Quarterback Jeff Garcia had another accurate game throwing the ball, finishing 18-for-23 for 143 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions. Garcia’s mobility kept a lot of plays alive against an aggressive Colts pass rush, but just couldn’t get a rhythm. Garcia completed his first pass attempt to wide receiver Joey Galloway on the first play of the game. However, Garcia had little time in the pocket on a third-and-6 play with 13:41 remaining in the first quarter and was sacked. Garcia found running back Michael Pittman on a slip route for 9 yards on a third-and-16 on the Bucs second drive of the game with the Colts playing a soft coverage. Head coach Jon Gruden put the ball in Garcia’s hands on the third drive of the game as he threw the ball all three downs. The first two passes went to running back Earnest Graham, a 5-yard gain and a minus-3 yard gain, and the third was a 5-yard reception to wide receiver Ike Hilliard. The Bucs recorded their first first down of the game with 11:39 remaining in the second quarter when Garcia found Pittman on for a 7-yard reception. On the Bucs’ first scoring drive in the second quarter, Garcia found Galloway on two pass plays – a 5-yard reception on a first-and-10 play and a 13-yard reception with 9:37 remaining in the second quarter, converting a first down on third-and-8. Garcia used his mobility on a first-and-10 play from the 30-yard line to move to his left to find Hilliard for a 14-yard reception for a first down. Garcia scrambled on a rollout to the right and picked up seven yards to give the Bucs a first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. He ended the drive with a great play-action pass and found tight end Alex Smith in the corner of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown with 6:47 remaining in the second quarter. The nine-year veteran led one more scoring drive before being replaced late in the game. Garcia went 8-for-10 on the fourth-quarter drive, finding five different receivers. The big play of the drive was a Garcia-to-Galloway 27-yard reception on a third-and-5 with 11:45 remaining in the fourth quarter. The drive culminated with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Smith on a third-and-2 play at the 9:24 mark.
Backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was inserted in the last drive of the game. Gradkowski finished the game 3-for-4 for 22 yards and one interception. Gradkowski’s interception came on a first-and-10 play with 1:32 remaining in the fourth quarter when his pass glanced off of Galloway’s hands and into the waiting arms of cornerback Antoine Bethea.
Running back Earnest Graham found little running room, but had limited opportunities to run the ball after the Bucs fell behind early. Graham finished the game with 11 yards on six carries, which included a 9-yard carry late in the fourth quarter on the second scoring drive. The tone of the running game didn’t get off to a great start after Graham found no running room on the right side on a second-and-5 carry in the first quarter. Graham went to the right and lowered his head trying to make a hole, but did little to move the pile. On a first-and-10 play at the 14:47 mark in the second quarter, Graham caught a 5-yard pass from Garcia in the middle. Graham had a 9-yard run up the middle on a first-and-10 play on the Colts 29-yard line in the second scoring drive. Graham added a 13-yard screen pass on a first-and-10 with 11:22 remaining in the fourth quarter to set up the second touchdown of the game. Graham also had two receptions for 18 yards.
Running back Michael Pittman didn’t have much success running the ball either before leaving the game with 8:14 remaining in the second quarter with an ankle injury. Pittman was injured on a 4-yard run on a first-and-10 play at the 14-yard line when linebacker Tyjuan Hagler rolled up on his right ankle. He had to be carted off of the football field. Pittman found little running room either on his first two carries on the second drive in the first quarter. He had a first-and-10 run with 10:13 remaining in the first quarter for minus-4 yards and followed that run on second-and-14 with a minus-2 yard run. Pittman had a 9-yard reception on a third-and-16 play, but the Colts were sitting in a soft coverage on a third-and-long play.
Fullback B.J. saw little action in the running game as the Bucs had to use three- and four-wide receiver sets for most of the game. Askew, however, did have a 3-yard reception on a second-and-8 play with 6:47 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bucs running backs rushed for 10 yards on 11 attempts (0.9 avg.) on Sunday.
