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Bucs QB Brian Griese had a rather shaky outing vs. the Lions, completing 22-of-39 passes (56.4 percent) for 302 yards and tossing two touchdowns and three interceptions. Of course, much of Griese’s inconsistency had to do with pressure allowed by the offensive line and a concussion the signal caller sustained on a scramble with just over 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter. That play left Griese “woozy” and led to some critical mistakes and turnovers.
After hitting WR Joey Galloway for a 34-yard gain on the second pass of Tampa Bay’s first drive, which eventually led to a field goal, Griese fumbled on the next drive after his hand was hit by Lions defensive end Kalimba Edwards. Detroit recovered that loose ball on the 33-yard line. That turnover eventually led to a field goal early in the second quarter.
Griese’s first interception of the game came on a third-and-9 play in the second quarter. Lions linebacker Teddy Lehman picked Griese off and returned the ball to Tampa Bay’s 8-yard line. The Lions scored a touchdown two plays later. After that mistake, Griese rebounded by eluding a sack and finding Galloway open on third-and-11, which gave the Bucs a much-needed first down. Then Griese threw a beautiful pass to running back Michael Pittman on a rail route for a 41-yard touchdown with 1:12 remaining in the first half. That play tied the score at 10. The Bucs had converted all three of their third downs on that 90-yard drive, and all three were via the passing game, which is a credit to Griese.
On the final play of the first half, Griese threw an errant pass toward the sideline in Detroit territory, and it was intercepted by Lions cornerback R.W. McQuarters, who nearly returned it for a touchdown before being tackled near the sideline by Bucs tackle Kenyatta Walker with no remaining in the second quarter.
But Griese started off the second half with a bang. He made a great throw to Galloway deep down field in-between two defenders for an 80-yard score, which put the Bucs up 17-10. Griese hit Galloway again on the next drive on third-and-8 and once again on the following drive for a 12-yard gain. At one point, the Bucs had converted six straight third down attempts.
But Griese’s success was halted in the fourth quarter when he threw an errant pass to Lions safety Terrance Holt, who returned the pick 51 yards to Tampa Bay’s 22-yard line. The Lions winded up kicking a 24-yard field goal, which made the score 17-13. Griese also put his defense in an awkward situation with less than five minutes remaining in the game when he appeared to be indecisive on a third-and-6 pass play, which fell incomplete when it looked like Griese was attempting to pump fake. Galloway was wide open on the play, and the Lions ended up getting the ball back and driving down the field to make the game much closer than it needed to be.
Griese’s turnovers led to 13 points, but his ability to hit Pittman and Galloway for touchdowns and convert several third downs just barely made up for those mistakes on Sunday.
*Tampa Bay converted 7-of-16 (44 percent) of its third down attempts vs. Detroit.
For the first time this season, Tampa Bay rookie RB Carnell “Cadillac” Williams was held under 100 yards rushing. In fact, Detroit absolutely stuffed Williams and Tampa Bay’s ground attack, holding the rookie rusher to 13 yards on 11 carries (1.2 avg.) before he left the game early in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. Williams, who didn’t have much room to run when he was in the game, didn’t return to action.
The Bucs took advantage of the quality depth they have at running back by putting the ball in Michael Pittman’s hands, but as a pass-catcher, not as a rusher. Pittman rushed five times for 30 yards (6.0 avg.) and made a huge impact in the passing game, where he hauled in a 41-yard pass from Griese on a rail route for a touchdown late in the second quarter. Pittman actually encouraged head coach Jon Gruden to call the play, and call it he did. Pittman finished Sunday’s game with six catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Pittman was called for a 15-yard facemask penalty on Tampa Bay’s second drive of the game, which put the Bucs in a second-and-25 situation. But he also played a huge role in picking up blitzes in the backfield and getting back some yardage to make some third down plays manageable to convert for the Bucs offense.
