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Tampa Bay quarterback Brian Griese, although under pressure a little too often, made good decisions throughout the game and engineered scoring drives of 63, 48,41,36 and 26 yards en route to a 27-0 win over Atlanta.
Not all of those drives were long, but Griese and Co. did a nice job of capitalizing on the four turnovers created by the Bucs defense. In the first quarter in a third-and-8 situation, Griese audibled into a pass play that called for WR Joey Galloway to run a slant. That play worked as Galloway hauled in the pass for a first down. Griese’s best throw of the game came in the third quarter when he tossed a nice pass down the right sideline against Cover 2 defense to Galloway for a 36-yard touchdown. Griese had two bad throws on Sunday. In the third quarter with the Bucs on the Falcons’ 34-yard line, Griese attempted a pass to wide receiver Joe Jurevicius, but the pass was picked off by Chris Draft. Griese’s second poor throw came also came in the third quarter on a third-and-2 play, where Griese play-action faked to running back Michael Pittman and threw deep down the middle of the field to a wide-open Galloway, but the ball was about three yards overthrown and fell incomplete.
Griese completed 13 of 21 (61.9 percent) pass attempts for 131 yards and tossed one touchdown and one interception.
*The Bucs converted 4 of 11 (36 percent) of their third down tries Sunday.
Bucs running back Michael Pittman was his usual self at home, rushing 17 times for 68 yards (4.0 avg.) and one touchdown, which came in the first quarter when he brought the ball into the end zone on a 4-yard run to the right side of the field. Pittman’s longest run of the game was a 14-yarder, which came on a third-and-1 in the second quarter. He also caught two passes for 12 yards. Pittman also did a nice job on blitz pickup throughout the game, and his production via the running game was good enough to allow Griese to throw off of play-action.
All nine of fullback Mike Alstott’s carries came in the second half. He rushed for 42 yards (4.7 avg.) and almost single-handedly got the Bucs into the end zone on team’s 26-yard scoring drive that was set up by cornerback Brian Kelly interception in the fourth quarter. Alstott capped that drive off by scoring from 1-yard out. In the first half, Alstott was effective as a lead blocker. He made a key block on Pittman’s 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Backup RB Ian Smart showed some quickness and burst on his only carry of the game, which came in the second quarter and produced a 25-yard gain. That play put the Bucs on the Falcons’ 33 yard-line. It set up a 50-yard field goal by kicker Jay Taylor.
*The Bucs rushed 31 times for 132 yards (4.3 avg.) and two touchdowns.
Joey Galloway had a breakout game, his first as a Buc, by hauling in a team-high four catches for 63 yards and one touchdown. Galloway hauled in two passes in key third down situations. Although the gains were short, they picked up first downs. However, Galloway’s biggest grab came in the third quarter when he got open against Cover 2 defense and hauled in a perfectly thrown pass from QB Brian Griese for a 36-yard score. Galloway got open deep again in the third quarter, but Griese overthrew him by about three yards. Had he been able to catch the pass, Galloway would’ve easily scored.
Bucs rookie WR Michael Clayton caught one pass for 15 yards. That catch put the Bucs on the Falcons’ 15-yard line. He spent most of the afternoon getting double teamed, which allowed Galloway to get open. Clayton also made a great block on RB Michael Pittman’s 10-yard run in the third quarter.
*The Bucs produced 247 yards of total offense against the Falcons.
Ken Dilger was able to get open often in the flat, hauling in four passes for 27 yards. His longest reception went for a 10-yard gain. Dilger got hurt on the first offensive series, but he returned a few plays later. Both Dilger and TE Will Heller did a nice job of blocking on Sunday. Heller recovered QB Brian Griese’s fumble after a sack in the second quarter.
It was like night and day for Tampa Bay’s offensive line Sunday. In Week 10, this unit was flagged six times and allowed seven sacks. Although it didn’t completely dominate, the Bucs’ offensive line had an attitude Sunday, which helped them produce 132 yards rushing and better protect QB Brian Griese, who was sacked three times and hurried on several other occasions.
Right tackle Kenyatta Walker was called for a false start in the first quarter. In the third quarter, left tackle Derrick Deese was flagged for an illegal chop block, which cost the Bucs 15 yards. However, that call appeared to be a bad one, or it was supposed to be called on RB Michael Pittman instead. In the fourth quarter, Bucs guard Cosey Coleman was called for holding. In the second quarter, left guard Matt Stinchcomb got beat by Ed Jasper, who sacked Griese after timing the snap count perfectly. On the very next play, Stinchcomb allowed Griese to get sacked again.
This unit was playing inspired football Sunday, harassing Falcons QB Michael Vick and stuffing running backs Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett.
Bucs right defensive end Simeon Rice had a breakout performance, simply dominating Falcons left tackle Kevin Shaffer and sacking Vick two times and causing him to fumble once. In the second quarter, Rice sacked Vick for the first time in the game. That was the 100th quarterback takedown of his career. In the third quarter, Rice sacked Vick and caused him to fumble, allowing DE Greg Spires to recover the ball on the Falcons’ 36-yard line. That play set up QB Brian Griese’s 36-yard touchdown pass to WR Joey Galloway. Rice finished the game with four tackles, two sacks, two passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Although he didn’t notch a sack, Spires dominated as well. He recovered the fumble caused by Rice, and in the second quarter Spires recovered a fumble caused by linebacker Derrick Brooks on the Bucs’ 41-yard line. Spires notched one tackle, one pass defensed and two fumble recoveries.
Backup under tackle Dewayne White recorded two sacks in the third quarter, but his first one was negated by a false start on the Falcons. His second quarterback takedown came on the Falcons’ own 1-yard line and was nearly a safety. White finished the game with four tackles and a sack.
