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QUARTERBACK Quarterback Jeff Garcia flashed the talent that made him a three-time Pro Bowler with the San Francisco 49ers against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. In a 31-14 victory, Garcia was accurate with his passes and didn’t turn the ball over while orchestrating four touchdown-scoring drives. On Tampa Bay’s first scoring drive at 10:01 mark in the first quarter, Garcia showed off his mobility in the pocket, keeping two plays alive – an 11-yard pass to running back Michael Pittman and a 1-yard pass to fullback B.J. Askew while fighting off a Saints defender. Garcia started the drive with a 33-yard completion to tight end Alex Smith. Garcia also had a scramble for seven yards on third-and-6 at the 8-yard line to set up the offense with a first-and-goal. Running back Cadillac Williams finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Garcia put another touchdown on the board at the 14:46 mark of the second quarter on another big third down play. On third-and-11 at the Bucs 31-yard line, Garcia hit wide receiver Joey Galloway on a skinny post route for a 69-yard touchdown that gave Tampa Bay a 14-0 lead. With 1:41 remaining in the second quarter, Garcia hit two big plays to give the Bucs a commanding 21-0 halftime lead. In the shotgun, Garcia found wide receiver Ike Hilliard on a 41-yard reception down the seam and then hit Galloway with a 24-yard touchdown. The nine-year veteran put the nail in the coffin of the Saints with less than seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. On second-and-7 at midfield, Garcia hit Galloway with a 41-yard reception and he put the ball where only the 13-year receiver could catch it. Running back Cadillac Williams finished off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown. Garcia put a bow on a successful game finishing 10-of-16 for 243 yards and two touchdowns.
*Tampa Bay produced 330 yards of total offense vs. New Orleans.
RUNNING BACK Playing through bruised ribs that came in a 20-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks last week, running back Cadillac Williams turned in a gutty performance. Williams finished the game with 24 carries for 61 yards, but his two touchdowns helped finish off scoring drives that were crucial in the Bucs’ 31-14 victory. Williams did most of his damage in the second half with the Bucs holding a 21-0 lead heading into the third quarter. Williams had 53 yards on 15 carries in the second half after rushing for only eight yards on nine carries in the first half. Even though the opening drive of the second half didn’t yield any points, Williams found some space gaining 15 yards on four carries. Williams’ biggest gain of the game came at the 11:41 mark of the fourth quarter when he scampered for 12 yards behind left guard Arron Sears. Williams had a lot of 2- and 3-yard gains most of the day, but did enough to assist Garcia in the passing game.
Running back Michael Pittman did a good job of spelling Williams when he needed a breather on the sideline. Pittman had 18 yards on five carries and one reception for 11 yards during his time in the backfield. Pittman gives the Bucs a viable option as a backup to Williams at the position.
Running back Earnest Graham had one carry for two yards in the win.
The Bucs rushed for 87 yards on 32 attempts (2.7 avg.) and two touchdowns on Sunday.
WIDE RECEIVERS Even though the Bucs only attempted 16 pass attempts against the Saints, wide receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard made them count. Even though Galloway’s first reception of the game went for only one yard, the other three were highlight material. Galloway was Garcia’s favorite target again this week and the tandem hooked up four times, including two touchdowns. Galloway gave the fans at Raymond James Stadium a thrill with his 69-yard touchdown reception, his second of the game, early in the second quarter. Galloway ran a good route on the skinny post and, once he got into the open field, let his speed do the rest. Galloway’s third reception came with 1:12 remaining in the second quarter as Garcia found the speedy wide receiver in the back of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown. Galloway’s final catch with 6:40 remaining in the third quarter was possibly his best effort of the game. It was a crossing route in the middle of the field and Garcia put the ball just over the shoulder of New Orleans safety Roman Harper as Galloway made a diving catch. The 35-year old receiver averaged 33.8 yards a catch and terrorized the Saints again. In six games against the Saints, Galloway has eight touchdown receptions.
