This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.
Bucs quarterback Brian Griese did two things on his first drive that Jeff Garcia didn't do until the fourth quarter at New Orleans in Week 1. Griese converted a third down and threw a touchdown pass in his first drive. Griese's second pass on third-and-eleven was a 12-yard completion to wide receiver Joey Galloway for a first down. Two plays later, Griese hooked up with tight end John Gilmore for a five-yard touchdown pass.
While Griese was sharper than Garcia was in the first game, he still missed some open receivers throughout the game and some of those players were open for touchdowns. Overall, Griese was competent in his play and engineered a very functional game for the Bucs offense. Griese threw 31 passes completing 18 of them for 160 yards with a touchdown. His rating was 82.7, and he avoided throwing any interceptions.
Griese did have one turnover when he was sacked from behind by right end John Abraham. The fumble occurred on third-and-goal from the Atlanta nine-yard line. While the fumble was unfortunate it was not Griese's fault. Had Griese been able to hook up on some of his deep passes to open receivers he would have had a downfield touchdown or two. That would make his game, and his numbers all the more impressive. It would not be surprising to see Griese connect on those passes after the he has more time in the lineup and in practice. Overall it was a competent game from the Bucs veteran signal caller.
GAME GRADE: B
The Buccaneers running backs were the strength of the offense for the second straight week. Both Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn ran for touchdowns and both backs made game-changing plays that led to the Bucs' victory.
Dunn was the first to record a big play. With the Buccaneers ahead by a touchdown they faced a third-and-goal from the Atlanta 17-yard line. A draw to Dunn was called and the scat back made the most of it. He displayed textbook patience as he allowed his blockers to get in position on the second and third levels of the defense, kept his feet moving, and winded his way through traffic. Dunn then broke through a tackle and stretched out into the end zone to put Tampa Bay up by two scores. On the drive Dunn ran for 23 yards and also converted a third-and-10 with a shovel pass that he ran for 12-yards. Dunn was the second leading receiver for the Bucs on Sunday hauling in three passes for 21 yards; he averaged 4.1 yards per carry (12 carries for 49 yards).
Graham was having a bit of a below average day carrying the ball for most of the game. Over his first 14 carries Graham rushed for 48 yards and was averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Then on his 15th carry Graham sealed the game for the Buccaneers. With 3:23 left in the game Graham took a handoff of the right tackle and broke outside. He picked up some great blocks along the way and raced 68 yards for a touchdown. Graham totaled 15 carries for 116 yards and one touchdown. He also hauled in one pass for 12 yards.
Fullback B.J. Askew had a good game lead blocking for his backs. The Falcons were ready for the passes to Askew as he hauled in three passes for only one yard. He was called for a holding penalty that negated a touchdown run by Graham, but Dunn bailed him out with his touchdown run four plays later. The holding call was somewhat questionable, as Askew knocked the defender down and as they were falling to the ground, his arm wrapped around the defender's hip. At the same time, it wasn't necessary for Askew to potentially hold the defender to spring Graham.
All of the backs did a good job in their blocking and were effective in their blitz pickup. Graham also had a key block on Dunn's touchdown run. Overall the Bucs running backs had a great game and provided the critical plays on offense for Tampa Bay to get the win.
GAME GRADE: A
The Buccaneers wide receivers had a very quiet game against the Atlanta Falcons. They totaled seven catches for 75 yards. Ike Hilliard was the Bucs leading receiver with four receptions for 41 yards. All of Hilliard's catches went for first downs, and three of the conversions were on third down. Galloway had the key third down conversion on the first series but was held in check after that. The speedy Galloway was getting open though, and he was gaining more separation than he was in last week's game. Galloway got open on a deep post that Griese overthrew otherwise it would have gone for a 60-yard touchdown.
Antonio Bryant started opposite Galloway and did not record a catch. He dropped one pass and had another ball thrown behind him that he may have been able to haul in. Michael Clayton was active on Sunday made one catch for six yards. Clayton also was called for a holding penalty that negated a 10-yard run.
