This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider 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.
DEFENSIVE LINE Tampa Bay's defense forced New York's offense to go three-and-out three straight drives to open Sunday's Wild Card playoff game at Raymond James Stadium.
As a result, the Bucs out-gained the Giants in the first quarter, 78 yards to minus-2 yards. While they were able to hold the Giants to 100 yards rushing on 30 carries (3.3 avg.) and one touchdown, the Bucs defensive line was unable to sustain a potent pass rush on quarterback Eli Manning, which allowed him to pick apart Tampa Bay's secondary.
Bucs rookie defensive end Gaines Adams notched the team's only sack of the game in the first quarter when he exploded off of the left side of the line and beat right tackle Kareem McKenzie around the corner to take down Manning on the third-and-9 play. That sack came two plays after Adams had been called for a neutral zone infraction. Adams finished Sunday's game with five tackles and one sack.
Tampa Bay under tackle Jovan Haye was able to get good penetration up front on running plays. On the third drive of the game in the first quarter Haye broke into the backfield and took down running back Brandon Jacobs for a 4-yard loss. Haye notched five tackles on Sunday.
Bucs nose tackle Chris Hovan and middle linebacker Barrett Ruud teamed up to stuff Jacobs for no gain on a third-and-1 play on the second series of Sunday's contest. That impressive stop on the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Jacobs forced the Giants to punt. Hovan recorded two tackles on Sunday.
Tampa Bay defensive ends Kevin Carter and Greg Spires notched three and two tackles, respectively, While they played fairly well vs. the run, neither player provided much of a pass rush.
Bucs first-year DE Greg White, who led the team in sacks with eight during the regular season, was practically unheard of on Sunday. He finished Sunday's game with no tackles.
Jacobs finished Sunday's contest with 13 carries for 34 yards (2.6 avg.) and RB Ahmad Bradshaw carried the ball 17 times for 66 yards (3.9 avg.). However, Jacobs' 8-yard run and 5-yard reception in the second quarter both went for touchdowns and capped off 65- and 53-yard drives by the Giants.
The lack of pass rush also allowed Manning, who entered this game completing less than 60 percent of his passes on the season, to complete 20-of-27 (74 percent) passes for 185 yards and toss two touchdowns and one interception while getting sacked just one time vs. the Buccaneers.
New York converted 5-of-12 (42 percent) of its third down attempts vs. Tampa Bay.
LINEBACKERS Tampa Bay's linebackers were solid vs. the run, but this unit had trouble defending the pass on short-to-intermediate passes from quarterback Eli Manning.
Weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks led this unit in tackles with 11. On the fourth drive of the game, Brooks whiffed on a short pass from Manning to RB Brandon Jacobs. That miss allowed Jacobs to haul in the pass and run the ball into the end zone for a 5-yard score, capping off an eight-play, 53-yard drive that tied the game at 7-7.
Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud was a big reason why Tampa Bay's defense was so successful against New York's ground attack in the first quarter. Ruud made a great tackle on one of Jacob's perimeter runs on the opening drive. That takedown resulted in a 2-yard loss. On the next series, Ruud helped DT Chris Hovan stuff Jacobs on a third-and-1 run to force a punt. Ruud notched nine tackles vs. the Giants.
Bucs strongside linebacker Cato June was inactive for Sunday's game due to a foot injury he sustained vs. Carolina last week. Sixth-year LB Ryan Nece started in his place. Nece quietly notched five tackles for the Bucs.
Jacobs and RB Ahmad Bradshaw combined for three catches for 25 yards and one touchdown while tight end Kevin Boss caught two passes for 14 yards.
SECONDARY Due in part by Tampa Bay's inability to pressure New York quarterback Eli Manning, the Giants, who produced 277 yards of total offense, had success moving the ball through the air vs. the Bucs.
Manning completed 20-of-27 (74 percent) of his passes for 185 yards and tossed two touchdowns while getting sacked just one time.
The Bucs forced the Giants to go three-and-out three straight times to start the game, but then Manning found his rhythm. He finished the first half completing 11-of-14 passes for 108 yards and tossed two touchdowns. Manning led the Giants on an eight-play, 53-yard drive and seven-play, 65-yard drive, both of which ended with touchdowns by Jacobs in the second quarter.
