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5 Most Impressive Bucs
QB Brian Griese The starting quarterback for the game against the Patriots did not disappoint Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. Griese was only in for two drives, but he engineered one impressive drive to start the game. Griese got the ball moving with a lateral to wide receiver Antonio Bryant for 16 yards. From there Griese got into a grove throwing short passes and moving the ball down the field. Griese hit five different receivers as the Bucs moved down the field. The veteran quarterback converted four third down opportunities into first downs. The last of which was a slant that was stopped just short of the end zone on the Patriot one-yard line. The Bucs capitalized on the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge by running back Earnest Graham. The drive was 17 plays for 80 yards and lasted 9:38. Griese came up a yard short of converting another first down on the next drive, but after that series, Griese's night was over.
WR Antonio Bryant The receiver starting in the place of Joey Galloway had a performance that would fall in Galloway's ballpark. On the first third down of the game, Bryant was handed the ball on a reverse and ran it 16 yards for a first down and more. The gain brought the Bucs close to midfield, but Bryant continued his big third down play later in the drive. At the Patriot five-yard line, Bryant caught a slant on third and three and was stopped just short of the goal line. A couple of series later, quarterback Luke McCown fired a pass to Bryant who separated on a crossing route. Bryant accelerated downfield, throwing a stiff arm to help him pull away from the defense. Bryant almost was able to break the run for a touchdown but he was pulled down after gaining 33 yards. That was it for the night for Bryant and he accounted for 53 yards on only three touches. At the same time, the night could have been even bigger for Bryant as he ran some other excellent routes to get open but was not thrown the ball.
LB Barrett Ruud The Bucs starting middle linebacker was active all over the field. On the Patriots first third down attempt, Ruud dropped into coverage and broke the pass up. The play was originally called an interception but upon being challenged the play was overturned by instant replay, the ball was ruled incomplete. It would have been a tremendous interception using one hand to pull the pass into his body. While Ruud came up a little short on that turnover, Ruud forced a fumble by running back Kevin Faulk later. Ruud ripped the ball out as Faulk was going down. Defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson fell on the ball. Ruud was all over the field flowing to the ball and getting after the ball carriers. Ruud finished the game with four tackles, a forced fumble, and a pass breakup in one half of play.
S Sabby Piscitelli The backup safety was due for a big preseason game after his strong training camp. After getting his feet wet against the Dolphins, Piscitelli broke out against the Patriots. Piscitelli made some nice plays on special teams before getting into the game on defense. When he came in he made his presence felt. The first play from scrimmage in the second half, the second year safety kept up the Bucs momentum from their first half performance. On a safety blitz, Piscitelli capitalized on an errant snap. Quarterback Matt Cassel had the shotgun snap hit off his hand and role free. Piscitelli flew into the backfield and scooped up the ball. After a quick 24 yards, Piscitelli cruised into the end zone for a touchdown. On the next New England series, Piscitelli broke into the backfield to stop a run for no gain. He also came close to recording an interception later in the second half but the ball went by him as he zeroed in on the receiver.
CB Elbert Mack The young undrafted free agent had a good debut in the offseason workouts and continued that with an impressive training camp. Mack played well against the Dolphins last week, and followed that up with an even bigger game against the Patriots. During New England's third drive of the third quarter, quarterback Kevin O'Connell was pressured by defensive end Charles Bennett. O'Connell threw a pass on the sidelines for receiver Chad Jackson but Mack stepped in front of the ball and picked it off. He got to return the ball for a few yards before momentum took him out of bounds. Mack's interception led to the last points of the Buccaneers evening when kicker Matt Bryant nailed a 23-yard field goal. Mack tied for second on the team with three tackles as well. He showed some good speed on special recording one tackle. Mack is definitely making a case to be on the practice squad if not one of the final corners on the roster.
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