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Bucs QB Brian Griese started the game 4-of-4 on pass attempts. What helped him get into a rhythm early was the fact that Tampa Bay ran the no huddle offense for the first few series of the game. Griese’s best pass of the game came in the third quarter when he hit WR Michael Clayton for a 34-yard gain on a third-and-4 play. That play put the Bucs on the Bills’ 6-yard line and helped to set up RB Cadillac Williams’ 3-yard touchdown run a few plays later. Griese was nearly intercepted in the second quarter on a pass intended for WR Joey Galloway, but he made smart decisions with the ball for the most part. Griese completed 16-of-22 passes (72.7 percent) for 136 yards and didn’t throw any touchdowns or interceptions.
*Tampa Bay converted 7-of-14 (50 percent) of its third down tries on Sunday.
For the second straight week, Tampa Bay’s offense was carried by its ground attack. The Bucs defense kept putting the Bills defense back on the football field, and Tampa Bay’s ability to sustain drives led to the Bucs dominating the time of possession, 38:50 to 21:10. Head coach Jon Gruden continued to call running plays, and the Bucs offensive line along with the hot and humid conditions wore down Buffalo’s defense and led to 191 yards rushing on 40 attempts (4.8 avg.) for the Bucs.
Rookie RB Cadillac Williams led the way by rushing 24 times for 128 yards (5.3 avg.) and a touchdown. Williams busted off a 19-yard run in the second quarter, which put the Bucs on the Bills’ 34-yard line. He had 71 yards rushing on 15 carries in the first half. Although he was briefly sidelined and considered questionable to return at the start of the third quarter with an ankle injury, Williams returned to action and took his first carry of the third quarter 19 yards up field. He later battled his way through Buffalo’s goal line defense for a 3-yard touchdown. That run capped off an 80-yard, nine-play drive that put the Bucs up 16-3. Just as he did against Minnesota, Williams saved his best run vs. Buffalo for last, busting off a 31-yarder to Buffalo’s 48-yard line in the fourth quarter.
Bucs RB Michael Pittman saw a significant amount of action on Sunday. The “Rocket” backfield was featured early in the game, and Pittman was even used as a tight end in the first quarter. Pittman broke off a 24-yard run in the fourth quarter, but he got tripped up and fell to the ground on Buffalo’s 24-yard line. That run set up K Matt Bryant’s 40-yard field goal. Pittman carried the ball seven times for 46 yards (6.6 avg.) and hauled in three passes for 20 yards.
Fullback Mike Alstott laid out several Bills defenders as a lead blocker, which opened up some big running lanes for. The “A-Train” also rushed six times for 19 yards, including 1-yard power run on the goal line that gave Tampa Bay its first touchdown of the game and a 9-0 lead in the second quarter. Jameel Cook also opened some holes for the running game.
*Of Tampa Bay’s 18 first downs vs. Buffalo, 11 of them came via the running game.
Tampa Bay’s wide receivers had its hands full with a tough Buffalo secondary, but this unit came through with just enough big plays to keep the chains moving at the right times.
Bucs WR Michael Clayton led all Bucs receivers with six catches for 84 yards (14.0 avg.). His biggest grab came in the third quarter when he beat Bills CB Terrence McGee for a 34-yard gain on a third-and-4 play. That big catch put the Bucs on the Bills’ 6-yard line and set up Williams’ touchdown run. Clayton also did a nice job blocking downfield for the running game. He was, however, penalized in the third quarter for pass interference.
Ike Hilliard caught two passes for 15 yards, including a 10-yarder on a third-and-6 play on the second offensive series of the game.
Joey Galloway was held without a catch vs. Buffalo.
Tight ends Anthony Becht and Alex Smith did a nice job of blocking for the running game. Smith caught one pass for a 2-yard gain. Becht hauled in a 10-yard pass in the flat during the third quarter, but Clayton’s pass interference penalty negated that big gain. Becht hauled in two passes for six yards.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line fared surprisingly well vs. a potentially dangerous, blitz-happy Buffalo defense. In fact, the only sack this unit surrendered was registered on a safety blitz by Lawyer Milloy. Rookie guard Dan Buenning opened up a few holes for Williams and Co., but he was called for holding in the third quarter. Tackles Anthony Davis and Kenyatta Walker managed to hold off the Bills defensive ends, which gave Griese just enough time to throw out of the pocket.
