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Bucs QB Brian Griese started the game 7-of-8. Some of his best throws came on third down, where Tampa Bay was 8-of-16 (50 percent) on Sunday. On Tampa Bay’s first drive, Griese came up huge by hitting wide receiver Michael Clayton on a slant for an 18-yard gain. That play put Tampa Bay on Green Bay’s 21-yard line. Griese capped off that 12-play, 54-yard drive by play-action passing, rolling to his right and drawing a defender off of WR Joey Galloway, who was left wide open in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown, which put the Bucs up 7-0 in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Griese and Galloway hooked a few more times. One pass came on a slant, which went for a 15-yard gain. Griese’s next pass to Galloway came on another slant, and the speedy Galloway beat Packers linebacker Nick Barnett to the back of the end zone for another touchdown, which capped off a seven-play, 55-yard drive. It also put the Bucs up 14-6.
The second half was a different story for Tampa Bay’s offense, which had great field position throughout the first half and posted 17 points on Green Bay’s defense. Griese dropped back to pass and had the ball slip out of his throwing hand in the third quarter. Luckily for Griese, the pass was ruled incomplete, but replays showed that Griese actually fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Green Bay on Tampa Bay’s 10-yard line. In the fourth quarter, Griese was intercepted on Green Bay’s 35-yard line on a pass that probably should have been caught by running back Michael Pittman, who bobbled the ball and allowed Packers cornerback Ahmad Carroll to tuck it away, get up and run it back to Tampa Bay’s 32-yard line. The Packers got a field goal out of that turnover, which made the score 17-16.
*Griese completed 17-of-26 (65.3 percent) passes for 139 yards and tossed two touchdowns and one interception.
Although Green Bay entered this game with a suspect secondary, Tampa Bay opted to pound the ball early and often Sunday. Bucs rookie RB Carnell “Cadillac” Williams didn’t have too much success through the first three quarters of the game, but he blew up with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. With the game in the balance and the Packers desperately looking to get the ball back in Packers QB Brett Favre’s hands one more time, Williams carried the ball six times for 46 yards, including a 24-yard carry on his second to last attempt of the game. Not only did he do damage on the ground, Williams showed great awareness, making a point to drop to the ground before going out of bounds on two of his runs. Williams’ longest run of the game came earlier in the fourth quarter when he busted off a 27-yard run to Green Bay’s 35-yard line, but Griese’s interception a few plays later made that run and drive for not. Overall, it was a great day for Williams, who came into Sunday’s game with a sprained foot. He rushed a whopping 37 times for 158 yards (4.3 avg.) and showed great toughness, awareness and endurance en route to Tampa Bay’s 17-16 win.
Fullback Mike Alstott’s biggest play of the game came in the second quarter on third-and-2. The “A-Train” caught a short pass on that play, which kept what later turned into a scoring drive alive. Alstott was called for holding on Williams’ 11-yard run in the fourth quarter. Overall, Alstott and FB Jameel Cook did a nice job opening up some running lanes for Williams, especially in the latter part of the contest.
*Tampa Bay rushed for 161 yards on 41 attempts (4.9 avg.), and eight of its 19 first downs came via the ground game.
Griese’s favorite target via the passing game was WR Joey Galloway, who hauled in two touchdown passes from Griese, six- and 10-yard pass plays, respectively, in the first half. Galloway found himself in a few favorable matchups with Green Bay’s linebackers, and Griese took advantage by hitting him in stride. Galloway even drew a pass interference penalty late in the fourth quarter, but the flag was picked up, which was a very questionable call since Packers CB Al Harris never turned around for the ball. Galloway finished the game with five catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide receiver Michael Clayton made the first big offensive play of the game for the Bucs in the first quarter by hauling in a pass from Griese off a slant. That play went for an 18-yard gain and put the Bucs on the Packers’19-yard line. He also made some key blocks in the running game and on tight end Anthony Becht’s 9-yard play in the second quarter. Clayton finished the game with five catches for 44 yards.
He didn’t make a lot of plays, but both of WR Ike Hilliard’s catches came on third downs and translated into first downs. Hilliard’s first catch came in the second quarter when he hauled in a 7-yard pass on third-and-2. But his biggest grab came late in the fourth quarter when he caught a short pass on third-and-3, which was enough for a much-needed first down and put the Bucs on the Packers’ 46-yard line. Hilliard had two catches for seven yards on Sunday. His downfield blocking was inconsistent, though.
