DEFENSIVE LINE Tampa Bay's defense caused two turnovers coming from the defensive line, but was unable to get off the field on third down and allowed the Texans to control the tempo of the game and time of possession. Despite getting three sacks, all coming from defensive end Greg White, Houston quarterback Sage Rosenfels was able to sit in the pocket and pick apart the Bucs secondary for most of the game. The Bucs only recorded four hurries along with three sacks in 36 pass attempts by the Texans
When the Bucs needed a big stop with just over nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the defense was unable to get the ball right back to the offense. Instead of forcing and three-and-out, the Texans were able to run almost four minutes off the clock. Houston had two third down conversions on the drive, including a 2-yard sneak by Rosenfels.
The defensive line wasn't able to generate much of a pass rush on Rosenfels in the first half. The Bucs got two sacks from defensive end Greg White, but he was the only player that was able to get his hands on Rosenfels in the half. The defense allowed the Texans to convert several third downs. Houston went 5-of-8 on third downs in the first half and capitalized on the only turnover by the Bucs offense.
On the first drive of the game for Houston, the defensive line couldn't get any pressure on Rosenfels. The Bucs also couldn't get off the field on third down allowing three conversions, including the 4-yard touchdown pass from Rosenfels to wide receiver Andre Johnson that concluded the drive.
Defensive ends Kevin Carter and Gaines Adams were coming from the backside on a third-and-6 play on the first drive, but wasn't able to get to Rosenfels as he completed a 6-yard pass to running back Ron Dayne for a first down. Adams and Carter had a quiet performance off the edge with a combined six tackles and one quarterback hurry.
White made his presence known in the second quarter on consecutive plays. On second-and-6, he beat Houston left tackle Ephraim Salaam with a bull rush move and swatted at Rosenfels as the ball was almost picked off by linebacker Derrick Brooks. On third down, White got to Rosenfels again with a swim move and did swat the ball out of his hand and forced a fumble that defensive tackle Jovan Haye recovered.
Haye finished the game with three tackles, but also had two fumble recoveries as well. Haye came up with the ball when White forced his second fumble of the game in the third quarter. The Texans didn't have a dominant performance running the ball, yet was able to run the clock and move the ball on the ground when they needed to. Defensive tackle Chris Hovan had three tackles and defensive end Patrick Chukwurah had one tackle.
Houston's offense produced 257 yards and converted 10-of-17 (59 percent) of its third down attempts vs. Tampa Bay.
LINEBACKERS The Bucs linebackers were exploited in pass coverage by Rosenfels and were beaten on several pass plays. After Dayne went out with an ankle injury, the Bucs defense focused on stopping rookie running back Darius Walker. Walker, however, was able to find creases and slip out of the backfield to make a couple of plays. Walker finished the game with 81 yards total offense, 46 yards rushing and 35 yards receiving.
Linebacker Derrick Brooks was second on the team with seven tackles. Brooks, however, was frozen on a play-action fake by Rosenfels on a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Owen Daniels. Number 55 tried to reach up and knock down the ball, but it was out of his reach. Brooks had another solid performance in the run game as he blew up a run early in the first quarter on a first-and-10 play. He fought off a block on a sweep play by Dayne and cut down the hefty running back with a nice tackle for a minus-2-yard gain.
Linebacker Cato June tied with Brooks for second with seven tackles and had one pass defensed. June missed a tackle on a fourth quarter drive that gave Houston and third-and-1 that it was able to convert to run more time off the clock. Rosenfels threw a check-down route to Walker and June had the opportunity to hold him to a short gain, but whiffed on the takedown.
Linebacker Barrett Ruud has struggled in the middle after a great start to the season and finished with six tackles. The Texans attacked the middle of the field with Johnson and Daniels and was successful throwing the ball in that area. Ruud came on a blitz on a first-and-10 play on the first drive by the Texans, but was late getting to Rosenfels as he found Johnson for a 15-yard reception. Ruud got caught in a mismatch in the third quarter covering Johnson down the field and gave up a 17-yard reception. A play before that, Ruud missed a tackle on a 4-yard run by Walker, which isn't a normal occurrence by the third-year linebacker.
On a third-and-3 play in the third quarter, Ruud and June got caught in between coverage when Rosenfels threw across his body to complete a pass to Daniels. Fortunately, the Bucs were able to force a turnover and that play didn't come back to hurt the defense.
