QUARTERBACK Quarterback Jeff Garcia had probably his worst game of the season at the worst possible time in Sunday's playoff contest vs. the New York Giants. Garcia's accuracy and rhythm was off for the majority of the contest and he was never able sustain any momentum offensively. He finished the game 23-for-39 (58 percent) for 207 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Garcia threw four interceptions during the regular season and only threw multiple interceptions in a game once this season, a 24-23 loss vs. Jacksonville where he threw three picks.
Garcia's bad day came to an end with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when he was picked off by Giants cornerback R.W. McQuarters. The play was originally ruled as incomplete because McQuarters stepped out of bounds, but after the play was reviewed, the ruling was reversed and the game and season were over for Garcia and the Bucs.
Garcia did manage to lead the Bucs into the end zone in the fourth quarter, but it was a little too late. He spent most of the drive in the shotgun and found six different receivers on the drive. Garcia went 8-for-10 for 84 yards and one touchdown, ending the drive with a 6-yard reception to tight end Alex Smith with 3:30 remaining in the contest.
Garcia opened the second half leading the Bucs down the field for a potential score, but made his first crucial mistake of the game. After not throwing an interception in 11 of 13 games during the regular season, he missed wide receiver Joey Galloway short and was intercepted by Giants cornerback Corey Webster with 6:17 remaining in the third quarter.
Garcia missed multiple open receivers in the first half, but it wasn't from being rusty after sitting out 1.5 games at the end of the season. Garcia was consistently hurried in the pocket by the Giants pass rush and had little time to read the defense. He finished the first half 11-for-20 for 79 yards and was sacked once. The Bucs offense struggled to get anything after dominating the first quarter, ending the first half gaining only 107 total yards.
Garcia was 2-for-3 for 25 yards on the first scoring drive of the game. He also had a 2-yard quarterback sneak on third-and-1 at the Giants' 23-yard line to keep the drive alive.
The Bucs converted 9-of-14 (64 percent) of their third down attempts vs. the Giants with Garcia having a hand in eight third-down conversions.
RUNNING BACK Running back Earnest Graham ran the ball hard in his first career playoff start at running back and was successful at times carrying the load for the Bucs running attack. He finished the game with 18 carries for 63 yards (3.5 avg.) and one touchdown along with four receptions for 27 yards. He had eight carries for 41 yards (5.1 avg.) in the second half even though the Bucs trailed by as many as 17 points.
In the first drive of second half for the Bucs, Graham dominated the drive, either running or receiving the ball on every play. He had 23 yards rushing on five carries and had one reception for five yards. His 10-yard rumble with 7:31 remaining in the third quarter put the Bucs at the 30-yard line with Tampa Bay trailing 17-7. The drive, however, ended with a Garcia interception in the end zone.
Graham had 27 yards rushing on six carries on the Bucs first scoring drive, including a 1-yard plunge that gave the Bucs a 7-0 lead with 1:49 remaining in the first quarter. He also had one reception for 14 yards on second-and-9 from the Giants' 20-yard line to set up the offense with a first-and-goal. Graham finished the first half with 32 yards on 10 carries and one touchdown.
Running back Michael Pittman led the Bucs with five receptions for 62 yards (12.4 avg.) vs. the Giants. He also had one carry for five yards in the loss. Pittman had two receptions on the fourth-quarter scoring drive with an 8-yard reception with 5:51 remaining and a 26-yard reception on second-and-10 at the Giants' 39-yard line. Pittman also had a 17-yard reception with 2:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, but it didn't amount to much as Garcia was picked off on the following play.
Fullback B.J. Askew finished the game with just one carry for three yards. That lone carry came with 10:26 remaining in the first quarter on a third-and-1 play. Askew dove over the pile for a 3-yard gain to keep the drive going.
The Bucs' running backs rushed for 67 yards on 20 attempts (3.3 avg.) on Sunday.
WIDE RECEIVERS Wide receiver Joey Galloway was shut down the entire game by the Giants secondary and was never able to break away for the big play. He finished the contest with just one reception for nine yards and left the field late in the fourth quarter after re-aggravating his shoulder injury. Galloway's 9-yard reception came on a third-and-4 play at the 28-yard line on the first drive of the game.