*Tampa Bay dominated the time of possession vs. Green Bay, 34:22 to 25:38.
Tampa Bay didn’t use its tight ends a lot in the passing game. Instead, they were used mostly as perimeter blockers. Rookie TE Alex Smith and Becht did a great job of blocking for Williams, especially in the fourth quarter. Becht did catch a 9-yard pass from Griese in the second quarter. Smith, who is better known for his catching ability, made several key blocks to spring Williams loose. He also caught one pass for a 4-yard gain.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line was solid in pass protection throughout the first half, which enabled the Bucs to post 17 points. The second half was, however, a different story.
Left tackle Anthony Davis held his own vs. Packers defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, but he was called for holding on KGB on the opening drive of the third quarter. He was flagged for holding again in the fourth quarter, which put the Bucs in a second-and-25 situation. Despite those penalties, Davis led the way on several of Williams’ big runs in the fourth quarter, and Gbaja-Biamila was held without a sack. Right guard Sean Mahan was also flagged for holding twice in the third quarter. Those infractions actually took place on the same drive. Most of Tampa Bay’s success via the ground game came on the left side of the O-line, where Davis and rookie LG Dan Buenning opened up several holes. Right tackle Kenyatta Walker made the game-saving tackle on Carroll, who would have ended up scoring had Walker not him down and tackled him on the sideline. The O-line did, however, struggle in the penalty department in the second half, which in turn put the Bucs offense in predictable passing situations. That allowed Griese to get sacked twice and put him under duress too often.
Tampa Bay sought out to halt Ahman Green and Green Bay’s ground attack, and it was successful. Green rushed the ball 19 times for 58 yards (3.1 avg.). His longest run of the game was a 13-yarder. This unit probably didn’t put enough pressure on Favre, though, or at least not consistently.
The Bucs had excellent gap control and pursuit throughout the game, and the Packers shot themselves in the foot by committing penalties, which put their offense in long down-and-distance situations in the first half. Defensive end Greg Spires, who was playing with a torn biceps, recorded three tackles and a sack, which came just before halftime. Nose tackle Chris Hovan also recorded three tackles and did a great job of penetrating up front. Defensive tackle Anthony McFarland notched one tackle and applied pressure on safety Will Allen’s first interception of the game. Bucs DE Simeon Rice only recorded one tackle and had a tough time getting past Packers left tackle Chad Clifton on passing downs.
*Green Bay rushed 25 times for 75 yards (3.0 avg.).
Although the defensive line held its own, Tampa Bay’s linebackers played an integral role in containing Green Bay’s ground attack on Sunday.
Bucs middle linebacker Shelton Quarles led the way with nine tackles. He made a splash play on Green Bay’s opening drive by forcing Packers FB Williams Henderson to fumble, which allowed CB Ronde Barber to recover the ball on Green Bay’s 45-yard line. That big play killed Green Bay’s opening drive, which had produced 28 yards before the turnover. Quarles was partially responsible for Green Bay’s second touchdown of the game in the second quarter. He was late coming over in the back of the end zone, which allowed Packers WR Antonio Chatman to get open and haul in a 20-yard pass from Favre, which cut the Bucs’ lead to four points. But Quarles came up big in the fourth quarter when he knocked down Favre’s third-down pass attempt, which forced the Packers to kick a 32-yard field goal.
Strongside LB Ryan Nece raised havoc by making the best of his blitzing opportunities. He sacked Favre on third down in the third quarter. That play stalled Green Bay’s drive near midfield. In the fourth quarter, Nece stuffed Green in the backfield for a 3-yard loss. He finished the game with seven tackles.
The Packers ran most of their plays away from Bucs WLB Derrick Brooks, who recorded three tackles. He dropped a pass thrown by Favre that should have been picked in the fourth quarter. It was a tough catch to make, but Brooks put himself in position to make the interception.
*Green Bay was just 3-of-10 (30 percent) on third down attempts.
Tampa Bay’s defense ranked No. 1 overall entering Sunday’s game vs. Green Bay, but Favre was able to move the ball via the passing game. To the their credit, the Bucs’ secondary came up with just as many big plays as it allowed.
Bucs CB Ronde Barber recovered FB Williams Henderson’s fumble, which was caused by Quarles, in the first quarter. He also did a great job of helping to defend the run. Barber led all defensive backs with six tackles.