The receivers all contributed as blockers, and Bryant made some key blocks on Graham's touchdown run. While the receivers did not hurt the team, and Hilliard's conversions should not be underestimated, the receivers did not make any splash plays against a vulnerable Atlanta secondary.
GAME GRADE: C
The Buccaneers got a good game out of their tight ends against the Falcons. It started early on third-and-goal when Griese hit Gilmore for a five-yard touchdown. Gilmore had a good game blocking and receiving. He hauled in a five-yard touchdown pass on the Bucs first drive. He did have a false start in the first quarter but the Bucs still converted that series into a first down. Gilmore also seemed to set up the Buccaneers to seal the victory early in the fourth quarter.
Gilmore ran down the seam and caught the Falcons in a soft zone. Griese hit Gilmore in stride and he ran downfield before getting tackled by the last defender before the end zone. The 36-yard reception went from the Atlanta 42-yard line to the six-yard line. Griese's fumble was three plays later.
Alex Smith had a solid game for the Buccaneers as well. He caught two passes for 20 yards and had a good game blocking. Smith had a great block that helped seal the edge for Graham's 68-yard touchdown run.
Smith and Griese were not on the same page on a couple of throws. One play could have been a big reception for Smith who was wide open with nothing but open field ahead of him. Griese's pass bounced short of Smith and the opportunity escaped Smith to get a big reception of his own. On another play the tight end kept running a downfield route and Griese threw to the outside thinking that Smith was going to cut to the outside.
Overall the tight ends had a good game and showed their ability to contribute big plays for the offense. GAME GRADE: B+
The Bucs offensive line had a mixed effort. They were very effective in their run blocking but struggled at times in their pass protection. The line also had some issues with penalties for the second straight week.
Left tackle Donald Penn had a solid game run blocking, and was on his way to having a great game against Atlanta's pass rushing demon Abraham. That was prior to Abraham beating Penn around the edge and forcing the fumble on third-and-goal in the fourth quarter. If that play was taken out of the game, Penn had a pretty solid game.
Penn wasn't the only Bucs offensive lineman to give up a sack. Right guard Arron Sears was beat by Falcons defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux for a sack part way through the third quarter. The sack came on second-and-nine and put the Bucs in a third-and-17 situation that Tampa Bay could not convert. Sears had a solid game otherwise, and made one of the initial blocks to open up Dunn's hole on his touchdown run.
The other lineman that made a key block on that play was center Jeff Faine. With Graham and Sears, Faine combined to help open the hole for Dunn on his 17-touchdown run. He had a key hit on an Atlanta defensive lineman Kroy Biermann that gave Griese time to throw a first down completion to Hilliard. That allowed the Bucs to move the ball on their second touchdown drive. Faine has been very impressive in his first two games as a Buccaneer and has been an obvious improvement from his predecessor.
Bucs rookie guard Jeremy Zuttah was blown off the ball on a few occasions, especially early in the game. Zuttah also had a false start during the Bucs second touchdown drive that put them into a 2nd and Goal from the 23-yard line. The penalties weren't done there for Zuttah as he was flagged for holding. Zuttah's holding was in the first drive of the third quarter and put the Bucs in a first-and-20 from their own 17-yard line which they failed to convert into a first down. But Zuttah adjusted and opened some good holes for Dunn and Graham in the running game.
Not to be left out of the productive run blocking is right tackle Jeremy Trueblood. He made a big block on his side to let Graham bounce his round outside and turned it up field for his 68-yard touchdown run. Trueblood had an improved performance from his game at New Orleans. He did not have any penalties and did not allow a sack.
Overall the line still had too many penalties, and allowed too much pressure on Griese. One sack was manageable but the other sack was a critical error. Still the line led the way for the Bucs to run for 164 yards rushing and have total yards of 311.