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Bucs quarterback Brian Griese made some clutch throws while under pressure Sunday, but he also made some critical mistakes en route to Tampa Bay’s 31-24 loss to San Diego.
Of Tampa Bay’s 21 first downs, 19 of them came via the passing game. In fact, Griese delivered seven passes that converted third downs on Sunday. Griese engineered some long scoring drives, the first of which came in the second quarter when the Bucs drove 81 yards on just five plays. That drive was capped off by Griese’s great throw to wide receiver Joey Galloway, which resulted in a 36-yard score. In the third quarter, Griese engineered a 68-yard drive on 12 plays. Like the first one, that drive was capped off by Galloway’s score, this time on a 4-yard pass from Griese. Griese’s third and final touchdown throw of the game came in the fourth quarter when he wisely threw down the sideline to WR Michael Clayton, who found himself in one-on-one coverage. Clayton made a fantastic catch for the score, which tied the game at 21-21.
While he tossed three touchdowns, Griese was also picked off three times. His first pick came in the first quarter when he overthrew running back Michael Pittman on a screen play. That bad pass was picked off by Chargers linebacker Donnie Edwards. The Chargers would miss a 53-yard field goal a few plays later. Griese’s second pick came near the end of the first half when his desperation pass was intercepted. His third interception proved to be the costliest. With the game tied 21-21 and the Bucs driving, Griese threw a pass to Clayton, but Edwards stepped in front of it and raced 31 yards to the end zone for the go-ahead score. On the next series, Griese was sacked from behind by linebacker Steve Foley, who caused a fumble that the Chargers recovered. That turnover set up San Diego’s 40-yard field goal.
Griese completed 36-of-50 (72 percent) pass attempts for 392 yards and tossed three touchdowns and three interceptions.
*Tampa Bay converted 7-of-16 (44 percent) of its third down tries against San Diego.
The Buccaneers didn’t really attempt to establish a running game against the Chargers, who entered this contest with the second-best run defense in the NFL. Running back Michael Pittman rushed 12 times for 42 yards (3.5 avg.). His longest run of the game was an 11-yarder. Pittman was more productive in the passing game, where he hauled in six passes for 46 yards. His longest reception was a 23-yarder. In addition to the stats he posted, Pittman did a nice job of picking up San Diego’s blitzes.
Fullback Mike Alstott was involved in the offensive game plan early. He carried the ball four times for 12 yards (3.0 avg.). His longest run went for a 7-yard gain. Alstott also caught two passes for 23 yards. His longest reception was a 12-yarder that picked up a key first down in the second half. Alstott did, however, drop a pass on third down that would have easily been a first down had he held onto the ball.
*Tampa Bay rushed 18 times for 63 yards (3.5 avg.) and picked up just one first down via the ground game.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden’s game plan, which called for a plethora of passing, involved wide receivers Michael Clayton and Joey Galloway.
Clayton led the team with nine catches for 145 yards. His longest grab was a 29-yarder, but his 20-yard reception in the fourth quarter resulted in a touchdown, which tied the game at 21-21. Clayton beat Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer down the sideline in one-on-one coverage for the miraculous score. The pass from QB Brian Griese was a bit overthrown, but Clayton managed to deflect the ball to himself with one hand. In addition to that touchdown grab, Clayton was on the receiving end of several of Griese’s third down passes that were converted into first downs.
Galloway caught five passes for 78 yards and scored two touchdowns. His first came in the second quarter when Clayton cleared out coverage for Galloway deep for a 36-yard score. His second touchdown grab came in the third quarter when Griese found Galloway in the back of the end zone for the score.
Joe Jurevicius only caught two passes for 33 yards, but his 24-yard grab on the sideline in the fourth quarter gave the Bucs a critical first down on a third-and-long play.
Tim Brown caught two passes for 14 yards.
*The Bucs ran a total of 71 offensive plays to the Chargers’ 55.
Tight ends Ken Dilger and Will Heller didn’t have good games in terms of run blocking. However, both players were quite active as receivers in the passing game. Dilger caught four passes for 28 yards, including a 12-yarder. In the second quarter, Dilger got himself open down the left seam but couldn’t hold onto the pass thrown by Griese because of LB Donnie Edwards’ ability to pop the ball out of Dilger’s hands. Heller hauled in three passes for 19 yards. Heller allowed QB Brian Griese to get sacked by a linebacker in the third quarter. That play put the Bucs in a third-and-19 situation and eventually led to a punt. He was also called for holding in the second quarter.