Manning found wide receiver Amani Toomer three times for 40 yards on New York's first scoring drive of the game. Bucs cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly, and strong safety Jermaine Phillips had trouble containing Toomer, who finished Sunday's game with a team-high seven receptions for 74 yards and one touchdown. His touchdown grab came in the fourth quarter when Manning threw a perfect strike to Toomer before Phillips could get there in time. That touchdown grab capped off New York's 15-play, 92-yard drive.
One of the reasons the Bucs had trouble defending the pass on Sunday was because they lost rookie free safety Tanard Jackson early due to a knee injury. He did not return and was replaced by Kalvin Pearson, who notched just one tackle before leaving the game injured. He was replaced by S Will Allen.
Although he only caught four passes for 38 yards vs. the Bucs, WR Plaxico Burress did significant damage to Tampa Bay's secondary in the second quarter when he hauled in an 11-yard pass for a first down vs. Brooks and Kelly and then a pass for a 9-yard gain to the Bucs' 37-yard line vs. Barber. Those two catches helped the Giants engineer a seven-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a touchdown.
Manning's ability to work the ball through Tampa Bay's secondary allowed New York to continue to move the chains. As a result, the Giants dominated the time of possession, 33:31 to 26:29.
Phillips had a shaky game in pass coverage and led the Bucs in tackles with 11. Barber recorded five tackles while Kelly, who made a key tackle on a third-and-goal play to force the Giants to kick a field goal in the third quarter, recorded three takedowns. Bucs CB Phillip Buchanon notched just one tackle.
SPECIAL TEAMS This unit was responsible for a costly gaffe that came on the opening play of the second half when wide receiver Micheal Spurlock fumbled the opening kickoff in the third quarter. The Giants, who already had a 14-7 lead at that point, recovered the loose ball near the sideline on the Bucs' 30-yard line. They drove 23 yards on nine plays and eventually settled for a 23-yard field goal, which extended their lead to 17-7. Spurlock was ineffective as a return man, averaging 21.2 yards per return on five attempts.
Bucs punter Josh Bidwell got quite a bit of work in on Sunday. Although he averaged just 36.8 yards per punt, Bidwell pinned three of his five attempts inside the 20-yard line. In the third quarter, Bidwell got off a great punt that pinned the Giants on their own 8-yard line. However, New York's offense drove 92 yards on 15 plays on a drive that was capped off by wide receiver Amani Toomer's 4-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Eli Manning, which put the Giants up 24-7.
Tampa Bay's coverage units were solid. The Bucs held R.W. McQuarters to 7.5 yards per punt return and Domenik Dixon to 18.5 yards per kickoff return on two attempts.
Bucs safety Will Allen was called for holding on Spurlock's kickoff return in the fourth quarter. Fullback Byron Storer led this unit with two tackles on Sunday.
COACHING Two weeks of preparation and rest didn't seem to do the Buccaneers much good vs. the Giants as they were handled fairly easily by the visiting New York team on Sunday.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's offense was inept, producing just 271 yards and failing to sustain drives. The fact that this unit converted 9-of-14 (64 percent) of its third downs is deceiving to say the least. In Gruden's defense, Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia had an off day while playing under heavy duress, throwing two interceptions, and wide receiver Joey Galloway re-aggravated a shoulder injury, which resulted in him catching just one pass for 9 yards. Still, Tampa Bay's inability to move the ball put the defense in some not-so-favorable situations and gave New York a short field to work with far too often.
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin might have focused too much on getting his players ready to stop running back Brandon Jacobs and Co. The Bucs did a nice job of containing Jacobs, who rushed for just 34 yards on 13 attempts (2.6 avg.). However, he still managed to make two big plays that resulted in touchdowns. Tampa Bay's biggest flaw was its inability to get pressure on Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who managed to complete 74 percent of his passes and throw for 185 yards and toss two touchdowns. More importantly, the Bucs defense failed to create a single turnover and hold the Giants offense to field goals instead of touchdowns on three of their four trips inside the red zone.
Bucs special teams coach Richard Bisaccia had his group prepared, but Micheal Spurlock's fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half completed deflated the team and handed the Giants three points.
Want the inside scoop on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2007 season and 2008 offseason plans? Want to find out who the Bucs are targeting in free agency and the NFL Draft next year? Subscribe to PewterReport.com's Pewter Insider by clickinghere.
LISTEN to Pewter Report's Jim Flynn each Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. on the Pewter Pulse with Dan Sileo on WDAE 620 AM The Sports Animal, and catch Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds each Wednesday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. on the PewterReport.com Buccaneer Blitz with Steve Duemig on WDAE 620 AM The Sports Animal.