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Bucs QB Brian Griese picked up where he left off last Sunday by struggling vs. the New York Jets.
Griese struggled to move the Bucs offense all game long. He was sacked three times and tossed a costly interception in the first half, which led to a score that wound up being the difference in the game.
In the first quarter, Griese’s pass was intercepted by Jets cornerback David Barrett, but that turnover was negated by an illegal contact penalty, which gave the Bucs a first down on the Jets’ 44-yard line. He wasn’t so lucky on his second mistake, though. That mistake came in the second quarter when Griese overthrew wide receiver Ike Hilliard, which allowed Jets CB Ty Law to intercept the pass and return it 43 yards to Tampa Bay’s 8-yard line. The Jets winded up running the ball in for a touchdown two plays later.
Law picked off Griese again later in the second quarter, but a pass interference penalty negated that turnover and gave the Bucs the ball on the Jets’ 29-yard line. Law nearly intercepted Griese two more times but dropped the ball on both opportunities.
Overall, Griese was inaccurate with his passes, especially those thrown to running back Michael Pittman in the flat, and he and the Bucs were dreadful on third downs, where they converted just 2-of-14 (14 percent) attempts on Sunday. In fact, at one point, the Bucs were 0-for-7 on third down tries.
Griese completed 27-of-42 (64.2 percent) passes for 226 yards and threw no touchdowns and one interception. He could have easily had five interceptions on the day, but a few drops and two key penalties kept his interception total down.
*Tampa Bay had 285 yards of total offense and was held without an offensive touchdown for the first time since Week 2 of the 2004 regular season.
Tampa Bay’s offense was without rookie RB Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, who was inactive for Sunday’s game with a foot and hamstring injury.
Bucs RB Michael Pittman started in Williams’ place. Although he did break off a few runs for decent gains, Pittman failed to provide the Tampa Bay offense with big plays. Pittman’s best effort came in the first half, where the Bucs rushed for 69 yards. Pittman rushed 13 times for 46 yards (3.5 avg.), and his longest run was a 10-yarder. He got away with a fumble in the fourth quarter when the ball was knocked out of his hands near the sideline. Luckily for Pittman, he kicked the ball out of bounds while trying to recover it. Pittman also caught a team-high seven passes for 41 yards, including a 16-yarder from Griese in the second quarter and a 11-yard pass from the veteran signal caller in the fourth quarter. He might have had a better day receiving had some of Griese’s passes been more on target. For the most part, Pittman fared well on blitz pickup. Field position and the Tampa Bay defense’s inability to get itself off the field in the second half contributed to Pittman’s lack of opportunities in the second half.
Fullback Mike Alstott carried the ball early, breaking off two 9-yard runs in the first quarter. But later in the first quarter, the “A-Train” failed to pick up a first down on a third-and-1 play after left guard Dan Buenning blew his block and allowed a defender to tackle Alstott short of the first down. That turned out to be Alstott’s last carry of the game. Alstott caught one pass for a 9-yard gain. He finished the game with three carries for 12 yards (4.0 avg.) and was decent as a lead blocker.
Backup RB Earnest Graham carried the ball seven times for 18 yards (2.6 avg.). His biggest play came in the first quarter when he barely picked up a first down on a fourth-and-1 play.
*Tampa Bay rushed 26 times for 84 yards (3.2 avg.) vs. New York.
Tampa Bay’s receivers weren’t involved much in the game plan on Sunday, and that was a mistake in hindsight.
Bucs WR Joey Galloway continued to impress Sunday by hauling in five passes for 87 yards (17.4 avg.). He hauled in a 16-yard pass from Griese in the second quarter to put the ball on the Jets’ 28-yard line. Late in the second quarter, Galloway caught a 13-yard pass from Griese for a first down. He came up really big in the fourth quarter by catching a 23-yard pass and then a 10-yard pass for a first down on a third-and-3 play. Those two catches helped to put the Bucs in position to kick a field goal. Galloway’s last reception came on the last play of the game. It was a 26-yarder that he caught in traffic and put the offense on the Jets’ 34-yard line, but Tampa Bay had no timeouts remaining and time expired before the Bucs could get attempt a field goal that would have won the game. Galloway probably should’ve been involved more in the first of Sunday’s game.
Bucs WR Michael Clayton, who entered the game with a shoulder injury, was held without a catch for the first time in his two-year career. He only had one pass thrown his way.
Bucs WR Ike Hilliard caught five passes for 27 yards. However, he dropped a pass on a third-and-7 play in the fourth quarter, which forced the Bucs to punt.
