QUARTERBACK Quarterback Luke McCown had another solid performance with quarterback Jeff Garcia relegated to the sideline for the second consecutive week. McCown didn't turn the ball over and finished 25-for-38 for 266 yards. He faced a lot of pressure from the Texans defense and was sacked four times.
With the Bucs trailing the entire game, McCown had to drop back to pass on many occasions in the loss. Tampa Bay wasn't able to establish much of a running game playing from behind so much of the offense came from the right arm of McCown. The Bucs offense hurt themselves with turnovers and bad penalties in the second half.
McCown went 14-for-23 for 185 yards, but was unable to make the big plays like he did last week vs. New Orleans.
McCown opened the game similar to how he did last week vs. New Orleans with accurate passes. He was 5-for-5 for 42 yards on the first drive, but the offense stalled out when running back Earnest Graham was stuffed on fourth-and-1 from the 33-yard line. McCown only need one pass attempt on the first scoring drive, finding wide receiver Michael Clayton for a 9-yard reception.
McCown led the offense down the field on the first drive in the second half to answer the kickoff return for a touchdown by the Texans. The big play on the drive was a 31-yard pass from McCown to tight end Alex Smith. McCown also found tight end Anthony Becht for a 7-yard reception on the drive as well.
After the Texans scored a touchdown to make the score 28-14, McCown was leading the Bucs on a potential scoring drive. McCown hit wide receiver Joey Galloway with a 15-yard reception on first-and-10 and Smith with an 8-yard reception on the next play. Number 12 found Galloway again for a 15-yard reception that put the Bucs deep into Houston territory. The drive, however, didn't produce any points as a false start penalty and a sack of McCown forced the Bucs to punt.
McCown showed for the second consecutive week that he is capable of running the two-minute offense as the Bucs were trying to make a comeback in the fourth quarter. He completed three of his first four passes on the last drive of the game. McCown hit wide receiver Maurice Stovall for 11 and 6-yard receptions and found running back Earnest Graham for 12 and 7-yard receptions on consecutive plays. He scrambled for 10 yards and then found Galloway for 15 and 17 yards respectively. That drive too was marred by a sack for a 13-yard loss and ended with no points as well.
The Bucs converted 3-of-13 (23 percent) of their third down attempts vs. the Texans with McCown throwing for two third-down conversions.
RUNNING BACK Running back Earnest Graham was never able to get a rhythm running the ball as the Bucs played from behind for most of the game. He finished with 61 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns, but was used just as much out of the backfield then he was running the ball.
Graham was a big part of the Bucs first scoring drive rushing for 16 yards on three carries including a 4-yard touchdown run. His longest run on the drive was a 9-yard draw play up the middle. Graham was a weapon out of the backfield vs. the Texans recording six receptions for 45 yards. He had three receptions for 18 yards in the first half.
Graham was held to 39 yards rushing in the second half, with 31 of his yards coming on the first drive. He had two big runs to open the second half with a 20-yard run on second-and-three and then culminated the scoring drive with an 11-yard touchdown run.
Fullback B.J. Askew had one reception for four yards, but seemed to be bothered by his sprained left ankle most of the game. Askew, who has been a solid lead blocker for Graham, had a cut block to give Graham a lane straight to the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Running back Michael Bennett was used in a limited role.
The Bucs' running backs rushed for 61 yards on 15 attempts (4.1 avg.) on Sunday.
WIDE RECEIVERS Wide receiver Joey Galloway was kept from making the big play down the field and finished with six receptions for 87 yards, but didn't have a touchdown catch. Galloway, who was held to just one catch in the first half, had an 18-yard reception in the third quarter. He was able to get behind the defense for the first time in the game on the same drive in the third quarter, but McCown just overthrew the speedy wide receiver. Galloway had two catches on the first drive in the fourth quarter, 15 and 18-yard receptions, which moved the Bucs into Texans territory. However, a false start penalty and a sack thwarted the potential scoring drive. Galloway also had two receptions for 32 yards on the final drive, but was unable to get the Bucs into the end zone.
Wide receiver Ike Hilliard had three receptions for 28 yards in one quarter of play. Hilliard had two receptions in the first quarter, both 9-yard receptions on consecutive drives. He had a 10-yard reception that could have given the Bucs a first down, but he fumbled and Houston recovered the loose ball. Hilliard left the game with a shoulder injury and didn't return.
Wide receiver Michael Clayton seems to be healthy again after battling an ankle injury and recorded four receptions for 39 yards. Clayton had a 19-yard reception on the first drive of the game for a first down. Clayton became a big target for McCown in the first half as he had a 9-yard reception on a first-and-10 play from the 25-yard line on the Bucs first scoring drive.
Wide receiver Maurice Stovall came in for Hilliard and had two receptions for 17 yards. Both receptions came on the final drive of the game, 11 and 6-yard receptions. If Hilliard is forced to miss any game time with his injury, Stovall will be looked at to take a bigger role in the offense.
TIGHT ENDS Tight end Alex Smith had two receptions for 39 yards in the loss. Smith gave the Bucs' offense a big lift with a 31-yard reception up the right seam on the first drive in the second half.
Tight end Jerramy Stevens was used in a limited role in the offense.
Tight end Anthony Becht had one reception for seven yards. Becht, who had his first reception last week for a touchdown, caught a pass for the second consecutive game with a 7-yard reception on first-and-10 at the Bucs' 38-yard line.
OFFENSIVE LINE The Bucs offensive line had a rough day keeping McCown off the ground battling Houston defensive end Mario Williams and Co. in the loss. Tampa Bay did a good job of opening up some holes in the running game, but had to do a lot of pass blocking which allowed the Texans to not worry about stopping the run. The Bucs did a good job of giving McCown time to throw at times, but did give up four sacks on the day and failed to get Graham over the 100-yard mark.
Center John Wade had likely his worst game in the middle this season. After a defensive turnover, the Bucs had a big third down play, but Wade snapped the ball without McCown looking giving the ball back to Houston on the fumble. The Texans capitalized on the turnover with a touchdown that put the game out of reach. Wade was beaten on a stunt by Williams as he got to McCown for the sack in the fourth quarter.
Left guard Arron Sears took a step back in his improvement this season and seemed to get push around which hasn't been a regular thing this season. Sears was called for a motion penalty that pushed the Bucs into a second-and-long situation and the offense wasn't able to rebound. Midway through the fourth quarter, Sears was beat on a swim move by Houston defensive tackle Earl Cochran as he slammed McCown to the turf.
Left tackle Donald Penn had a consistent day run blocking and received some help from Graham when he had to face Williams in pass rushing situations. Penn did a good job of getting to the second level and sealing the linebacker on a 20-yard run by Graham. Penn did allow Texans defensive end N.D. Kalu to get around the end for a half of a sack in the second quarter.
Right guard Davin Joseph had a solid game with his run blocking, but allowed pressure up the middle. On Graham's 11-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the second half, Joseph pulled out to the right side and got a seal block to spring him to the end zone. On Graham's 4-yard touchdown run, Joseph again pushed his assignment back clearing the way for score. However, Houston defensive end Amobi Okoye did get through for half of a sack with 1:15 remaining in the second quarter.
Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood was called for one motion penalty in the first quarter, but kept Williams at bay for most of the game. Trueblood and Joseph did whiff on a block of Williams on a third-and-2 running play on the first drive of the game. Williams made the tackle and held Graham to just a 1-yard gain which set up the fourth down that the Bucs didn't convert.
Tampa Bay lost the time of possession vs. Houston, 35:06 to 24:54, and gained 305 yards of total offense.
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