Tampa Bay’s defense forced Buffalo’s offense to go three-and-out on its first four possessions. This feat, along with the fact that defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin did a nice job of rotating players, particularly the defensive linemen, kept the Bucs defense fresh well into the fourth quarter, which led to a total domination of Buffalo’s offense.
Defensive end Simeon Rice sacked Bills QB J.P. Losman for an 8-yard loss in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with two tackles and got consistent pressure on the second-year signal caller.
Nose tackle Chris Hovan notched two tackles while under tackle Anthony McFarland recorded just one takedown. They did a fantastic job of plugging holes in the middle.
Left end Greg Spires, who was flagged for being offsides twice during Sunday’s game, recorded one tackle. In fact, the Bucs were called for being offsides four times on Sunday. Spires defended a pass near the goal line in the second quarter and failed to take down Losman on what should have been a sack in the third quarter. Spires appeared to injure himself on that particular play.
*Tampa Bay held Buffalo to just 147 yards of total offense and eight first downs.
Tampa Bay’s linebackers were extremely active, especially in the running game, where Buffalo RB Willis McGahee found very little running room on Sunday. By shutting down Buffalo’s ground game, Tampa Bay’s defense was able to make life difficult for Losman, especially when the Bucs jumped out to a two-score lead.
Middle linebacker Shelton Quarles led the way with six tackles. His biggest play came in the second quarter when he pressured Losman in the back of the end zone, which forced the signal caller’s foot out of bounds for a safety, which put the Bucs up 2-0.
Bucs WLB Derrick Brooks recorded three tackles and defended two passes. He did, however, miss out on an opportunity to intercept Losman in the first quarter. In his defense, the play would have been difficult to make, and the pass breakup was still big. Brooks’ pass breakup late in the fourth quarter came in the back of the end zone and kept the Bills out of the end zone for the entire game.
Strongside LB Ryan Nece recorded two tackles.
* Buffalo rushed for just 47 yards on 17 carries (2.8 avg.).
Shutting down the running game allowed Tampa Bay’s secondary to handle two potentially dangerous receivers in Eric Moulds and Lee Evans, who combined for just three catches for 20 yards.
Bucs cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly each dropped interceptions that could have been returned for touchdowns in the first half. But both players still did a great job in coverage and against the run.
Barber notched six tackles. He was also flagged for being offsides on a blitz that stopped McGahee on a third-down play in the third quarter. That penalty gave the Bills a first down. Kelly recorded four tackles.
Nickel CB Juran Bolden recorded four tackles. Bills WR Josh Reed caught four passes for 71 yards, but most of his production came late in the game when the Bucs began making substitutions.
Free safety Dexter Jackson was injured on the opening kickoff, and backup S Will Allen made a key stop in his place on a third-down play on the opening series of the game. Jackson later returned to the field and recorded four tackles and a pass defensed.
Strong safety Jermaine Phillips recorded two tackles, and both he and Jackson played an integral role halting Buffalo’s ground game. Both Phillips and Barber also applied pressure on the blitz that resulted in Quarles notching the safety.
*The Bucs only allowed Bills QB J.P. Losman to complete 12-of-29 passes (41.3 avg.) for 113 yards, which amounts to a QB rating of 58.3.
Bucs K Matt Bryant drilled a 40-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. His kickoffs were solid.
Punter Josh Bidwell’s punt in the second quarter allowed CB Juran Bolden to field it at the 1-yard line and led to LB Shelton Quarles notching the safety a few plays later. Bidwell had pinned a punt inside the 5-yard line in the first quarter, but Bolden was flagged for illegal touching. Bidwell averaged 46.2 yards per punt and had a net of 36.2. His longest punt was a 61-yarder.
Punt returner Mark Jones had a huge day, returning three punts for 50 yards (16.7 avg.). His longest return was a 22-yarder.
Rookie LB Barrett Ruud recorded two special teams takedowns.
Tampa Bay’s special teams unit was penalized seven times, and safety Jermaine Phillips and defensive end Dewayne White each were penalized twice on special teams plays.
With the exception of McGee’s 43-yard kickoff return in the second quarter, which led to Buffalo’s only score of the game, Tampa Bay’s special teams cover units were solid.
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin get an A for the game plans their units executed on Sunday, but 13 penalties for 99 yards and the shaky special teams outing kept Tampa Bay’s coaching staff from getting an A-type grade.
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