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QUARTERBACKS:
Tampa Bay quarterback Brian Griese was sensational during Sunday’s big 34-31 win over Kansas City. Griese did a nice job of playing mistake-free football in what turned into a shootout at Raymond James Stadium. Griese was exceptional in the first half, especially off of play-action passes, which Bucs head coach Jon Gruden called plenty of on Sunday. Griese’s longest throw came in the first quarter when he hit rookie wide receiver Michael Clayton for a 56-yard gain. Perhaps Griese’s most impressive play came in the second quarter when he audibled out of a run play at the goal line in an effort to get the ball to an uncovered Ken Dilger in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown, which put the Bucs up 21-17. In addition to those plays, Griese made a great throw to Clayton, who was covered by four players, off a fee flicker, but the rookie couldn’t quite come up with the reception. Bucs WR Joey Galloway let a perfect strike from Griese slip through his hands in the second quarter. Had he hauled in the pass, Galloway would’ve easily scored, but luckily for the Pewter Pirates, Griese would connect with Dilger for a score a few plays later. Griese engineered 73, 71, 67, 78 and 80-yard scoring drives while completing 22-of-34 (64.7 percent) passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions. One of his few mistakes came in the second quarter on a third-and-10 play when Griese was called for intentional grounding, which eventually gave the Chiefs great field position after the change in possession.

*Tampa Bay was 3-of-9 (33 percent) on its third down attempts.

GRADE: A


RUNNING BACKS:
After rushing for just 11 yards and a 1-yard touchdown in the first half, Bucs running back Michael Pittman started off the second half with a bang, taking his first carry 78 yards upfield for a touchdown, which put the Bucs up 28-24. In the fourth quarter, Pittman, who ran with authority and displayed good field vision and balance, especially in the second half, took a pitch from QB Brian Griese into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown, which proved to be the game-winning score. In addition to those stats, Pittman added two catches for 30 yards, including a 24-yarder in the third quarter, and did a good job of picking up several blitzes in the offensive backfield on pass plays. He finished the game with 15 carries for 128 yards (8.5 avg.) and scored a career-high three touchdowns.

One of the reasons Pittman fared well Sunday was because of the play of Jameel Cook, who started at fullback in place of Mike Alstott. Cook did a nice job of lead blocking for Pittman and threw a key block on Pittman’s 78-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Cook also played a part in the passing game, where he hauled in a 8-yard throw from QB Brian Griese off play action in the flat for a score in the first quarter.

*Tampa Bay rushed 20 times for 130 yards (6.5 avg.) and three touchdowns.

GRADE: A


WIDE RECEIVERS:
To the surprise of many, Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway, who had been questionable all week with a sore groin, returned to action Sunday, but it was rookie WR Michael Clayton who led this group and made the most significant impact of the team’s receiving corps. Clayton took his first reception in the first quarter upfield for a 56-yard gain. He did a great job of stiff arming safety James Woods and juking cornerback William Bartee en route to setting up the Bucs’ first touchdown of the game. In the second quarter, Clayton did a great job of getting open around four defenders on a flee-flicker pass play downfield, and although he got himself open for the catch, a replay showed that he dropped it. At the beginning of the third quarter, Clayton was one of several players who made a key block to spring RB Michael Pittman loose on his 78-yard touchdown run. Although he was impressive against the Chiefs, Clayton also picked up a costly unnecessary roughness penalty and a facemask infraction on Sunday. He finished the contest with five catches for 90 yards.

Galloway saw some significant action, but he didn’t appear to be 100 percent healthy. In fact, after catching two passes for 40 yards, one of which was good enough for a 21-yard gain and a first down on Kansas City’s 3-yard line on a third-and-10 play, and drawing a holding penalty in the third quarter, Galloway left the game with a hip injury. Galloway’s biggest play of the game came close to being the one he didn’t make. It happened in the second quarter when Galloway beat the defender on the way to the end zone but let the perfectly thrown pass slip right through his hands. Luckily for Galloway, the Bucs still managed to score a touchdown on that drive.

Joe Jurevicius started at the split-end spot and hauled in three passes for 43 yards. His biggest grab came in the fourth quarter when he hauled in a pass from Griese and raced upfield for a 23-yard gain. That play helped the Bucs drive down the field and score the game-winning touchdown. Jurevicius also threw a great block on Clayton’s 56-yard catch and run.

Bucs WR Tim Brown saw very limited action and his consecutive catch streak, which was the longest of any current NFL player, came to an end at 179 games.

*The Bucs produced 459 yards of total offense against the Chiefs.