Wide receiver Joey Galloway finished the game with four receptions for 50 yards, but had a couple of drops on third downs that hurt the offense. Galloway caught the first ball that came his way on the first play of the game, a 5-yard reception. Galloway had two receptions on the Bucs’ first touchdown drive in the second quarter. He had a 5-yard reception when Garcia turned and threw down the line of scrimmage on a first-and-10 play at the Colts 45-yard line. He also had a 13-yard reception for a first down on third-and-8 on a slant play. Galloway, however, dropped a sure first down on a third-and-6 with 2:19 remaining in the second quarter on another slant route. Galloway dropped another pass on a slant route on a third-and-5 play with 6:00 remaining in the third quarter. With 11:45 remaining in the fourth quarter, Galloway had a 27-yard reception that helped set up the second touchdown of the game for the Bucs.
Wide receiver Ike Hilliard finished the game with eight receptions for 58 yards. Hilliard had a big 14-yard reception on the first scoring drive of the game at the 8:57 mark of the second quarter as Garcia kept the play alive with his feet. Hilliard was big on the second scoring drive of the game with four receptions for 25 yards, including a big third down reception. On third-and-5 on Tampa Bay’s 24-yard line, Hilliard had a 5-yard reception across the middle of the field as he stretched for the first down. The Florida alum had a 6-yard reception on second-and-1 to give the Bucs a first down and keep the drive moving. He also had an 8-yard reception with 9:57 remaining in the fourth quarter to move the ball inside the Colts 5-yard line. Hilliard caught three passes from Gradkowski, including an 11-yard reception on second-and-8.
The Bucs converted 4-of-9 (44 percent) of their third down attempts vs. the Colts with the wide receivers making two third-down receptions.
Tight end Alex Smith finished the game with two receptions for six yards, both receptions ending in touchdowns. The Stanford alum was Garcia’s favorite target on both trips inside the Colts’ 5-yard line. On his first touchdown reception, Smith did a great job of selling the run on a first-and-goal and then slipped out into the corner of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown reception. Smith did a good job of assisting in the running game with helping left tackle Donald Penn and left guard Arron Sears collapse the left side on a first-and-10 play for a 4-yard gain by Pittman. Smith dropped a second-and-6 pass with 2:22 remaining in the second quarter as the ball went through his hands. The third-year player slipped into the end zone with 9:24 remaining in the fourth quarter for another 3-yard touchdown reception.
Tight end Jerramy Stevens had two receptions for 14 yards in the game.
Tight end Anthony Becht was used in two-tight end running formations.
The offensive line struggled all game long in opening up any holes in the running game with the Bucs averaging less than one yard per rushing attempt. The pass blocking wasn’t very good early in the game, but as the Bucs had to go to the air more and more as the game wore on, the line did a better job of noticing the stunts and handling the speed rush of defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Freeney and defensive tackle Raheem Brock combined on a sack on the first drive of the game, but never got to Garcia after that.
Center John Wade had his hands full up the middle with Brock and defensive tackle Ed Johnson. Wade couldn’t move either of those two players off the line of scrimmage allowing the Colts to get a consistent push up the middle on running or passing plays. On a third-and-5 play with 14:15 remaining in the fourth quarter, Johnson got a push up the middle of the field, but Garcia was able to side step him and complete the pass.
Right guard Davin Joseph is still battling through a sophomore slump and his blocking is not improving. Joseph did little to open up running room on the right side all game long and whiffed on a block that resulted in the only sack of the game. On a third-and-6 with 13:41 remaining in the first quarter, Brock blew right past Joseph as he was seen grasping for air as Brock got to Garcia.
Left guard Arron Sears, who has been known for his run blocking the last couple of weeks, had a difficult time with his pass blocking and few opportunities to run block. On a first-and-10 play with 10:13 remaining in the first quarter, Sears and Wade went in opposite directions and Brock was free to get into the backfield and drop Pittman for a 4-yard loss. Sears also missed the pick up of Freeney on a stunt on a third-and-6 play on the first drive of the game for the Bucs and resulted in a sack.
Left tackle Donald Penn had a rough beginning in his first start, but steadily improved as the game went on. Penn also received a lot of help on Freeney as the Bucs used a tight end or a running back to chip on the speedy edge rusher. Penn showed good run-blocking ability last week against Carolina, but couldn’t drive Freeney off the ball. On a second-and-14 play with 9:32 remaining in the first quarter, Freeney stood Penn straight up and dropped Pittman for a 2-yard loss. Penn got a good lesson of how life is going to be as a starting left tackle in the NFL. He still has a ways to go, but his improvement looks steady so far.
Tampa Bay lost the time of possession vs. Indianapolis, 21:45 to 38:15, and was never able to establish anything in the running game.
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