Hilliard had another consistent game for the Bucs with two receptions for 51 yards. Hilliard’s big catch came with 1:41 left in the second quarter to set up the Bucs third touchdown of the first half. Garcia hit Hilliard streaking down the middle of the field for a 41-yard reception as the veteran receiver beat New Orleans cornerback Jason David on the play. Garcia also found Hilliard on a 10-yard reception on the first drive of the game for the Bucs. An important play by Hilliard didn’t involve him catching the ball as he drew David away from Galloway to get him one-on-one with Harper on the third touchdown of the first half.
Wide receiver Michael Clayton didn’t have a reception in the victory, but delivered a crushing block on Galloway’s 69-yard touchdown. As Galloway streaked across the middle of the field, Clayton tattooed New Orleans safety Kevin Kaesviharn drawing approval from the crowd. Clayton was seen pounding his chest on the sideline after the play as the stadium big screen camera was on him, which also got the fans on their feet.
Wide receiver Maurice Stovall saw limited action on offense and was mostly used on special teams.
The Bucs converted 5-of-11 (45 percent) of their third down attempts vs. the Saints.
TIGHT ENDS ight end Alex Smith was active in the passing and running game against the Saints. On the Bucs’ first scoring drive that began at the 10:01 mark of the first quarter, Smith had a 33-yard reception on the first play of the drive. The third-year tight end caught a sideline route from Garcia and turned up field to get some yards after the catch. The Bucs ran more running plays to the outside against the Saints than they did against the Seattle Seahawks last week. Smith did a good job of sealing the Saints defensive ends and linebackers during the game.
Tight end Anthony Becht did an average job with his run blocking, but struggled to catch the only pass that came his way. The Bucs used some two-tight end sets against the Saints and Becht, who is known for his run blocking, was the second tight end in those formations. Becht ran a deep out route to the right sideline at the 13:39 mark of the fourth quarter and Garcia put the ball right on his hands, but Becht couldn’t pull the ball in.
Tight end Jeremy Stevens didn’t play against the Saints.
OFFENSIVE LINE The offensive line was stellar in their pass-blocking against a good front four in the Saints, but struggled once again to open up many holes for the running game. In the second half, the run blocking showed a little consistency helping Williams gain 53 yards on 15 carries. The improvement needs to continue to give balance to the offense.
Center John Wade did a better job this week of keeping the pressure up the middle out of Garcia’s face. He helped to double-team Saints defensive tackle Brian Young on run plays and contained nose tackle Kendrick Clancy.
Right guard Davin Joseph showed little fire off the ball on run-blocking and seemed to absorb the blows from the defensive lineman instead of establishing a point of contact. Two running plays early in the first quarter were evidence of this fact. At the 13:59 mark of the first quarter, Williams was stuffed on a run off the right side for minus-3 yards. At the 9:38 mark, Williams struggled to get one yard as there was no hole to run through on the right side.
Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood did a good job of keeping defensive end Charles Grant off of Garcia the entire game. Grant didn’t record a sack and had only three tackles in the game.
Rookie left guard Arron Sears improved in his pass blocking as the game moved on, but struggled in the first quarter. Sears wiffed on a block on a second-and-7 in the first quarter as Young used a swim move to get past Sears. Sears also had a false start penalty at 13:26 in the first quarter that put the Bucs in a third-and-17 hole and the offense was forced to punt. Sears had flashes in his run-blocking, including opening a big hole on Williams’ longest run of the day, a 12-yard gain off the left side.
Veteran left tackle Luke Petitgout showed quick feet and good hands in his pass blocking against Pro Bowl defensive end Will Smith. Smith recorded only one tackle and never had an opportunity to get his hands on Garcia. Petitgout teamed with Sears on Williams’ longest run of the game, doing a good job of sealing Smith to the outside to allow a 12-yard scamper by the third-year back.
Tampa Bay actually lost the time of possession vs. New Orleans, 33:08 to 26:52.
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