Wide receiver Ike Hilliard didn't have much success vs. the Giants either as he finished with four receptions for 27 yards. Hilliard had two receptions for 18 yards in the fourth-quarter scoring drive. Garcia found him for a 9-yard reception with 7:55 remaining and then hooked up with Hilliard for another 9-yard catch on first-and-10 at New York's 20-yard line.
Wide receiver Michael Clayton had three receptions for 39 yards in his postseason debut with the Bucs. He pulled in an 11-yard reception on first-and-10 from New York's 43-yard line on a slant pattern in the middle of the field in the first quarter. He also had a 13-yard reception with 10:57 remaining in the first quarter. Clayton had two receptions for 24 yards in the first half.
TIGHT ENDS Tight end Alex Smith had three receptions for 39 yards in the loss vs. New York. Smith went down with an ankle injury in the third quarter, but was able to return to the postseason contest and contribute in the offense. Smith scored his first postseason touchdown with 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter when Garcia found him across the back of the end zone for a 6-yard reception. Smith had a 15-yard reception on third-and-1 with 3:03 remaining in the third quarter to move the ball into Giants territory. The drive, however, ended in a punt.
Tight end Jerramy Stevens, who had the most playoff experience in the tight ends group, had just one reception for five yards.
Tight end Anthony Becht was used mostly in run-oriented situations
OFFENSIVE LINE The Bucs offensive line had trouble with the Giants' talented front four and struggled to keep them away from Garcia. Despite only allowing one sack for the entire game, New York's defense had 11 quarterback hurries in the loss and made Garcia very uncomfortable standing in the pocket. Even though the Bucs had a couple of good carries in the running game, Tampa Bay was never able to sustain momentum with the running attack. Tampa Bay running backs only had 67 yards on 21 carries.
Center John Wade has basically cashed in his one-way ticket out of town with another poor performance up the middle. Wade couldn't move Giants defensive tackles Fred Robbins or Barry Cofield out of the middle on running plays whether it was man-up or a double team. Robbins and Cofield recorded one quarterback hurry apiece in the loss and defensive tackle Jay Alford had one quarterback hurry as well. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was very disappointed after the game about the amount of pressure that came up the middle of the field.
Left guard Arron Sears was limited in practice this week leading up to Sunday's contest with an ankle injury and just didn't look like himself in the running game. He didn't seem to have the same kind of power coming off the ball on running plays and showed little resistance in the passing game up the middle.
Left tackle Donald Penn did a good job of containing the speed rush off the edge of Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora. Umenyiora, who had 13 sacks in the regular season, didn't record a sack on Garcia, but did have two quarterback hurries. Penn received help with chips from running backs and tight ends, but held his own when he had to go one-on-one with Umenyiora.
Right guard Davin Joseph also battled with Cofield and Robbins and didn't have much success up the middle either. Joseph did show a little mean streak in the first half with his run blocking, but didn't seem to be the same after returning to the game in the fourth quarter. He left the field in the third quarter with for an undisclosed reason and was replaced by guard Matt Lehr. On an 11-yard gain by Graham late in the first quarter, Joseph was seen eight yards down field blocking.
Right guard Matt Lehr came in for one series in the third quarter filling in for Joseph. After entering the game for that one series, the Giants defense tested him right away. New York sent a corner blitz on third-and-8 with 1:51 remaining in the third quarter with cornerback Aaron Ross coming up the middle and Lehr missed the blitz pick up that forced Garcia to throw the ball early and the pass was almost intercepted.
Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood had his hands full with Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and struggled to contain the 15-year veteran all game long. Strahan finished the game with one sack, three quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and nine total tackles. The second-year tackle was beaten on a bull rush move with 9:53 remaining in the second quarter by Strahan to get to Garcia for the sack. Trueblood missed a block on Strahan on first-and-10 with 3:42 remaining in the first quarter. Strahan made the tackle holding Graham to just a 1-yard gain.
Tampa Bay lost the time of possession vs. New York, 33:31 to 26:29, and gained 271 yards of total offense.
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