SECONDARY Tampa Bay's secondary had no answer for Johnson or wide receiver Kevin Walter with Johnson recording nine reception for 82 yards and one touchdown and Walter had five receptions for 47 yards. Even though the Bucs secondary kept Johnson from getting 100 yards, he hurt them several times in the contest.
Cornerback Phillip Buchanon had five tackles in the loss. On the Texans first scoring drive, Buchanon was beaten on a third-and-5 play at the Bucs' 19-yard line when Rosenfels found Johnson for an 8-yard reception. Buchanon found himself matched up with Walker out of the backfield on a third-and-5 play in the fourth quarter. Walker was able to get a 6-yard gain on the reception that gave Houston another first down.
Cornerback Ronde Barber led the defense with 10 tackles which isn't a good sign either in the running or passing game. Barber had one good play and one bad play on the first Texans drive, which resulted in a touchdown. Barber made a good break on a Rosenfels pass that forced an incompletion. However, number 20 was late getting over to Johnson when he went into motion and was beat for a 4-yard touchdown. Barber did a good job of pursuing several running plays from the backside. In a first-and-10 play in the third quarter, Barber hawked down Walker from the backside to hold him to a 3-yard gain. Barber found himself in man coverage with Johnson late in the third quarter on a third-and-6 play and gave up a 9-yard reception that gave the Texans a first-and-goal.
Cornerback Brian Kelly had three tackles and also had a rough time covering Johnson and Walter in the passing game. In the third quarter, Kelly was burned on a comeback route by Walter on a third-and-7 play. The 9-yard reception helped to extend the drive with a first down.
Safety Jermaine Phillips did a good job of not allowing the Texans to make any big plays down the field. Houston likes to go deep with Johnson, but Phillips was keeping everything in front of him. He also continues to come up and assist in stopping the run, finishing with four tackles.
Safety Tanard Jackson didn't have much of an impact in the game vs. the Texans, but had an interception slip right through his hands. On a second-and-8 play with 11:55 remaining in the third quarter, Jackson had the right angle to pick off Rosenfels, but the ball went right through his hands on the sideline. He finished the game with two tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant didn't see the field too much on Sunday with only three kickoffs and two point-after-touchdown attempts.
Bucs punter Josh Bidwell had another stellar performance in punting the ball, averaging 39.5 yards per punt on six punts. Bidwell put the ball inside the 10-yard line twice in the fourth quarter, giving the defense good field position. His longest punt came in the second quarter, a 55-yarder that was fielded inside the 15-yard line.
Wide receiver Maurice Stovall had another open field tackle on special teams' on a second quarter punt. Stovall, however, whiffed on a tackle on Andre Davis' 97-yard kickoff return for the Texans. Chukwurah and Phillips took a bad angle on the kickoff return as well and weren't able to make the tackle.
Kalvin Pearson had a holding penalty to open second half that negated a 30-yard kickoff return by wide receiver Michael Clayton.
Kick returner Michael Spurlock gave a little bit of hope that the Bucs kickoff touchdown drought would end. However, the streak remains in tact even after a 45-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. Spurlock had four kickoff returns for 121 yards (28.0 avg.) in the game. He had one punt return for three yards.
COACHING Bucs head coach Jon Gruden came into the Houston game with the same aggressiveness as he had vs. the Saints. However, it didn't workout as well this week as the Bucs went for it on a fourth down on the first drive of the game and came up short. Even though Gruden was trying to instill a go-for-it kind of mindset, it might not have been the best move early in the game. The stop allowed the Texans to drive down the field a take an early lead. Gruden's play-calling in the game was consistent, but was handcuffed after wide receiver Ike Hilliard's injury. The Texans were able to double wide receiver Joey Galloway for most of the game after that and the Bucs weren't able to stretch the defense deep.
Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's game plan was to keep everything in front of the defense and not let Johnson get deep. The defense was able to do that, but Johnson was still able to be a big weapon for the Texans' offense. The Bucs held Houston to 71 yards rushing, yet wasn't able to get off the field on third down. With little pass rush, the Bucs made the decision not to blitz much to get pressure and Rosenfels was able to sit in the pocket and make his reads.
Tampa Bay special teams' coach Richard Bisaccia's unit gave up its first kickoff return for a touchdown this season vs. Houston. Bisaccia prides himself on his coverage units and a couple of mistakes caused the return. Chukwurah and Phillips took bad angles and Stovall missed a tackle. The punt coverage was solid and held the Texans to four yards on two punt returns.
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