you are calling smart plays. Why does everybody think we need to be New England's offense? The only reason New England has to throw up 40 pts a game is because they are gonna give up 34 pts. We have a balanced team. We are a top 10 team in scoring defense. If that continues, and I believe it's only gonna get better, that means we don't have to get into shoot outs or take risks. We take what the other teams defense gives us and if that means check downs all night long for 8-10 yards to go along with Blount getting his 4.5 yds a carry and we win by 8 pts....I'm a happy camper! Why is everybody else miserable?? Thank God we have Olson calling the plays and not the disgruntled fans who want to throw deep into coverage just to 'keep them honest' even though we can hit Graham on a check down and pick up 7 yds and a first down. Believe me, if Olson DID start going deep and Freeman got picked a couple times we'd be reading all sorts of posts saying "Why didn't Freeman throw the ball to Graham and take the 1st down!??!! He was wide open!!! Olson is an idiot!!"
  • avatar

    Can't blame special teams for the missed field goal. That one was on Freeman. You can't take a sack in that situation.
  • avatar

    The O-Line also gets kudos for being road graders in our 4 minute offense to end the game for the 2nd week in a row..
  • avatar

    Agree with all your grades except special teams. A missed field goal, and that mess at the end of the 1st half; two many men on the field (of course this is more on the coaching and freeman for clock management).
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