GRADE: A-


TIGHT ENDS:
Tampa Bay tight ends Ken Dilger and Will Heller continued to be more involved in the offense with QB Brian Griese in the lineup. Dilger turned in several key plays, including a key block upfield on WR Michael Clayton’s 56-yard reception in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Dilger found himself wide open on the goal line and signalled to Griese, who then audibled from a run play to a pass play. Griese took the snap from center and easily connected with the uncovered Dilger for a touchdown, which put the Bucs up 21-17. He finished the game with five catches for 47 yards and one score.

Dilger and Heller did a nice job of opening up holes in the running game, especially in the second half. Heller also hauled in a 22-yard pass off play action in the first quarter.

GRADE: A


OFFENSIVE LINE:
Tampa Bay’s offensive line suffered a significant loss in the first quarter when center John Wade had to be carted off the field with a left knee injury. He didn’t return. However, second-year guard/C Sean Mahan filled in admirably and the offense didn’t miss a beat. After the game, QB Brian Griese credited Mahan with making several critical adjustments at the line of scrimmage that allowed the Bucs to turn in some big plays.

Although Mahan and the rest of Tampa Bay’s offensive line provided Griese with a small pocket to throw out of for the majority of the game, they did a great job of keeping defenders away from their starting signal caller. The pocket, although small, was good enough for Griese to make plays out of. Griese was sacked just one time on Sunday. In addition to their excellent pass protection, the O-line won several battles in the trenches during the second half, which allowed the ground game to get going.

In an interesting note, Bucs right tackle Todd Steussie, who was benched a few weeks ago in favor of Kenyatta Walker, reported as an eligible receiver several times Sunday. However, he didn’t catch a pass.

GRADE: A


DEFENSIVE LINE:
Despite losing under tackle Anthony “Booger” McFarland to a shoulder injury during the first half of Sunday’s game, Tampa Bay’s defensive line, which featured defensive end Dewayne White and recently promoted DT Jon Bradley rotating at the tackle positions, halted Kansas City’s potent ground attack. Chiefs running back Priest Holmes rushed 16 times for 59 yards before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with some type of injury. Holmes’ longest run was a 13-yarder, and his touchdown run was from 2-yards out.

Tampa Bay’s pass rush was almost non-existent in the first half, which allowed Green to pick apart the secondary, but the Bucs’ front four came up huge late in the game. Right defensive end Simeon Rice, who battled Chiefs left tackle Willie Roaf throughout the afternoon, applied pressure on quarterback Trent Green, including a play late in the fourth quarter when he appeared to sack Green and cause a fumble, which linebacker Ian Gold recovered. However, a replay overturned that call, which set up a fourth-and-16 play, but White, who had a costly holding penalty on a third-and-9 play earlier in the fourth quarter, sacked Green on that play to secure the win for the Bucs. Rice recorded three tackles and White had two tackles.

Left DE Greg Spires was Tampa Bay’s biggest weapon up front. He led all linemen with eight tackles, including a couple of tackles on Holmes that went for losses.

Bradley recorded two tackles, and starting NT Chartric Darby notched three of his own.

*Kansas City rushed 30 times for 105 yards (3.5 avg.) and one touchdown.

GRADE: B+


LINEBACKERS:
Tampa Bay’s linebackers had a tough time covering Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez, who hauled in nine passes for 123 yards and one touchdown on Sunday. Gonzalez’s touchdown came on a 23-yard reception from QB Trent Green with just 30 seconds remaining in the first half. Bucs middle linebacker Shelton Quarles appeared to not drop back far enough in coverage on the play, which capped off a six-play, 64-yard drive, which took just 1:20. Quarles notched three tackles.

Bucs weakside LB Derrick Brooks had an active day, recording a team-high 13 tackles and one pass defensed. Brooks hit Green’s arm on the pass play that was intercepted by S Jermaine Phillips in the fourth quarter. Strongside LB Ian Gold was also productive, especially against Kansas City’s screen plays. He finished the game with five tackles. Brooks, Gold and Quarles were solid in terms of tackling and play against the run.

*Kansas City had 27 first downs against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

GRADE: B


SECONDARY:
Bucs safeties Dwight Smith and Jermaine Phillips came up huge against the Chiefs on Sunday afternoon.

Tampa Bay’s first defensive pressure of the game on QB Trent Green came in the first quarter when Phillips blitzed and drilled him on a third-and-8 play. Unfortunately for Phillips and Co. Green hit WR Johnnie Morton for a 25-yard touchdown on the play. Phillips’ biggest play came in the fourth quarter when he intercepted Green in the back of the end zone. On the next series, Phillips was called for a facemask penalty, which gave the Chiefs a first down. Phillips, who played despite suffering a broken bone in his wrist, recorded two tackles, one pick and one pass defensed.

