QUARTERBACK Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia took the offense on his shoulders and right arm, but fell just short in the Bucs' comeback effort vs. the Lions. Garcia finished the game 37-for-45 for 316 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound quarterback set a career-high for completions with 37.
Garcia was able to move the offense all game long as the Bucs had just one three-and-out possession the entire game, but struggled to put up points on two time-consuming drives. With 6:28 remaining in the fourth quarter, Garcia led the Bucs down the field in less than five minutes for a touchdown. He found wide receiver Ike Hilliard on consecutive passes for 11 yards and a first down to open the drive. Garcia found Hilliard for a 15-yard reception on third-and-10 with 4:01 remaining. After scrambling for seven yards, Garcia found Hilliard for a 9-yard reception on second-and-15. The drive was kept alive by a roughing the passer penalty after an incompletion on fourth down and Garcia found wide receiver Maurice Stovall for a 4-yard touchdown reception with 2:06 remaining in the fourth quarter. Garcia overthrew tight end Anthony Becht in the corner of the end zone on the two-point conversion attempt.
Garcia got the ball for one last time after the Bucs recovered an onside kick and led the offense to a field goal to make the score 23-16. The big play in the drive came when Garcia found running back Earnest Graham for a 15-yard reception on second-and-5 from the Bucs 45-yard line. On the same drive, Garcia hooked up with Graham for a 9-yard reception on second-and-10, but the offense couldn't convert a third down and was forced to kick a field goal. The offense put together a 16-play drive that chewed up 7:19 off the clock in between the third and fourth quarters, but came away with no points due to a Garcia fumbled snap on first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Garcia was 7-for-8 on the drive, finding four different receivers. The San Jose State alum hit tight end Jerramy Stevens for a 7-yard gain on first-and-10 and found wide receiver Joey Galloway across the middle of the field for a 16-yard reception on third-and-8. Garcia had another big third down conversion, finding Hilliard with a 4-yard reception with 13:39 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Garcia finished the first half 19-for-20 for 189 yards, including 18 consecutive completions, which tied a franchise record set by former quarterback Brad Johnson. On the first drive of the game, Garcia found wide receiver Michael Clayton for a 20-yard pass play on a second-and-1. Garcia went 3-for-3 on the second drive of the game finding Galloway for a 7-yard reception and Graham for 9- and-10-yard receptions. Garcia was perfect on the first scoring drive for the Bucs going 7-for-7 for 86 yards and one touchdown. The three-time Pro Bowler opened the drive with consecutive passes to Galloway and wide receiver Ike Hilliard for 5-and-6-yard receptions. The big play on the drive came when Garcia found Hilliard on a 38-yard crossing route with 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Garcia also used his running backs during the drive finding Graham for two receptions for 23 yards and fullback B.J. Askew for a 9-yard reception on second-and-6. The drive culminated with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Hilliard on second-and-goal with 12:53 remaining. Garcia led the Bucs down the field on a second-quarter drive that chewed up almost nine minutes of the clock, but place kicker Matt Bryant missed a 40-yard field goal. The nine-year veteran went 8-for-8 for 65 yards, including two third-down conversions. Garcia found tight end Jerramy Stevens with an 8-yard reception on third-and-3. Number seven found Askew for an 11-yard reception on a third-and-6 with 4:24 remaining in the second quarter. Garcia and Galloway hooked up twice on the drive for 17 yards, including a 13-yard reception on second-and-9.
Garcia did show a little case of happy feet in the pocket and broke out of the pocket on a couple of plays that he had time to throw the ball if he stayed in the pocket. He also tried to flip the ball to receivers a couple of times, which isn't a normal pattern for Garcia.
RUNNING BACKS Running back Earnest Graham had a career day running and catching the ball out of the backfield. Graham finished the game with 92 yards on 19 carries and 13 receptions for 99 yards. Graham proved that he can carry the load in the backfield with 32 total touches during the 23-16 loss vs. the Lions. Graham set career-highs in a game in rushing and receiving yards, carries, and receptions. The 5-foot-9, 225-pound running back also tied a franchise record set by running back James Wilder with his 13 receptions. Graham had three catches for 24 yards on the final drive of the game, including a 15-yard reception with 1:53 remaining in the fourth quarter, which resulted in a 48-yard field goal by Bryant. On the fourth quarter touchdown-scoring drive, Graham had three carries for 21 yards, including a 9-yard run with 5:29 remaining. He had another 9-yard gain on the drive on second-and-15 with 3:11 remaining. In the first half, Graham opened the game with his longest run of the contest, a 14-yard carry on first-and-15 off left guard between center John Wade and left guard Arron Sears. Graham had three carries for 13 yards on the second drive of the game, but a crucial fumble on the exchange from Garcia to Graham on a first-and-10 play thwarted the drive. Graham recorded two receptions for 19 yards, with a 9-yard reception on a first-and-10 play and a 10-yard reception on second-and-6 with 6:05 remaining in the first quarter. Graham had 10 yards on two carries and two receptions for 23 yards on the first scoring drive. He caught a 9-yard reception on a first-and-10 play from the Lions 22-yard line in the second quarter. Graham had a 9-yard reception on a first-and-goal play that got the Bucs to the 5-yard line after a holding penalty on right tackle Jeremy Trueblood.
Running back Michael Bennett, who the Bucs traded for from the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday, had three carries for 22 yards. Bennett's big run of the game was an 18-yard run that put the offense inside the 5-yard line. On first-and-10 play from the 19-yard line, Bennett showed some of his speed as he sprinted up the middle of the field behind smash blocks from Trueblood and right guard Davin Joseph down to the 1-yard line.