Edell Shepherd caught one pass for a 9-yard gain, which helped to put the Bucs in better field goal range in the first quarter.
*Griese completed passes to eight different receivers on Sunday.
Tampa Bay rookie TE Alex Smith was an active participant in the passing game, catching a career-high five passes for 46 yards. After dropping a pass on third-and-8 in the first half, Smith came back big on the Bucs’ final drive of the second quarter by catching three passes. The Bucs eventually capped that drive off with a 43-yard field goal, which gave them a 9-7 lead at halftime. Smith also caught a 17-yard pass from Griese late in the fourth quarter.
Bucs TE and former New York Jet Anthony Becht caught two passes for six yards. He spent most of the game blocking near the line of scrimmage.
Pittman’s 16-yard run in the third quarter was negated by a holding penalty on second-year TE Nate Lawrie.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line did a nice job of opening running lanes on the perimeter in the first half, but the Bucs didn’t get the ball much in the second half, which prevented them from attacking more on the perimeter in the second half.
Pass protection and penalties were a problem for this unit. Bucs right guard Sean Mahan was penalized for a false start and holding in the first half. He did, however, make a few good blocks to spring Pittman and Alstott for decent gains in the first half.
Left tackle Anthony Davis was penalized twice as well. Both of his infractions were false start penalties. Jets defensive end John Abraham really gave Davis problems in pass protection, especially in the first half.
Rookie LG Dan Buenning did a decent job in pass protection and opened some holes in the running game. He failed to hold his block on Alstott’s third-and-1 run late in the first quarter, which allowed the “A-Train” to be stopped short of the first down marker.
Right tackle Kenyatta Walker probably played the best of any member of the offensive line. He managed to hold off Jets defensive Shaun Ellis for most of the game and got good push, which created some running lanes for Pittman. For the third consecutive week, Walker made a tackle after a Griese interception. However, this time Walker’s tackle simply delayed the inevitable as the Jets scored from the 8-yard line two plays after Law’s interception return.
*Tampa Bay had 20 first downs on Sunday, and only four of them came via the running game.
Tampa Bay’s defense held New York Jets RB Curtis Martin 59 yards on 23 attempts (2.6 avg.), but it also allowed Martin to score two touchdowns from 1-and 2-yards out, respectively.
Left DE Simeon Rice led the defensive line with five tackles. He was facing double teams throughout most of the game, but Rice managed to sack Jets QB Vinny Testaverde in the fourth quarter. Rice had also made a key stop on Martin for a 6-yard loss a play before that, and both of those stops forced the Jets to kick a field goal, which they missed.
Bucs under tackle Anthony McFarland recorded two tackles, one of which was on Martin behind the line of scrimmage in the first half. McFarland failed to get enough pressure on Testaverde on Sunday. To his credit, “Booger” forced Testaverde out of bounds on a third down play in the first half. McFarland was penalized for being offsides in the third quarter. That penalty negated Bucs linebacker Ryan Nece’s interception deep in Jets territory.
Nose tackle Chris Hovan was held in check on Sunday. In fact, he recorded just one tackle and was flagged for a false start in the first quarter.
Left DE Greg Spires was held without a tackle, but backup DE Dewayne saw a significant amount of action and notched two on the day.
*Tampa Bay allowed New York to produce 212 yards of total offense.
Tampa Bay’s linebackers played an integral role in halting New York’s ground attack throughout most of the game.
Bucs weakside LB Derrick Brooks led the team in tackles with six. He had a great pass breakup in the first quarter, but allowed Jets TE Doug Jolley to haul in a 22-yard pass from Testaverde in the third quarter. That play put the Jets on the Bucs’ 34-yard line and eventually led to the go-ahead touchdown for New York. He was also penalized for holding in the fourth quarter on a third down screen play to Martin, but the Jets winded up missing a field goal anyway.
Middle LB Shelton Quarles notched five tackles on Sunday. His biggest play came in the fourth quarter when he blitzed and drilled Testaverde, which allowed Bucs CB Ronde Barber to haul in the pass for an interception.
Strongside LB Ryan Nece recorded five tackles as well. Nece hauled in an interception in the second half, but that penalty was negated by the offsides penalty on McFarland. Nece recorded a sack as well.
Tampa Bay’s linebackers played well in the first half, but this group had too many missed tackles that led to extra yardage and domination in the time of possession column for the Jets in the second half. In fact, the Bucs had the ball for just 2:40 in the third quarter.