Barber’s partner in crime, CB Brian Kelly, had a mixed outing. In the first quarter, Kelly allowed Packers WR Donald Driver to beat him deep for a 36-yard pass to Tampa Bay’s 44-yard line. Kelly was also called for pass interference on the play, but it was declined. But in the second quarter, Kelly intercepted Favre on an errant pass intended for Driver. That gave Tampa Bay’s offense the ball on Green Bay’s 38-yard line and led to K Matt Bryant’s 42-yard field goal, which proved to be the difference in the game. In the second quarter, Kelly was flagged for pass interference again, this time on WR Antonio Chatman. This call, however, appeared to be the wrong one as Kelly was in good position and never interfered with the receiver. The call was so bad that Bucs head coach Jon Gruden erupted on the sideline, which drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Both penalties put the Packers on the Bucs’ 9-yard line, and they eventually scored a touchdown. Kelly finished the game with three tackles and a pick.
Cornerback Juran Bolden also had mixed results. In the first quarter on a fourth-and-5 play from Tampa Bay’s 37-yard line, Green Bay decided to go for it. Favre launched a deep pass down the left sideline for WR Robert Ferguson, who beat Bolden deep for the score. In the third quarter, Bolden had a chance to make amends for that mistake but dropped an easy interception from Favre. But Bolden did make up for both of those mishaps in the fourth quarter when Favre tested him deep again. This time, Bolden was in position and deflected the pass, which landed in the arms of safety Will Allen. That huge play came with five minutes remaining in the contest.
Speaking of Allen, not only did he come up with that interception, the second-year safety, who played in place of Dexter Jackson (hamstring) for most of the game, intercepted Favre earlier in the fourth quarter down the right seam of the field. Favre threw into triple coverage, but Allen did a great job of going up for the ball and snatching it for the pick. Allen notched three tackles and two interceptions on Sunday.
Strong safety Jermaine Phillips spent a good portion of the game near the box. He recorded four tackles and did a good job defending the run. His presence was obviously missed on Favre’s two deep passes that were complete to receivers who found themselves in one-on-one situations with Tampa Bay’s cornerbacks.
*Favre completed 14-of-24 (58.3 percent) passes for 195 yards and threw two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Penalties continued to plague Tampa Bay’s special teams units. Torrie Cox, who was inactive for last Sunday’s game vs. Buffalo as a result of his arrest for DUI, returned to action. His 33-yard kickoff return in the second quarter was negated by Allen’s holding penalty. In the third quarter, Cox bobbled a kickoff. Although he recovered it, Cox was tackled on the 13-yard line. Cox’s 22-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter was negated by an illegal low block by Pittman. That penalty put the Bucs on their own 10-yard line. Cox averaged 17 yards per kickoff return on Sunday.
Tampa Bay’s coverage units were inconsistent. Packers kickoff returner Terrence Murphy averaged 27 yards per attempt, including a 29-yarder.
Bucs PR Mark Jones averaged 11.5 yards per return. His longest was a 12-yarder in the second quarter. That put the Bucs on their own 45-yard line.
Punter Josh Bidwell, who made his first return to Green Bay, averaged 47.3 yards per attempt, but some of his punts were too short. His longest was a 57-yarder.
Bucs kicker Matt Bryant drilled a 42-yard field goal in the second quarter. Although that was the last time Tampa Bay got on the scoreboard, it also proved to be the difference in the game.
Packers K Ryan Longwell missed an extra point attempt and a field goal, which aided the Bucs tremendously en route to their 17-16 win.
The Bucs coaching staff has yet to come up with a remedy for the team’s penalty problems. Tampa Bay was penalized eight times for 103 yards vs. Green Bay. Head coach Jon Gruden must get after his troops for this ongoing problem, but he’s got to look at himself, too. He was, after all, penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct after the second pass interference call against Kelly. Offensively, Gruden called a good game in the first half, but his playbook was hindered in the second half by poor field position and a series of untimely penalties that put the Bucs in long down-and-distance situations. Gruden’s patience with the running game paid off big-time late in the fourth quarter when Cadillac Williams ran wild.
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin came through with some excellent blitz calls in the second half. Favre was starting to get a comfortable pocket to throw out of in the third quarter, but Kiffin took care of that rather quickly. Of course, his unit came up big Sunday by creating four turnovers.
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