Tampa Bay spent Monday licking its wounds after suffering a 15-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

The loss, which was Tampa Bay’s second of the season, came at the hands of a San Francisco team that entered Sunday’s contest with a 1-5 record and one of the league’s worst offenses and defenses.

While some would say the entire Bucs team came out flat vs. the 49ers, head coach Jon Gruden suggested Monday that the offense deserved most of the blame for the loss.

“I don’t know how flat we were defensively,” said Gruden. “I mean, we gave up 50 yards passing, I think we gave up 200 yards of total offense and we gave up a couple first downs. If that’s coming out flat, that’s a bit unrealistic. Offensively, the tape is out there. We had a couple golden opportunities to make plays; we didn’t make plays. We took some negative plays to the bank in the second half, the interceptions, the sacks, our inability to come off the ball and run it. (Defensive end) Bryant Young had a lot to do with our dysfunction yesterday, if you want to be honest. He hurt us big time.”

While Young, who notched two sacks and a forced fumble, was certainly a factor, quarterback Chris Simms struggled mightily in his first start of the season. He completed 21-of-34 passes for 264 yards and tossed one touchdown and two interceptions, both of which led to 49er field goals.

In a lot of ways, Simms’ lackluster performance vs. the 49ers reminded Gruden of the third-year quarterback’s outing last year in Arizona.

“There are a lot of similarities to that game in more ways than one yesterday,” Gruden said. “He was quick at times. And when we tried to get him to slow his rhythm down a little bit, maybe he slowed it down too much. Speed it up. Slow it down. And I just never felt that he was fully in rhythm, like he has been in the second half against Miami. I’m going to get to the bottom of that today. He had some reads that he routinely makes. He had some throws that he normally routinely makes, and hits. We just didn’t do that yesterday. He did do some good things. But clearly we have a long way to go.”

The Bucs realize that Simms will have to develop into a better quarterback in a hurry if they are to have a shot at making the playoffs this season.

“Most important, it’s very important,” Gruden said when asked how important it was for Simms to develop quickly. “And when those North Carolina Panthers come in here after seeing what they’ve done defensively, as we’ve seen with the Redskins. The schedule doesn’t get any easier. Our job is to do everything we can to help him. His job is obviously to make plays and move this football team and help us score and win games. And eliminate turnovers, negative plays, sacks. Those are areas that must be cleaned up in a hurry. And he’ll be the quarterback this week again. Hopefully he can do that.”

Simms did do some good things. For starters, he continued to feed the ball to hottest player on the team – wide receiver Joey Galloway, who hauled in eight passes for 148 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. He also connected with WR Michael Clayton four times for 30 yards and tight end Alex Smith twice for 43 yards.

Despite delivering those passes, Gruden said there were plenty of other plays to be made in the passing game that weren’t.

“We felt we got some really good looks on tape,” Gruden said. “We didn’t always have the protection. And we didn’t always get to our primary reads and rhythm. We were a little early at times. We were a little late at times. But we were out of sync most of the day. I thought he Galloway had a great performance. I thought Mike Clayton did a couple things early. We were unable later in the second half, which obviously was disappointing.”

Despite suffering the loss to the 49ers, the Bucs are in a three-way tie with the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers for first place in the NFC South division.

The Bucs will play the 5-2 Panthers at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. That’s not necessarily a good thing when considering the fact that Carolina has defeated Tampa Bay four straight times and is on a four-game winning streak. The Bucs certainly know they have their work cut out for them on Sunday.

“They’re scary good,” Gruden said of the Panthers. “They have a great defensive scheme. They’re going to blitz – corners, safeties, sometimes corners and safeties on the same play. When they just rush four they have a very good pass rush. [Running back] Stephen Davis is back. They have a big-play wide receiver here in [Wide receiver Steve] Smith. They’re a well-rounded football team and they’re clearly hot right now. We’re excited to play them and excited to be back at home.”

Tampa Bay has produced a 3-0 record at home this season and must remain undefeated at Ray-Jay if the Bucs and Simms are to rebound from their devastating loss to the 49ers and remain in first place in the NFC South division.

“We’re putting together our football team,” said Gruden. “We’re playing a lot of young guys. Clearly, yesterday we had some young players not play their best football. I’m not going to say it was just young players or young head coaches or young people. It was a setback for us. We’re not worried about the Falcons or the Panthers, we’re worried about our team and how we can get better. Clearly the quarterback, the guy who touches the ball on every snap, has got to play an error-free football game for us to win. We talked about eliminating turnovers and negative plays; we didn’t do that yesterday. We talked about leaning on the running game. We’ve been able to do that in victory; we’ve been unable to do that, obviously, in our two road defeats. Whatever we’ve got to do to find a way to run the ball better, we’ve got to do that. We’ve got to help this quarterback and he’s got to help himself sometimes as well.”

While he acknowledged Tampa Bay’s need to improve in several areas, Gruden didn’t hesitate to express his confidence in his team.

“I’m confident. Yes, we’re going to prepare hard,” Gruden said. “We’re going to go out here and work extremely hard to try and put our best performance together of the year. I really am excited about the guys that are coming to work with the right look in their eyes. We’re not going to let one defeat or two defeats or a negative road trip set us back from our goals. We realize this is a work in progress, this football team. We have a long way to go to get it where we want it to be. We’re competing, we’ve been in seven football games, we’ve won five. We’ve got more than half the season left to go. We’ve got a dramatic change right now at quarterback. And we’ll try to get much better and certainly give him much better support, offensive scheme and hopefully balance that will allow him to have some success.”

