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DEFENSIVE LINE Indianapolis played Sunday’s game without starting running back Joseph Addai, but its offense didn’t miss a beat vs. Tampa Bay. Backup running back Kenton Keith, a first-year and former CFL player, carried the ball 14 times for 37 yards in the first half. His longest run was only a 7-yarder, but Keith was able to pick up some key first downs in short-yardage situations. In fact, Indianapolis converted 12-of-16 (75 percent) of its third down attempts vs. Tampa Bay on Sunday. The Colts also converted a key fourth-and-1 attempt on the second series of the game thanks to Keith’s short run to the Bucs’ 33-yard line. That run kept the Colts’ drive alive and eventually led to a touchdown.
While Tampa Bay only allowed 45 yards rushing in the first half, its pass rush was non-existent, which allowed Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning to pick apart the Bucs’ secondary. Manning, who was not sacked by the Bucs, started the game completing 10 of his first 11 passes. He engineered three scoring drives and completed 19-of-25 passes for 145 yards and tossed one touchdown and one interception en route to helping the Colts take a 16-7 lead into halftime.
In the second half, Tampa Bay’s defense began to tire, which led to the Colts dominating the time of possession, 38:15 to 21:45 and 17 more points for the offense. This also opened up Indy’s ground attack, which was led by Keith, who rushed for 121 yards on 28 carries (4.3 avg.) and two touchdowns.
A few Bucs defenders came close to sacking Manning, including rookie defensive end Gaines Adams, who got near Manning before the veteran quarterback dumped off the ball to Keith on the second series of the game. Tampa Bay lost Adams and reserve DL Greg White to injuries in the first half. White, who recorded one tackle, actually started at left end in place of Kevin Carter. Adams eventually returned to the game but was a non-factor in terms of rushing the quarterback. Adams did, however, record four tackles.
Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan was called for being offsides on Keith’s 7-yard touchdown run on the opening series of the third quarter. The Colts were guilty of committing a penalty on the drive as well, but Hovan’s infraction made the penalties offset, which allowed Keith’s score to stand, giving the Colts a 23-7 lead in the third quarter. Both Hovan and under tackle Jovan Haye recorded six tackles each. Haye also batted a pass down at the line of scrimmage in the first half.
Reserve linemen Kevin Carter and Greg Peterson each notched two tackles. Defensive ends Patrick Chukwurah and Greg Spires each finished the game with one tackle.
The Colts produced 147 yards on the ground on 40 carries (3.7 avg.).
LINEBACKERS Tampa Bay’s defense had a tough time containing Indianapolis tight end Dallas Clark. On Indy’s first offensive drive of the game, Clark hauled in three passes, including a 10-yarder that resulted in a touchdown, which put the Colts up 7-0. However, Bucs rookie safety Tanard Jackson made the Colts pay for going back to the well one too many times on their third drive of the game when Manning attempted to hit Clark down the right seam of the field and Jackson practically took his head off. That devastating hit likely will make the ESPN highlight reel, but more importantly it temporarily knocked Clark out of game. Clark still finished the first half with six catches for 45 yards and one touchdown. The Bucs held Clark to just one catch for 4 yards in the second half, but it was too little too late as he had already done some damage. He finished the game with seven catches for 49 yards and one touchdown.
In the second half Manning began to shred Tampa Bay’s defense, particularly the linebackers, with short dump offs in the middle of the field to Keith, who caught five passes for 37 yards. Keith was also able to pick up big yardage via the ground game in the second half due to poor play and tackling on Tampa Bay’s defense. In the fourth quarter, Bucs middle linebacker Barrett Ruud overpursued Keith on a run play, which allowed him to gain 22 yards. Ruud finished the game with 11 tackles.
Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks has also seen better games in terms of tackling and coverage. He did, however, lead the team in tackles with 12. The same can be said for strongside linebacker Cato June, who was making his return to Indianapolis on Sunday. June notched eight tackles.
The Colts won the first down battle Sunday, recording 28 to the Bucs’ 12.
SECONDARY Unlike the last time Tampa Bay and Indianapolis clashed, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning did not need a Tim Wansley to pick on in this contest. Instead, Manning picked on Tampa Bay’s entire defense by completing seven passes to three different receivers.
Manning was without his favorite target, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, due to injury, but that Colts still were able to move the ball through the air. Harrison’s replacement, rookie WR Anthony Gonzalez, did some significant damage. On the second series of the game, he hauled in an 11-yard pass on a third down, which resulted in a first down. On the same drive, Gonzalez caught a 7-yard pass. The Colts eventually scored a touchdown to cap off that 14-play, 74-yard drive. His biggest catch came late in the second quarter on a 21-yarder across the middle of the field against rookie safety Tanard Jackson. That play eventually led to a Colts field goal, which put them up 16-7 at halftime. Gonzalez certainly didn’t look like a rookie en route to catching seven passes for 71 yards vs. the Bucs.
Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber didn’t fare much better in terms of covering WR Reggie Wayne. Barber allowed Wayne to haul in an 11-yard pass for a first down on the second series of the game. On the same drive, Barber was called for pass interference near the goal line, which moved the ball up from the 6-yard line to the 1-yard line. The Colts eventually scored a touchdown on that drive to go up 13-0. Barber and Tampa Bay’s secondary continued to struggle in the second half, and Wayne finished the game with seven catches for 62 yards and one touchdown. Barber finished the game with six tackles.
Bucs cornerback Phillip Buchanon started at left cornerback in place of Brian Kelly, who handled some nickel responsibilities on Sunday. Buchanon had trouble containing Wayne as well. On a third-and-4 play midway through the second quarter, Wayne hauled in a 5-yard pass against Buchanon for a first down. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Buchanon allowed Wayne to haul in a touchdown on a third-and-goal play, which put the Colts up 30-7. Buchanon notched 10 tackles while Kelly recorded three of his own.
Rookie free safety Tanard Jackson provided two of the few highlights on the defensive side of the ball for the Bucs defense. On the third drive of the game, Manning attempted to hit Clark in stride down the right seam of the field, but Jackson prevented the reception by laying out Clark with a huge hit. That hit forced the incompletion and put the Colts in a third-and-10 situation. On the very next play, Jackson intercepted Manning’s pass down the middle of the field. He returned the ball deep into Indianapolis territory, but defensive end Patrick Chukwurah’s illegal block in the back penalty cost the Bucs 32 yards and made the offense start their drive at their own 44-yard line. However, the Bucs offense still engineered a 56-yard scoring drive that resulted in a quarterback Jeff Garcia touchdown pass to tight end Alex Smith after that interception. On the next drive, Jackson showed good run support and open field tackling by taking down Wayne for a 4-yard gain on an end-around. However, near the end of the second quarter Jackson was late coming over to cover Gonzalez, which allowed the rookie receiver to haul in a 21-yard pass and put the Colts on the Bucs’ 29-yard line. Jackson recorded four tackles, two passes defensed and one interception while strong safety Jermaine Phillips notched six takedowns.
Manning completed 29-of-37 (78.3 percent) of his passes for 253 yards and tossed two touchdowns and one interception. The Colts produced 400 yards of total offense and scored 33 points vs. Tampa Bay’s defense, which ranked fifth in the league heading into Sunday’s game.
SPECIAL TEAMS Tampa Bay’s special teams unit did not do the defense any favors on Sunday. This unit struggled to contain Colts return specialist Craphonso Thorpe, who returned the first punt of the game 29 yards to the Bucs’ 42-yard line. Indy took just seven plays to drive the field and score a touchdown, which put the Colts up 7-0. After Tampa Bay’s third offensive series of the game stalled, punter Josh Bidwell hurt the defense by botching a punt, which traveled just 25 yards and allowed the Colts to start that drive on their own 35-yard line.
The kickoff coverage wasn’t much better. In the second quarter, Thorpe returned a kickoff 35 yards to the Colts’ 44-yard line. The coverage unit finally got its act together late in the first half when Bidwell came through with a 53-yard punt. Not only was Bidwell’s punt a good one, the coverage unit allowed Thorpe to return it for just a 1-yard gain. Bidwell averaged 43.6 yards per punt on five attempts. His net was 36.4. Thorpe averaged nine yards per punt return and 19.3 yards per kickoff return.
This unit’s best play of the game was provided by rookie defensive end Gaines Adams, who blocked Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri’s extra point attempt after Indy’s second touchdown of the game. That made the score 13-0 in favor of the Colts.
After scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Bucs pulled a surprise onside kick and recovered it, but an offsides penalty forced them to kick again. The Colts fielded the routine kickoff, and their offense went 67 yards on 11 plays and capped off the drive with a field goal, which put them up 33-14.
Bucs return specialist Mark Jones averaged 27.4 yards per kickoff return on five attempts. His longest return was a 32-yarder. He did not return a punt and had one fair catch on Sunday.
COACHING All three phases of Tampa Bay’s team performed poorly in Indianapolis on Sunday. The Bucs offense failed to sustain drives, which left the defense on the field entirely too long. The special teams unit allowed the Colts to establish good field position, which in turn gave the Colts’ potent offense short fields to work with. Despite the fact that Indy’s offense was playing without two key weapons in running back Joseph Addai and wide receiver Marvin Harrison, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s unit had no answer for Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning and the Colts offense, which picked apart the Bucs defense and moved the ball at will. The Colts deserve credit for overcoming key injuries and executing their game plan extremely well, but the Bucs defense failed to slow down their attack while the Bucs offense failed to get much of anything going. The Bucs turned in a team effort on Sunday, but they certainly don’t get an “A” for effort.
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