Defensive tackles Chartric Darby and Chidi Ahanotu combined for three tackles. Although Vick broke containment at times (eight rushes for 81 yards, longest a 26-yarder) due to pressure, the Bucs did a nice job of limiting his big-play ability and absolutely rattled him on pass plays.
*The Falcons rushed for 163 yards on 28 attempts (5.8 avg.).
Tampa Bay’s linebackers were absolutely brilliant in their pursuit of Atlanta QB Michael Vick. They were led by Bucs weakside LB Derrick Brooks, who made life difficult for Vick. Brooks’ first huge play of the game came on a third-and-goal play from the Bucs’ 1-yard line in the second quarter when he tipped a pass intended for Falcons WR Dez White in the back of the end zone, which allowed Bucs safety Dwight Smith to pick it off. Later on in the second quarter, Brooks drilled Vick in the head while tackling him after No. 7’s scramble. That play knocked Vick out of the game for one play. When he returned, Brooks blitzed and hit Vick, causing him to fumble, which allowed DE Greg Spires to recover on the Bucs’ 41-yard line. In the fourth quarter, Brooks broke up a pass from Vick on a fourth-and-2 play. However, he should’ve picked it off and might have returned it for a touchdown. Brooks finished the game with a team-leading 11 tackles, two sacks, two passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Strongside LB Ian Gold quietly recorded eight tackles. He had a huge tackle on a third down scramble by Vick in the first quarter, which forced a punt.
Middle LB Shelton Quarles also notched eight tackles, making all three of Tampa Bay’s starting linebackers the team’s leading tacklers on the day. They played an integral role in containing and pressuring Vick on Sunday.
With the Bucs leading 20-0 in the fourth quarter, Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin decided to play some backup players. That decision paid off when backup LB Ryan Nece intercepted Falcons backup QB Matt Schaub and pitched the ball back to cornerback Corey Ivy, who returned the ball into Falcons’ territory. That great play set up FB Mike Alstott’s touchdown.
*Falcons QB Michael Vick completed 13 of 27 passes (48 percent) for 115 yards. He was sacked five times and picked off twice for a quarterback rating of 29.1.
Bucs safety Dwight Smith might have had his best game of the 2004 season on Sunday. He intercepted QB Michael Vick in the second quarter after No. 7’s third-and-1 pass to WR Dez White was tipped in the back of the end zone by LB Derrick Brooks. On the previous play, Smith tackled Falcons RB T.J. Duckett just short of the goal line to prevent the touchdown and force third down. He was charged with the difficult task of covering Falcons TE Alge Crumpler throughout most of Sunday’s game, but he did an excellent job, limiting Crumpler to one catch for five yards. Smith finished the game with five tackles and one pick.
With the exception of a 22-yard gain on a play where it appeared the receiver pushed off, Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly owned Falcons WR Peerless Price on Sunday. Kelly, who notched four tackles and two passes defensed, held Price to just two catches for 30 yards. In the fourth quarter with Atlanta attempting to push the ball over the goal line for the first time in the game, Kelly preserved the Bucs’ shutout by picking off Vick on the sideline near the goal line and racing all the way back to the Bucs’ 26-yard line. Four plays later, FB Mike Alstott scored the touchdown that put the Bucs up 27-0.
Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber recorded four tackles and one pass defensed.
With Torrie Cox inactive for Sunday’s game following his DUI arrest on Saturday morning, Bucs CB Mario Edwards did a nice job of filling the nickel cornerback role against the Falcons. Although Edwards didn’t record a tackle, he didn’t allow any big pass plays, either.
Bucs backup S Dexter Jackson recorded three tackles before leaving the game with an injured hamstring. Starting S John Howell notched just one tackle. Backup S Will Allen broke up a pass in the fourth quarter.
*The Falcons converted just 5-of-14 (36 percent) of their third down tries Sunday.
New Bucs kicker Jay Taylor was 2-of-2 on field goal attempts Sunday, and he ignited his team’s sideline and the crown at Raymond James Stadium in the second quarter when his 50-yard field goal attempt, his first in the NFL, just barely made it through the uprights. That huge kick put the Bucs up 10-0. Later in that same quarter, Taylor drilled a 30-yarder, putting the Bucs up 13-0 at halftime. His kickoffs were a big short, but that might have been by design.
Punter Josh Bidwell averaged 42.4 yards per attempt on five attempts. His longest was a 57-yarder. He pinned one punt inside the 20-yard line.
Joey Galloway had a 13-yard punt return in the second half. Ian Smart, who was fielding kickoffs in place of Torrie Cox, had a 17-yard return.
Tampa Bay’s coverage units were outstanding Sunday. In the fourth quarter and Atlanta facing a fourth down, the Falcons tried to fake it by having punter Chris Mohr pass down the sideline to WR Michael Jenkins, but Bucs CB Ronde Barber did a nice job of defending the pass, which went incomplete.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden got his team to respond quite nicely after last Sunday’s devastating loss to the Panthers. The Bucs were a team that was clearly playing with no room for error and their playoff hopes on the line. Gruden did a nice job of preparing his team to play and win a physical contest against the Falcons, who dominated them in the trenches in Week 10. Gruden’s play calling was impressive, and it was nice to see the offense finish off drives after turnovers. However, Gruden needs to have QB Brian Griese mix up the snap counts a bit. The Falcons were jumping right off the snap way too often Sunday.
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s game plan for Falcons QB Michael Vick and Co. was genius. Kiffin did a terrific job of disguising coverages, and Vick was clearly confused all game long.
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