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QUARTERBACKS
Tampa Bay rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski got off to a shaky start, as did the Bucs offense. He started the game 1-of-4, and his only completion on those four pass attempts came on a screen pass to running back Michael Pittman. After an interception by Bucs cornerback Juran Bolden in the first quarter, Gradkowski fumbled a snap and managed to recover the loose ball, but not before losing 10 yards on the play. That fumble botched great starting field position (47-yard line) for the Bucs and eventually forced them to punt. However, Gradkowski found his groove late in the second quarter when he threw a perfect strike to wide receiver Michael Clayton for a 14-yard gain and first down. He helped the offense pick up a first down on a short dump off to tight end Alex Smith later in the drive. A few plays later, Gradkowski misfired on a deep pass thrown down the middle of the field to a wide open WR Joey Galloway. But that bad throw didn’t rattle the rookie, who came back on the next play and connected with WR Paris Warren for a 31-yard gain down to the Eagles’ 27-yard line. Unfortunately for Gradkowski, that promising drive was stalled by two costly drops by Pittman and RB Cadillac Williams. Gradkowski completed 6-of-12 passes for 59 yards in the first half. For the second straight week, Tampa Bay’s offense was shut out in the first half. In the third quarter, Gradkowski picked up a first down on a fourth-and-1 play with a quarterback sneak. That kept the chains moving and put the Bucs at the Eagles’ 35-yard line. On the next play, Gradkowski ran a rollout and connected with Pittman for a 15-yard gain to the Eagles’ 20-yard line. The Bucs capped off that 58-yard drive, which was led by Williams, with a Matt Bryant field goal, which put the team up 10-0. Midway through the fourth quarter on a second-and-12 from Tampa Bay’s 36-yard line, Gradkowski was sacked by defensive end Jerome McDougle, but McDougle was called for a 15-yard facemask penalty on the play, which gave the Bucs a first down. To make matters worse for the Eagles, McDougle kicked the penalty flag, which drew a personal foul unsportsmanlike penalty that gave the Bucs offense 15 more yards. On the next play, Gradkowski missed Galloway deep in the end zone. However, he came back on the very next play and hit WR Ike Hilliard for a first down to the Eagles’ 32-yard line. On third-and-5 from Philadelphia’s 27-yard line, Gradkowski’s pass to Galloway on a quick slant was tipped and fell incomplete, which forced the Bucs to kick a field goal. That score capped off an 11-play, 48-yard drive to put the Bucs up 20-14. After Tampa Bay’s defense allowed Philadelphia’s offense to score on a 52-yard touchdown, the Bucs received the ball with just 33 seconds remaining in the game down 21-20. Gradkowski made two big plays, hitting Clayton for an 11-yard gain and scrambling for 9 yards to set up Bryant’s 62-yard attempt. While Gradkowski completed 13-of-24 passes for just 104 yards and struggled on deep throws for the second straight week, he did a good job of taking care of the football (no turnovers) and made just enough plays to help the Bucs win their second straight game.

GRADE: C+

RUNNING BACKS
Williams got off to a slow start Sunday. He fumbled his first carry of the game, but the Bucs challenged the play, and replay showed that Williams was down before the ball came loose. Williams carried the ball 10 times for 20 yards (2.0 avg.) in the first half, and he dropped a pass from Gradkowski late in the second quarter that set up a third-and-8 situation. Had he caught the ball, Williams would have picked up a first down. Instead, the Bucs eventually got knocked out of field goal range. But Williams got going in the third quarter. On Tampa Bay’s first drive of the second half, Williams carried the ball seven times for 39 yards en route helping the Bucs put together a 14-play, 58-yard scoring drive that was capped off by Bryant’s field goal, which put the Bucs up 10-0. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Williams found a big hole up the middle and carried defenders on his back for a 12-yard gain. Midway through the fourth quarter, Williams broke off a 5-yard run to pick up a first down. He had another 5-yard gain later in the drive to set up a third-and-5 play from the Eagles’ 27-yard line. The Bucs capped off that 48-yard, 11-play drive with a field goal to put them up 20-14. Williams was Tampa Bay’s biggest offensive weapon Sunday, but that’s not saying much seeing as he rushed for 82 yards on 23 carries (3.6 avg.). In fact, the Bucs offense was out gained by the Eagles 506-196 and failed to score a touchdown on Sunday.

Michael Pittman carried the ball two times for 12 yards, but 10 yards came in a draw play in a long down-and-distance situation. Pittman dropped a pass from Gradkowski late in the second quarter on third-and-18. A catch in that situation would have put the Bucs back in field goal range. Instead, the Bucs had to punt. In the third quarter, Pittman came up big by hauling in a pass from Gradkowski on a rollout for a 15-yard gain to the Eagles’ 20-yard line. Pittman rushed three times for 14 yards and caught two passes for 23 yards on Sunday.

GRADE: B-

WIDE RECEIVERS
Tampa Bay’s wide receivers were contained quite well by Philadelphia’s secondary, but they came up with enough plays to help move the chains. Bucs WR Michael Clayton hauled in a 14-yard pass from Gradkowski late in the second quarter for a first down. On Tampa Bay’s final drive of the game, Clayton came up with a big 11-yard grab. He finished the game with three catches for 30 yards.

Bucs WR Paris Warren came up huge late in the second quarter on a third-and-8 play when he out-jumped cornerback Joselio Hanson and hauled in a 31-yard pass from Gradkowski for a first down to the Eagles’ 27-yard line. The Bucs eventually had to punt on that promising drive. That was Warren’s only grab of the game.

Bucs WR Ike Hilliard dropped a short pass from Gradkowski near the sideline on third-and-8 in the fourth quarter. But Hilliard came up big late in the fourth quarter when he hauled in a short pass from Gradkowski for a first down to the Eagles’ 32-yard line. That catch helped the Bucs put together an 11-play, 48-yard scoring drive that ended with a field goal. Hilliard caught one pass for 7 yards on Sunday.

Tampa Bay WR Joey Galloway got open deep several times, but Gradkowski misfired his passes to the speedy receiver, who was held without a catch vs. the Eagles.

The Bucs converted 5-of-14 (36 percent) of their third down attempts on Sunday.

GRADE: B-

TIGHT ENDS
Tampa Bay’s tight ends spent most of the game blocking near the line of scrimmage. However, Bucs TE Alex Smith came up big in the second quarter when he hauled in a dump off from Gradkowski for a first down. Bucs TE Anthony Becht did a decent job blocking, especially when considering the fact that he was playing on a torn plantar fascia he suffered last Sunday vs. Cincinnati.

GRADE: B

OFFENSIVE LINE
Tampa Bay’s offensive line featured Sean Mahan starting at left guard in place of Dan Buenning. The Bucs struggled to get anything going on offense in the first half, especially in the running game, where Williams rushed for just 20 yards on 10 carries. However, at the start of the second half Buenning replaced Mahan in the starting lineup, and Williams got going, rushing for 37 yards on seven carries. However, Mahan came back into the starting lineup in the fourth quarter. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood had two penalties in the first half, including a costly tripping infraction that knocked the Bucs out of field goal range near the end of the second quarter. Although Gradkowski was sacked twice, Tampa Bay’s offensive line did a decent job in pass protection, especially when it came to picking up blitzes. It needed to open up more holes for Williams in the running game.

GRADE: C+

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. 

Copyright 2006 PewterReport.com 

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