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Tampa Bay quarterback Brian Griese’s performance on Sunday was not even close to the one he put on in Week 5 against the Saints, where he completed 16 of 19 passes.
After starting the game by completing seven of his first nine passes, Griese finishes the game completing just 13 of 22 (59 percent) passes and threw for 118 yards and tossed one touchdown and one interception. Those stats earned Griese a 69.9 percent quarterback rating. In the first quarter, Griese engineered a six-play, 60-yard scoring drive that was aided by three Saints penalties. He capped off the drive by completing a six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Joey Galloway, which tied the game at 7 all. Perhaps his best play came in the first quarter when he drew the Saints offsides with a hard count on a fourth-and-2 play. But in the second quarter and the Bucs on the Saints’ 12-yard line, Griese mistakingly tossed a pass into the back of the end zone to rookie WR Michael Clayton, but the pass fell well short and landed in Saints cornerback Mike McKenzie’s hands for an interception. In the first quarter, Griese overthrew a wide open Galloway on a deep pass into the end zone.
*Griese was unable to keep the chains moving on a consistent basis Sunday. The Bucs converted just 4-of-12 (33 percent) of their third down tries against the Saints, who had the 32nd ranked defense entering Sunday’s game.
Bucs tailback Michael Pittman had a productive day, carrying the ball 24 times for 131 yards (5.5 avg.), including a 58-yarder he broke off in the fourth quarter. However, with the Bucs attempting to run the clock out in the fourth quarter with a three-point lead, Pittman was stripped of the ball by Will Allen, and the loose ball was recovered by the Saints at the Bucs’ 41-yard line. That turnover led to the Saints’ game-winning touchdown a few plays later.
Fullback Mike Alstott fumbled the ball after hauling in a pass on a screen play in the first quarter. That turnover, which came on the Saints’ 36-yard line, likely surrendered at least an opportunity for three points. He finished the game with two rushes for 2 yards and had one catch for 5 yards. Alstott did, however, have a nice block on Pittman’s 58-yard run.
Backup RB Earnest Graham carried the ball three times for 16 yards, including a tough 9-yard run in the second half.
*The Bucs rushed 34 times for 169 yards (5.0 avg.) against the Saints.
Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway only caught two passes for 19 yards, but his 6-yard reception in the first quarter was good for a touchdown. His second reception was a 14-yarder. Galloway got himself open deep downfield in the first quarter but QB Brian Griese overthrew him by about 1-yard in the end zone.
Rookie WR Michael Clayton led the team in receptions for four for 53 yards. He came up with a couple of clutch first down grabs. His longest reception was a 23-yarder.
Bucs tight end Ken Dilger caught one pass for five yards. Backup TE Dave Moore also hauled in a pass for a 5-yard gain, which was good enough for a first down. Both players were used often in the running game, where they helped to open up some holes. Dilger threw a great block on RB Michael Pittman’s 58-yard run.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line didn’t have a great outing, but center Sean Mahan and guard Matt Stinchcomb each threw great blocks on RB Michael Pittman’s 58-yard run in the fourth quarter. For the most part, this unit gave quarterback Brian Griese (sacked just one time) enough time to locate receivers and remained relatively penalty free.
Tampa Bay’s defensive line, which featured Greg Spires playing under tackle and Dewayne White starting at left end, raised havoc early and made life difficult for New Orleans quarterback Aaron Brooks, who was sacked seven times on Sunday.
Spires notched 1.5 sacks and showed a lot of speed off the snap. He was one of the main reasons why right defensive end Simeon Rice was able to record 3.5 sacks of his own. Rice also recorded seven tackles. Spires also forced a fumble on his last sack, but the Saints managed to recover the ball.
Nose tackle Chartric Darby quietly recorded seven tackles while Spires notched six tackles. Backup DT Chidi Ahanotu recorded three tackles and a sack in the fourth quarter.
*Tampa Bay allowed New Orleans RB Deuce McAllister to carry the ball 25 times for 89 yards (3.6 avg.).
Weakside LB Derrick Brooks led the team in tackles with 10. Strongside LB Ian Gold notched seven tackles. Middle LB Shelton Quarles recorded four tackles. This unit did a nice job of stuffing RB Deuce McAllister. Gold was excellent in terms of open-field tackling. However, this unit along with the rest of Tampa Bay’s defensive personnel got caught by surprise late in the fourth quarter on Saints QB Aaron Brooks’ 13-yard scramble on fourth-and-12.
*The Saints produced just 247 yards of total offense on Sunday.
Saints WR Joe Horn caught four passes for 64 yards and a touchdown, which came in the fourth quarter on a fade pass. Safety Dwight Smith was covering Horn when he hauled in the touchdown pass from QB Aaron Brooks. Smith recorded four tackles and one pass defensed.
Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber led his fellow defensive backs with five tackles. He also recorded a sack on a corner blitz in the third quarter. But late in the fourth quarter, Barber allowed Saints WR Donte’ Stallworth to run a slant and haul in the game-winning touchdown pass from Brooks.
Cornerback Brian Kelly recorded three tackles. He had an impressive pass breakup as well.
In the third quarter, Bucs nickel CB Mario Edwards came up huge when he recovered Saints WR Jerome Pathon’s fumble inside the Bucs’ 20-yard line.
*Saints QB Aaron Brooks completed 14-of-21 passes for 169 yards. Despite being heavily pressured throughout the game, Brooks tossed two touchdowns and no interceptions.
This unit picked a bad game to have several miscues. On the opening kickoff, Saints kickoff returner Aaron Stecker muffed the ball and allowed it to bounce through his legs, but after picking the ball up, Stecker managed to elude several Bucs defenders and return the ball 98 yards for a touchdown. Safety Will Allen, linebacker Keith Burns and running back Ian Smart each had shots to tackle Stecker but failed to do so.
In the fourth quarter, the Bucs punt coverage unit allowed Saints PR Michael Lewis to return a Josh Bidwell punt 53 yards to the Bucs’ 4-yard line. Safety Dwight Smith and cornerback Corey Ivy each had shots to tackle Lewis. The Saints scored a touchdown a few plays later.
Bucs PR Joey Galloway returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, which put the team up 14-7. Dewayne White blocked Saints P Mitch Berger and and safety John Howell made a terrific block towards the end of the return to ensure Galloway’s entrance into the end zone.
Kicker Jay Taylor made a 37-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, which put the Bucs up, 17-7. Bucs P Josh Bidwell averaged 37 yards per attempt.
It’s hard to blame the coaching staff for the balls put on the ground by Michael Pittman and Mike Alstott, or the two special teams breakdowns that each led to Saints scores. It was, however, a bit disappointing to see the Bucs put up just 283 yards of total offense against the NFL’s 32nd-ranked defense. The playcalling in the fourth quarter might have been a bit too conservative, so that may fall on the shoulders of head coach Jon Gruden. The team fared well in the penalty department, being called for just two infractions on the day.
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