Smith’s plays were even bigger. With Kansas City and Tampa Bay tied at 7 apiece and the Chiefs facing a third-and-12 play in the first quarter, Green hit WR Eddie Kennison for a 55-yard play that appeared to be headed for a touchdown. Instead of giving up on the play, Smith turned on the jets and caught up to Kennison. In the process of tackling him on the 3-yard line, Smith forced Kennison to fumble the ball, which rolled into the end zone. That great play allowed Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly to recover and bring the ball back out to the 30-yard line. In the third quarter, Smith came up huge again when he intercepted Green on a play-action pass attempt. Smith, who had to leave the game several times due to dehydration, finished the game with five tackles, one forced fumble, one pick and one pass defensed.

In addition to his big fumble recovery, Kelly quietly recorded seven tackles on Sunday. Ronde Barber sacked Green and caused a fumble on Kansas City’s final drive of the game, but the Chiefs recovered the ball. He finished the game with nine tackles. Kennison hauled in six passes for 104 yards, but most of his production came off of missed tackles.

Tampa Bay’s lack of pass rush up front appeared to leave its secondary venerable at times, and although Barber and Kelly played well, nickel corner Mario Edwards struggled. In the first quarter on a third-and-8 play, Green connected with WR Johnnie Morton, who had beat Edwards, for a 25-yard score, which put the Chiefs up 7-0. On Kansas City’s next drive, Edwards was called for a 15-yard penalty (illegal hands to the face), which gave the Chiefs a first down on a play where an errant pass fell incomplete on second-and-26. In the third quarter, Edwards made a great play on a third-down play to force the Chiefs’ first punt of the contest, but he should’ve intercepted it. Edwards finished the game with two tackles.

Rookie S Will Allen took Smith’s place several times due to Smith’s dehydration issues. He recorded two tackles. Backup S John Howell notched one tackle.

*Kansas City QB Trent Green completed 32-of-42 passes (76.1 percent) for 369 yards and tossed three touchdowns and two interceptions. The Chiefs produced 459 yards of total offense.

GRADE: B


SPECIAL TEAMS:
With the Bucs trailing the Chiefs 24-21, fullback Greg Comella fielded a squib kick near the end of the first half and returned it 20 yards to the 50-yard line, but kicker Martin Gramatica missed a 46-yard field goal attempt as time expired. He also missed a extra point in the fourth quarter, but that play can be attributed to Dave Moore’s high long snap. One of Gramatica’s kickoffs also went out of bounds, which gave the Chiefs the ball at the 40-yard line.

Tampa Bay did a nice job of containing Kansas City return specialist Dante Hall. He averaged 21 yards per kickoff return and 21 yards per punt return. His biggest play came on a 21-yard punt return.

Bucs return specialist Torrie Cox gave the Bucs great field position throughout the game by averaging 22 yards per kickoff return. His longest was a 27-yarder. Punt returner Joey Galloway fielded one punt and returned it two yards.

GRADE: C


COACHING:
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was on his game Sunday. His play calling was aggressive, evidenced by his decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 in the first half, and simply outstanding. A nice mix of play-action plays and rollouts kept Kansas City’s defense off balance and made Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham conservative from a blitzing standpoint, especially in the first half. Gruden called some great plays in critical down-and-distance situations, and QB Brian Griese did a nice job of executing them. The Bucs were fortunate enough to overcome their 10 penalties for 95 yards.

Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s unit struggled to get pressure on Kansas City QB Trent Green in the first half. Perhaps Kiffin should’ve called more blitzes since the front four wasn’t getting penetration, but perhaps S Jermaine Phillips’ blitz play in the first quarter, which creamed Green, still resulted in a touchdown for the Chiefs. That may have made Kiffin a little hesitant to call more blitzes, but he called a couple of key blitz plays late in the fourth quarter that rattled Green and resulted in a couple of sacks and turnovers.

Bucs special teams coach Richard Bisaccia deserves credit for formulating a good game plan for containing Chiefs Dante Hall, who is one of the league’s most dangerous returners. Martin Gramatica’s kicking woes aren’t Bisaccia’s fault.

GRADE: A
This story is intended to be read only by PewterInsider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers. Be sure to read the latest issue of Pewter Report on-line in PDF format on PewterReport.com. Buccaneers merchandise in the world.

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