Fullback B.J. Askew was used several times as a receiver out of the backfield, finishing the game with four receptions for 36 yards. Askew had a 9-yard reception on second-and-6 with 14:26 remaining in the second quarter. Askew was a big target for Garcia on a long drive in the second quarter catching three passes for 27 yards. The 6-foot-3, 233-pound fullback had an 11-yard reception on third-and-6 play with 4:24 remaining in the second quarter. He also caught an 8-yard reception on a second-and-11 play with 8:27 remaining in the second quarter.
The Bucs' running backs rushed for 114 yards on 23 attempts (4.9 avg.) on Sunday.
WIDE RECEIVERS Wide receiver Joey Galloway finished the game with five receptions for 46 yards. In the game, Galloway surpassed the 10,000-yard receiving mark with a 16-yard reception in the third quarter on a third-and-8 play that gave the Bucs a first down. Galloway had a 7-yard reception as Garcia turned and threw a pass parallel to the line of scrimmage early in the first quarter. Galloway had a 13-yard reception on a second-and-9 play in the second quarter. On the same drive, Galloway had a 4-yard reception on first-and-10 with 5:34 remaining.
Wide receiver Ike Hilliard finished with nine receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown, his first of the season. On the last touchdown-scoring drive of the game, Hilliard opened up the drive with consecutive receptions for three- and-eight yards, respectively. Garcia found Hilliard for a 15-yard reception on a third-and-10 play that kept the drive alive. On the same drive, Hilliard had a 9-yard reception with 3:39 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Florida alum had another big third down reception with 13:39 remaining in the fourth quarter, a 4-yard reception on third-and-4. In the first half, Hilliard had a nice seal block on a 7-yard reception by Galloway. Hilliard caught a 38-yard reception on a crossing route with 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Hilliard had a 5-yard touchdown reception to culminate a 9-play, 81-yard drive that ate up 5:03 off the clock.
Wide receiver Michael Clayton had one reception for 20 yards in the game, but never returned after the catch as he sustained an ankle injury that is being classified as a high ankle sprain.
Wide receiver Maurice Stovall had one reception for four yards and one touchdown, his first reception of the season. Stovall caught a 4-yard slant pass from Garcia with 2:06 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Bucs converted 8-of-14 (57 percent) of their third down attempts vs. the Lions with the wide receivers making three third-down receptions.
TIGHT ENDS Tight end Jerramy Stevens, who saw action because of the ankle injury to tight end Alex Smith, finished the game with four receptions for 19 yards. Stevens had a big third down reception in the second quarter when Garcia hit him on a crossing route for an 8-yard reception with 8:25 remaining. With 3:33 remaining in the third quarter, Stevens had a 7-yard reception on second-and-10 from the Bucs 20-yard line. On a second-and-6 play at the Lions 48-yard line, Steven had a 4-yard reception.
Tight end Anthony Becht had one ball thrown his way, an overthrown pass from Garcia on a two-point conversion attempt. Becht also missed a crack back block on Lions defensive end Dewayne White on a Michael Bennett rushing attempt that gained no yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE The Bucs did a good job of running the ball against a big, physical defensive line of the Detroit Lions, gaining more than 100 yards for the first time in three weeks. Tampa Bay was able to run the ball on either side of the line and Graham had significant holes to run through at times during the contest. The pass blocking, however, was inconsistent all game long as Garcia was sacked three times, hurried three times and was on the run several times during the game.
Center John Wade had a couple of positive plays, but is still getting pushed around entirely too much up the middle. On a 6-yard pass play from Garcia to Galloway that resulted in a first down, Wade stood defensive tackle Shaun Rogers straight up and kept him away from Garcia. Wade helped clear a big hole for a 14-yard gain by Graham on first drive of the game. However, Wade missed defensive tackle Cory Redding on a run stunt that resulted in a minus-1 yard gain by Graham. The 10-year center also missed a block on a screen pass on first-and-10 in the third quarter that slowed up Graham and didn't allow him to hit the hole in full stride.
Left guard Arron Sears struggled against Rogers and Redding for most of the game. Sears got beat up the middle by Rogers with a swim move and was able to recover the fumbled exchange from Garcia to Graham. On the only three-and-out possession of the game to open the second half, Rogers pushed Sears three yards back on White's sack of Garcia.
Left tackle Donald Penn has steadily improved in the last three weeks and had a good showing vs. the Lions. In pass blocking, Penn did a good job of pushing speed rushers Corey Smith and Kalimba Edwards up the field and allowing Garcia to step up in the open zone. On a third-and-13 play, Penn had to block Rogers who used a power swim move to shake Penn and force an incompletion. Right guard Davin Joseph showed some physical play in his run blocking, which was a good sign. However, Joseph had a bad penalty during a second quarter drive. The penalty was a 15-yard unnecessary roughness infraction after a first-down reception by Askew. That penalty hurt the offense because instead of having the ball at the 14-yard line, the Bucs were moved back to the 29-yard line and Bryant missed a 40-yard field goal.
Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood had his worst game of the season battling against former Bucs defensive end Dewayne White. Trueblood gave up three sacks in the game and was called for two penalties. Trueblood was beat by defensive end Dewayne White on a speed rush along with a swim move to sack Garcia on a third-and-5 play in the first quarter. Trueblood struggled with White's speed on the outside most of the game, but was able to run him up field so that Garcia could step up into the open space on pass plays.
Tampa Bay won the time of possession vs. Detroit, 35:50 to 24:10, and gained 422 total yards offense.
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