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Starting quarterback Jeff Garcia had one of the best games in his time as a Buccaneer on Sunday night football. After sitting out four games, Garcia has started the last two and led Tampa Bay to decisive wins. For the second straight week Garcia started out hot.
Garcia had a very productive first drive for the Buccaneers. It almost did not get off the ground as Garcia was nearly picked off on the second play of the possession. His pass was in the arms of a couple of Seattle linebackers, but running back Warrick Dunn barreled into them and caused the ball to fall incomplete. Garcia then converted a third-and-3 with a pass to Earnest Graham.
Garcia got the Bucs on the scoreboard in the next third down. He threw a deep bomb for wide receiver Antonio Bryant. Cornerback Kelly Jennings fell down and Bryant cruised into the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown.
In the Bucs third possession, Garcia was on point. He scrambled on a first-and-10 and before getting sacked he made a shovel pass to fullback Jameel Cook who made a move and ran for a 12-yard gain. A few plays later, Garcia ran for eight yards and a first down on third-and-6. Garcia converted another third down on the drive by scrambling and throwing downfield for Bryant.
On that drive, Garcia did miss some open receivers. He had wide receiver Michael Clayton open for what could have been a touchdown. Then Garcia had Graham open in the flat for what would have been an easy touchdown on the play that wide receiver Ike Hilliard was injured, and fumbled the ball to the Seahawks.
The next possession Garcia capitalized on some good field position. He hit tight end Jerramy Stevens for a 31-yard gain that put the Bucs in the red zone. The next play he hit Bryant for 14 yards to the Seahawks one-yard line. Graham ran the ball in for the touchdown a couple of plays later.
Garcia led a field goal drive on the Bucs fifth possession after getting the ball on Aqib Talib's interception. Garcia threw to tight end Alex Smith for 16 yards. The Bucs drive stalled on a couple of runs, but kicker Matt Bryant nailed a chip-shot field goal to put Tampa Bay up 17-0. In the first half, Garcia completed 19 of 24 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown.
The second half saw a reduction in Garcia's workload as Tampa Bay went to the rushing attack to run out the clock. Garcia did have one near turnover when he dropped the ball while scrambling. Garcia fell on the ball and Seahawk Brandon Mebane downed Garcia for a sack. Garcia also took an intentional grounding on a blitz. Wide receiver Brian Clark had gotten a few steps on his defender and was running free into the end zone. Garcia could have lofted the ball for Clark, but instead virtually spiked it incurring the penalty and taking the Bucs out of field goal range.
However, Garcia helped contribute to the Bucs final scoring drive of the game. Garcia connected again with Bryant on a 15-yard pass on second-and-11. The veteran quarterback completed a third-and-2 pass to Cook for a first down. That was Garcia's final pass of the night.
He finished the game completing 27 of 36 passes for 310 yards and one touchdown. Garcia did more than a picture-perfect job of managing the game. He had one of his best games as a Buccaneer.
GAME GRADE: A-
The Buccaneers running backs had a very workmanlike game against the Seahawks. There were not a lot of pretty runs, or long runs, but the Bucs running backs did the grunt work for the offense to help the team get the victory.
Dunn broke up an interception on the Bucs second offensive play. It turned out to be a huge play as the Bucs scored a touchdown four plays later. After catching a pass in the next possession, Dunn was hit hard by Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu. Dunn came off the field injured, but Dunn returned to action in the next Tampa Bay possession.
The Bucs got creative running a wildcat formation in the first quarter. With Garcia lined up at wide receiver, Dunn took the snap in shotgun and handed the ball off to Graham who ran for three yards. In the first half, Dunn ran for 24 yards on nine carries. He also caught three passes for 17 yards.
Graham started the game at fullback, and had a good game blocking for the second straight contest. Graham was also active receiving and running the ball. In the second quarter Graham plunged in from one-yard out to put the Bucs up 14-0. In the first half, Graham ran the ball six times for eight yards with the touchdown. He caught two passes for 13 yards.
Cook had a productive night in his first game back with the Buccaneers. He did not receive a big workload, but did an admirable job of lead blocking. Cook got active in the passing game catching two passes for 15 yards. He had a long of 12 yards and a first down conversion on his other catch.