Although Bucs quarterback Brian Griese was sacked three times, it was the offensive line’s penalties that cost the Bucs on Sunday.
Of the team’s 12 penalties, four of them were on the O-line. Center Sean Mahan was flagged for holding in the first quarter. Right guard Cosey Coleman was flagged for a false start in the second quarter. He was also called for holding twice. Left guard Matt Stinchcomb was flagged for a 15-yard hands-to-the-face penalty in the third quarter. Allowing three sacks on 50 pass attempts isn’t bad, but the penalties and lack of holes opened up in the running game overshadowed their performance in pass protection.
Bucs backup under tackle Dewayne White led this unit in tackles with four. However, White’s biggest play of the game came in the fourth quarter when he recovered running back LaDainian Tomlinson’s fumble, which was caused by safety Dwight Smith. Chidi Ahanotu notched just one tackle.
Nose tackle Chartric Darby recorded four tackles as well.
Right end Simeon Rice notched three tackles and sacked Chargers QB Drew Brees in the fourth quarter to force a three-and-out. In the second quarter, Rice was flagged for lining up offsides.
Left end Greg Spires recorded one tackle and one sack in the second quarter when he brought down Brees for a huge loss. However, Spires was called for a facemask penalty on that play, which automatically gave the Chargers a first down.
*The Chargers produced 336 yards of total offense on Sunday.
The Chargers did a nice job of running LaDainian Tomlinson away from Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks, who finished the game with just four tackles. Strongside LB Ian Gold recorded four tackles.
Middle LB Shelton Quarles recorded nine tackles. In the third quarter, Quarles blitzed and knocked QB Drew Brees to the ground to cause an incompletion, but he was flagged for roughing the passer, which gave the Chargers 15 yards and an automatic first down on the Bucs’ 44-yard line.
*Tampa Bay’s defense allowed San Diego RB LaDainian Tomlinson to carry the ball 25 times for 131 yards (5.2 avg.) and score one touchdown.
This unit simply allowed Drew Brees and Co. to make too many big plays.
In the second quarter, Brees play-action passed to WR Eric Parker for a 79-yard touchdown. Bucs safety Dwight Smith was involved in the blown coverage. But Smith, who limited tight end Antonio Gates to one catch for 17 yards, came up huge in the fourth quarter when he stripped RB LaDainian Tomlinson of the ball after a huge run. That play allowed Bucs DT Dewayne White to recover the ball on the Chargers’ 37-yard line and set up WR Michael Clayton’s 20-yard touchdown reception a few plays later. Smith notched six tackles on Sunday.
Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber led the team in tackles with 10. He made a huge play in the first quarter when he intercepted Brees in the end zone off of a flee-flicker. That great play stalled what was going to be a San Diego scoring drive.
Cornerback Brian Kelly shut down Chargers WR Keenan McCardell, who hauled in just three passes for 30 yards before leaving the game with an injury. But Kelly was called for pass interference in the first quarter and allowed McCardell’s backup, WR Kassim Osgood, to haul in a 19-yard pass from Brees for a touchdown in the second quarter. Kelly recorded five tackles.
After replacing John Howell (injured) in the second quarter, Bucs rookie S Will Allen was picked on immediately, but he made Brees pay by picking him off on the sideline. Allen missed a tackle in the running game and finished with one tackle.
*San Diego converted 5-of-11 (45 percent) of its third down attempts. Quarterback Drew Brees completed 17-of-23 passes for 220 yards and tossed two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Bucs kicker Jay Taylor connected on his first attempt of the game, a 20-yarder, but TE Ken Dilger’s tripping penalty negated that play and forced Taylor to kick again. He missed. Taylor drilled a 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Tampa Bay’s coverage units were solid, but its return games, which was led by punt returner Joey Galloway (three returns for 5 yards) and kickoff returner Ian Smart (21.2 avg.).
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden’s team was called for 12 penalties for 111 yards. Those mistakes proved to be costly in yet another Bucs’ loss that was decided by one score. Gruden didn’t commit those penalties, but he’s got to hold his players accountable for those mistakes, especially the repeat offenders.
Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s unit gave up too many big plays and was called for too many penalties. The Bucs defense came up huge in the second half by getting the offense the ball back, but it allowed the Chargers to produce 336 yards of total offense and one too many big plays.
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