Backup RB Earnest Graham saw his first action of the year, carrying the ball four times for 15 yards, including a 7-yarder. He also picked up a first down on a third-and-2 run in the fourth quarter.
Bucs fullback Mike Alstott wasn’t very effective as a lead blocker and caught two passes for seven yards on Sunday.
*Tampa Bay rushed 22 times for just 69 yards (3.1 avg.) vs. Detroit.
Galloway was Griese’ favorite target on Sunday thanks to Detroit’s determination to stop Tampa Bay’s ground attack. Galloway hauled in a 34-yard pass from Griese on the second offensive play of the game, and most of the yardage came after he managed to break a tackle. That big play put the Bucs in field goal position. He also hauled in a 20-yard pass on third-and-11 in the second quarter. But Galloway’s biggest play of the game came on the opening drive of the third quarter when he caught a great pass from Griese in-between Lions S Terrance Holt and CB Andre’ Goodman for an 80-yard touchdown, which put the Bucs up 17-10. Galloway came up huge for the Bucs on that play as well as a few of their third down attempts, which he converted into first downs. He finished the game with seven catches for a career-high 166 yards and a touchdown.
Bucs second-year WR Michael Clayton only caught two passes for 11 yards, but his 6-yard grab in the first quarter picked up a first down on third down.
*Of Tampa Bay’s 17 first downs, 11 of them came via the passing game on Sunday.
The Bucs tight ends left much to be desired vs. the Lions. Rookie TE Alex Smith was called for a false start from the 1-yard line in the first quarter, which backed the Bucs up to the 5-yard line. He finished the game with one catch for a 7-yard gain.
Veteran TE Anthony Becht dropped a pass from Griese inside the red zone in the first quarter. That play may have gone for a score had Becht not dropped it. Becht, who caught two passes for nine yards, also failed to pick up a first down on a third-and-2 pass play to the flat late in the fourth quarter, and neither tight ends’ blocking effort was enough to open up holes in the running game.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line allowed Griese to get put on the ground way too often. Much of the pressure came from the left side, where left tackle Anthony Davis and left guard Dan Buenning struggled to hold off Detroit defensive end Kalimba Edwards, who notched two sacks and a forced fumble on Sunday.
On Tampa Bay’s opening drive, the Bucs moved the ball down to the Lions 1-yard line, but a false start penalty on Smith and two sacks allowed by the offensive line pushed the Bucs offense all the way back to the 24-yard line and forced them to kick a field goal.
Davis was injured (left shoulder) on the final play of the first half while trying to tackle Lions CB R.W. McQuarters on an interception return. That might have been a blessing in disguise as backup LT Todd Steussie played admirably in his place and helped to give Griese a more comfortable pocket to throw out of in the second half. Steussie did a much better job vs. Edwards, and that turned out to be huge for the Bucs.
For the second straight week, right tackle Kenyatta Walker might have saved the game for the Bucs by making a critical tackle on an interception return. On Sunday, Walker chased down Lions S Terrance Holt, who returned a Griese pick 51 yards before being dragged down by Walker on the Bucs 22-yard line. The Lions eventually had to kick a field goal, which made the score 17-13. Walker was also called for a false start earlier in the game, but his huge tackle more than made up for it.
*Tampa Bay rushed for just 69 yards and allowed Griese to get sacked three times on Sunday.
Tampa Bay’s defensive line did a nice job of shutting down Detroit’s potentially potent ground attack. Lions RB Kevin Jones rushed 12 times for 38 yards (3.2 avg.), but his 8-yard touchdown run in the second quarter came a bit too easy.
Backup defensive tackle Ellis Wyms came up big in the second quarter when he recovered a fumble by Lions TE Marcus Pollard. Wyms saw significant action and finished the game with one tackle.
Starting under tackle Anthony McFarland didn’t make much noise and was held without a tackle on Sunday. Nose tackle Chris Hovan actually subbed in for McFarland a few times and notched two tackles on the day.