*Jets TE Doug Jolley caught three passes for 46 yards vs. the Bucs.
As a result of Tampa Bay’s lack of pressure, Testaverde was able to complete 13-of-19 passes for 163 yards on Sunday.
After allowing Jets WR Laveranues Coles to haul in a 37-yard pass from Testarverde in the first quarter, Bucs CB Ronde Barber settled down and had quite an impressive game, but he was lucky to be in it after a scuffle between he and Jets center Kevin Mawae in the second quarter. An official attempted to separate both players, but he got knocked down to the ground after Barber threw his forearm down in an effort to get Mawae’s arms off of him. Barber was penalized 15 yards, but luckily for him he wasn’t ejected since his arm made contact with the official. Barber went on to break up a pass intended for WR Justin McCareins in the second half. That nice play prevented a touchdown for the Jets since McCareins was near the goal line. New York went back to that play in the fourth quarter, and Barber wasn’t fooled. After getting rocked by Quarles on a blitz, Barber leaped up in the air and picked off Testaverde’s deep pass on the Bucs’ 14-yard line. That play helped give the Bucs some much-needed momentum and stalled the Jets drive. But Coles got open again in the fourth quarter when he got past Barber and CB Brian Kelly for a 17-yard grab. Barber finished the game with five tackles. Kelly did not record a tackle on Sunday. Coles caught six passes for 89 yards.
Cornerback Juran Bolden recorded two tackles and allowed Cotchery to haul in a pass on a slant route for a key first down in the third quarter.
Will Allen started at strong safety in place of Jermaine Phillips, who was inactive due to a thumb injury. Allen notched five tackles, but he was penalized for a personal foul in the third quarter after jumping on a pile late. That penalty put the Jets on the Bucs’ 9-yard line.
Free safety Dexter Jackson was late coming over on a pass play to Jolley for a 22-yard gain in the third quarter. That play put the Jets on the 48-yard line and gave them a first down. Jackson recorded five tackles.
Although the Jets converted just 3-of-13 third down attempts, Testaverde was 11-of-14 (78.5 percent) for 127 yards in the second half of Sunday’s game. Tampa Bay’s inability to stop the New York offense led to the Bucs defense being on the field for 12:20 of the third quarter.
All 12 of Tampa Bay’s points came via Matt Bryant field goals. Bryant, who was deadly accurate on Sunday, was successful from 35, 36, 43 and 30 yards out.
Punter Josh Bidwell was busy Sunday, punting five times for 259 yards (51.8 avg.). Bidwell was outstanding vs. the Jets and even got off a 58-yarder in the third quarter.
Tampa Bay’s return game was disappointing. Kickoff returner Torrie Cox bobbled the opening kickoff, which resulted in the Bucs starting on their own 16-yard line. Cox was also called for an illegal block in the back on punt returner Mark Jones’ attempt in the second quarter. That penalty put the Bucs on their own 10-yard line.
Jones, who averaged just 4.5 yards per attempt, also muffed a ball in the second quarter. He did, however, recover it.
Tampa Bay’s special teams unit came up with a couple of key turnovers. Rookie TE Alex Smith came up huge in the first quarter when he caused Jets PR Jerricho Cotchery to fumble. Bucs rookie linebacker Barrett Ruud recovered the ball on the Jets’ 45-yard line, and that turnover eventually led to Bryant’s 35-yard field goal.
The Bucs also recovered a fumble on a kickoff late in the second quarter, but cornerback Juran Bolden’s 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty put Griese and Co. out of Hail Mary range.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden’s team lack of disciple led to 12 penalties for 87 yards on Sunday. That’s unacceptable, but it’s been happening all season long and will likely continue to hinder Tampa Bay’s efforts. Gruden was too quick to stop attacking the perimeter via the running game. The Bucs were having success there early but stopped later in the game. Either Clayton is really banged up or Gruden has to do a better job of getting him more involved in the passing game.
Tampa Bay’s defense needs to do a better job of rushing the quarterback. New York Jets 41-year old QB Vinny Testaverde had too much time to hit open receivers, and when the Bucs did bring the pressure with a blitz from middle linebacker Shelton Quarles in the fourth quarter, Testaverde was intercepted by cornerback Ronde Barber. The Bucs could have benefited from a few more turnovers on Sunday. As a result, the Bucs defense couldn’t get itself off the field in the third quarter, which kept the ball out of the offense’s hands. That proved to be costly in a 14-12 outcome that didn’t go Tampa Bay’s way on Sunday.
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