In the second half, Graham and Dunn received the majority of the work from the Bucs offense. The Buccaneers did not run for a high average, but they ate up a lot of the game clock to finish off the win for Tampa Bay. Graham ran for 52 yards on 23 carries. Dunn ran for 37 yards on 13 carries, as a receiver he had four catches for 21 yards.
GAME GRADE: B
The Buccaneers got a very good game from the receiving corps. A week after combining for only four catches for 48 yards, the Tampa Bay receivers had an excellent game as a group. Bryant led the team with six catches for 115 yards and one touchdown.
Bryant made a huge play early in the first quarter. Bryant ran a go-route on third-and-7 down the left sideline. He and cornerback Kelly Jennings had contact as they ran stride-for-stride down the field. Jennings fell down, and Bryant hauled in the pass for the first score of the game. It was also Bryant's first touchdown as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.
Bryant continued his strong game by leaping to grab an 11-yard reception where he took a big hit but held on to give the Bucs a first down. All-game Bryant made big catches. He had a 15-yard reception on the Bucs final scoring drive.
Hilliard took a vicious hit from Seattle's Tatupu and Leroy Hill. Hilliard fumbled the ball and the Seahawks recovered the loose ball. Hilliard was ruled to have a concussion, and was going to be held in the hospital overnight.
With Hilliard out, Clayton and Clark took his snaps. Clayton had some nice catches, and of course some great blocks. He also got open on many routes that Garcia did not throw him the ball. In the game, Clayton had three receptions for 30 yards. Clark had one catch for 12 yards in his Buccaneers debut. Clark had beaten his defender, and was running free to the end zone but was not thrown the ball.
Overall, the Bucs receivers had one of their better games of the season. That speaks volumes about the good play of Bryant, considering Tampa Bay was without Hilliard and Joey Galloway.
GAME GRADE: B+
Against the Seahawks, the Bucs tight ends had another solid game. All three made big catches, and all three were effective blockers. The tight ends combined for eight catches and 100 yards receiving.
Stevens was behind only Bryant as a receiver. He hauled in four catches for 55 yards including his 31-yard catch that helped set up the Bucs second touchdown of the game. Stevens also made a 17-yard catch later in the game.
Smith continued the quality play he has produced over the last couple of games. He made two receptions for 25 yards and was getting open consistently throughout the night.
Tight end John Gilmore had a big catch as well. His 15-yard catch in the third quarter helped the Bucs get out of a poor field position situation.
Throughout the game the Tampa Bay tight ends did a good job of blocking. They contributed greatly to blitz pickup on the edges, and played an instrumental role in the team allowing Garcia to be sacked only once.
GAME GRADES: B+
The Buccaneers offensive line had another great game and are making these performances look routine. Left tackle Donald Penn, left guard Arron Sears, center Jeff Faine, right guard Davin Joseph, and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood continued the dominant play that has led the productivity of the Bucs offense.
In the first half the Bucs pilled up a lot of yards behind the offensive line. The line did a great job of picking up blitzes and protecting Garcia. Tampa Bay had 266 yards of total offense, with 14 first downs, and won the time of possession 20:16 to 9:44.
In the second half the Bucs continued their great job of blitz pickup and pass protection. The one sack allowed was not their mistake as Garcia dropped the ball and fell on it to avoid a turnover.
The Bucs offensive line was not able to open up a lot of running lanes in the game, but they did a good enough job to allow the backs to run for enough yards to produce manageable third downs for Garcia. The line led the way for the Bucs to control the ball. They also avoided any critical penalties. There were no holding calls and no late hits. The only penalty was a false start on Penn.
While the score was closer than the play on the field indicated, the offensive line led the way for the Bucs to finish the game off with a field goal drive in the fourth quarter. In the final period, the line paved the path for a 16-play 9:34 drive that ended in a Matt Bryant 27-yard field goal.
The final numbers in the game indicate a dominating performance by Tampa Bay offensive line. The Bucs had 402 yards of total offense, went 10-18 on third downs (56 percent), 22 first downs, and the Buccaneers controlled the ball for 41:41.
GAME GRADES: B+