Defensive end Simeon Rice didn’t sustain a great pass rush vs. the Lions, but he managed to sack Lions QB Joey Harrington on a scramble that failed to make it back to the line of scrimmage. Still, Tampa Bay’s pass rush wasn’t good enough on Sunday. Rice actually led all Bucs defensive linemen with four tackles. Left DE Greg Spires recorded three tackles.
*Detroit rushed 15 times for 91 yards (3.6 avg.) vs. Tampa Bay.
The Bucs linebackers played a huge role in halting the Lions’ ground game. Despite sustaining a sprained wrist in the first quarter, Tampa Bay MLB Shelton Quarles recorded a team-high 10 tackles.
Weakside LB Derrick Brooks recorded six tackles, but he missed tackles on Jones’ 11-yard run in the first quarter and 8-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Brooks also appeared to be involved in the coverage that allowed Pollard to get open in the right corner of the end zone for what would have been the game-winning touchdown had a challenge/replay not overturned the call late in the fourth quarter.
Strongside LB Ryan Nece notched five tackles.
Despite a few missed tackles, Tampa Bay’s linebackers were solid against the run and in coverage.
*Detroit was just 2-of-12 (17 percent) on its third down tries on Sunday.
Tampa Bay cornerbacks Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly and Juran Bolden managed to shutdown Detroit’s big three – wide receivers Roy Williams, Mike Williams and Charles Rogers. Those three WRs combined for seven catches for 91 yards and no touchdowns.
With one minute remaining in the second quarter, Kelly and Bucs safety Will Allen, who was making his first start in place of Dexter Jackson, allowed Roy Williams to haul in a 34-yard pass. But on the next play, Kelly caused Pollard to fumble after a reception, which allowed Wyms to recover and the Bucs offense to take over. Kelly recorded three tackles and a pass defensed.
Allen spent a lot of Sunday’s game playing in the box, which helped the Bucs stuff the Lions ground game. Allen recorded seven tackles and played well on Sunday.
Barber also recorded seven tackles and notched a sack on a third-and-8 play in the third quarter, which forded the Lions to punt. Tampa Bay’s pass defense was solid up until Detroit’s final drive of the game, which started at the Lions 6-yard line and nearly ended in Tampa Bay’s end zone. Harrington managed to connect with WR Kevin Johnson for first downs on third-and-5 and fourth-and-5 plays. But their coverage was good enough to force Harrington to throw incompletions on his final two pass attempts of the game.
Strong safety Jermaine Phillips recorded six tackles, but he got run over by Jones on the tailback’s 8-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
*Harrington completed 15-of-27 (55 percent) passes for 137 yards and threw no touchdowns or interceptions.
Bucs kicker Matt Bryant drilled a 43-yard field goal in the first quarter, but he missed a 46-yard attempt wide right in the third quarter, which would have given the Bucs, who had put together an 80-yard drive, a 10-point lead.
Punter Josh Bidwell averaged 46.7 yards on three attempts. He pinned one punt inside the 20-yard line and had a long of 50 yards.
Punter returner Mark Jones averaged just 5 yards per attempt and had a long of 11 His big return in the first quarter was negated by two penalties, both of which were called on CB Blue Adams.
Tampa Bay’s special teams coverage units were outstanding. The Bucs held Lions WR Eddie Drummond to 5.7 yards per punt return and 13 yards per kickoff return.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden wisely went with the hot hand in Michael Pittman, who turned out to be a difference-maker on Sunday. The Lions’ defensive formations forced the Bucs to pass most of the day, and QB Brian Griese delivered just enough big plays to overcome a concussion he sustained in the second quarter and some costly interceptions he made throughout the game.
Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s unit played extremely well, especially vs. the run. Allowing Detroit’s offense to march down the field on a drive that started at the Lions’ 6-yard line was alarming, but the Bucs tightened up coverage in their own red zone, and with the help of instant replay and a timeout wisely taken by Gruden before an extra point could be attempted, held the Lions out of the end zone to preserve the win.
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