BUCS-REDSKINS GAME TO KICKOFF AT 4:15 PM
The NFL announced Monday that the Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers contest on Nov. 13 will kickoff at 4:15 PM ET. Kickoff was originally scheduled for 1:00 PM ET.

RUNNING GAME GROUNDED
After missing two straight games with a lingering foot/hamstring injury, Bucs rookie running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams started Sunday vs. the 49ers. However, he was ineffective, rushing 13 times for 20 yards (1.5 avg.).

“Well, he was hurt against Detroit,” Gruden said of Williams. “And Detroit is very good against the run. Yesterday, I don’t think it was just him. We need to do a much better job getting started. He got hit many times in the backfield. At, or near, the line of scrimmage. And no matter what kind of back you are, this is tough sledding.”

In fact, Tampa Bay’s entire ground game was ineffective. The Bucs rushed for 43 yards on 20 carries (2.2 avg.) on Sunday, which caused them to drop from 5th to 11th in the NFL in rushing offense.

Tampa Bay expects opposing defenses to stack the line of scrimmage in anticipation of the run until Simms can prove to be a legitimate weapon in the passing game.

“There’s ways to run the ball,” Gruden said. “There is not a team in this league that doesn’t jump into an eight-man front. Everybody thinks we play a Tampa 2 on every down. We’re in an eight-man front a lot on first and second-and-short, second-and-medium, as is everyone. It’s where your wide receivers come into play, tight ends certainly. Sometimes your quarterback has to check a run the other way or he’s got to get out of the run. Lo and behold that’s where you sometimes have to throw the ball and create your big plays in the passing game when you get single coverages and things of that nature. But you have to be creative and you have to be persistent in terms of running the ball. I think we had 13 rushes yesterday of one yard or less. And after you hit your head up against the wall 13 times, maybe there’s a better way to get some yards, know what I mean. And we put a lot of pressure on ourselves from that standpoint. And largely rested on Chris Simms’ shoulders and yesterday wasn’t his best stuff.”

BUCS READY TO MOVE ON AFTER DISCIPLINING RICE
Tampa Bay dealt with a distraction on Saturday night when defensive end Simeon Rice failed to show up for a mandatory team meeting. His actions prompted the Bucs to take action, making him inactive for Sunday’s game vs. the 49ers and sending him back to Tampa on his own.

Gruden said Monday that the decision on what to do with Rice was made after collaborating with the team’s coaches and general manager Bruce Allen.

“We considered a lot of things,” Gruden said. “We met as an organization, coaches, and obviously Bruce Allen. We felt the best thing to do was to send him back to Tampa, and play the football game. I didn’t want to have a lot of discussions on the sidelines in regards of what happened, or why he did what he did. I didn’t want any of that. We’re just going to play the football game and we’re going to move on and get ready for Carolina next week.”

Last year, Rice publicly criticized Gruden for what he perceived to be a lack of discipline on the Bucs football team. However, Rice has since skipped out on a mandatory meeting in Arizona in Week 17 of the 2004 regular season and pulled a similar stunt on Saturday night.

The first skipped meeting led to what was believed to be a fine handed down by the Bucs. The second incident had much stiffer consequences, and Gruden hopes it will be the last time both he and the team have to punish Rice for disciplinary reasons.

“I understood his comments,” Gruden said when asked about Rice’s criticism toward the end of the 2004 season. “We met regarding his comments last year. That whole situation is done and over with. The only thing that is going to be said here is, we feel we did something we had to do as a football team. And we’re going to put this behind us and move forward. We don’t like to do disciplinary actions. But sometimes that’s what that world is all about. If you are going to have rules, and things of that nature, you have to be restrictive and you have to be forceful in terms of how you apply them.”

Gruden went on to say that Rice would be back for Tampa Bay’s game vs. Carolina.

“I did not talk to him. I’ll talk to him either today or tomorrow,” Gruden said. “This is a team policy. I didn’t find out about exactly what we were going to do until we slept on it and met as a coaching staff and as an organization the next morning. We put all our heads together and we met on it, we felt it was the best thing to do for our football team. It’s over with. It’s done with. We need Simeon Rice back. I think he understands that. And we’re looking forward to seeing him.”

PENALTIES STILL PLAGUING BUCS
Tampa Bay was penalized eight times for 65 yards vs. San Francisco.

The Bucs have been penalized 70 times for 573 yards through seven regular season games, which is a problem the team is apparently prepared to take drastic measures to remedy.

“No, they don’t,” Gruden said when asked if the Bucs had problems with penalties in practices leading up to their games. “That’s why it’s hard to simulate a game atmosphere and the crowd noise, we simulate that. It’s hard to simulate the emotions, the excitement of early parts of games. Clearly we had a couple guys get a little ambitious and jump the gun. The penalties that really hurt us were in the kicking game, once again. We really hurt ourselves in terms of field position. But we have to eliminate the penalties or the players who are committing the penalties or certainly the coach who can’t get the penalties stopped. One of those three.”

INJURY REPORT
Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks suffered a hamstring strain midway through Sunday’s game. The team expects to determine the severity of the injury by Wednesday.

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