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GAME GRADES OFFENSE
QUARTERBACK Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting quarterback Byron Leftwich had a nightmare first quarter against the Buffalo Bills. After a three-and-out on the first possession, Leftwich had some nice passes on the second possession including a 12-yarder to running back Cadillac Williams, and a 23-yarder to wide receiver Maurice Stovall.
After a 10-yard pass to wide receiver Sammie Stroughter, Leftwich made a bad decision to end the drive. Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams pressured Leftwich and knocked him off balance. Leftwich tried to dump the pass off to his check down back, but overthrew the ball. Buffalo safety Donte Whitner snatched the ball out of the air and took off down the sideline. Whitner returned the ball 76 yards for a touchdown.
Leftwich threw another interception on a dropped pass by Stroughter. The rookie receiver let go of the ball, and it popped into the air. It was caught at the shoestrings by strong safety Brian Scott for an interception. Buffalo returned the interception 25 yards to set up another score. Leftwich finished the first quarter 6-of-9 for 54 yards and two.
In the second quarter Leftwich came back to get the Bucs on the board. After starting at their own 23-yard line, Leftwich got the Bucs moving with a 23-yard pass to wide receiver Michael Clayton. It was a good throw, and a nice run by Clayton. The Bucs veteran signal caller threw a great pass on his next attempt.
On a deep slant Leftwich threw a perfect strike to tight end Kellen Winslow who beat his defender and a safety coming over the top. Winslow snared the ball as he crossed the goal line for a 42-yard touchdown pass.
After that pass Leftwich seemed to get into a rut with throwing passes short. He threw to his check down running backs often. Even when he had time to hold onto the ball, and wait for his receivers to get open downfield. One of those passes did get the Bucs their second score of the day. Starting the drive at the Bills' eight-yard line, Leftwich threw a pass to Williams a few yards short of the end zone. Williams banged his way across the goal line for a touchdown.
In the first half Leftwich was 13-19 for 149 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The second half started slowly for Leftwich, outside of a 17-yard strike to Winslow, Leftwich was off the mark throwing many passes too high. The veteran signal caller was not able to get Tampa Bay back on the scoreboard until late in the fourth quarter.
Leftwich hooked up with wide receiver Maurice Stovall on two passes for 57 yards to get the Bucs inside the Bills 10-yard line. A 38-yard toss to Stovall was the key play on the drive. Leftwich lofted a jump pass to his big receiver, and Stovall rewarded his quarterback for taking the chance by coming down with the ball.
On fourth-and-goal the Bucs got a good play call in, and Leftwich tossed a pass that led an open Jerramy Stevens into the end zone. Stevens brought the ball into his body with one hand for the touchdown.
Leftwich had one more drive, but was inaccurate and was under steady pressure. He also had three interceptions dropped by Buffalo defenders late in the fourth quarter. Against Buffalo Leftwich was too careless with the football. For the game Leftwich was 26-of-50 for 296 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
GAME GRADE: C
RUNNING BACKS The Buccaneers running backs had a fairly quiet rushing game in the first half. Starting running back Williams had five carries for only five yards in the first half of the game. Williams got more involved in the passing attack, catching a number of check down pass from Leftwich. The Bucs fifth-year back had some struggles in pass protection, and did not do a very good job of blocking in the backfield for Leftwich.
Williams hauled in four passes for 30 yards including an eight-yard touchdown catch in the first half. Leftwich threw a hard pass into the chest of Williams and he went through a couple of defenders to get across the goal line. It was the first touchdown catch of his career.
The second half was similar to the first half for Williams. He had two rushes and three catches in the final two quarters. He finished the game with seven carries for nine yards, and seven receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Derrick Ward had the most success on the ground in the first half. He ran the ball six times for 34 yards. The second half was rough for Ward as he had three carries for a total of minus two yards. Ward had one catch for five yards in the game.
In Week 1 against the Cowboys, running back Earnest Graham got only one carry for one yard. In Week 2, Graham got involved late in the first half when he broke off a nice 13-yard run off the left side of the offensive line. He carried the ball twice in the first half for 16 yards. That was Graham's total for the game, as he did not get a carry in the second half of the game. Graham and fullback B.J. Askew got involved in lead blocking for Ward and Williams during the game. Clifton Smith caught one pass for one yard against Buffalo.
After a huge game against the Cowboys, the Bucs running backs totaled only 57 yards on 18 carries vs. the Bills. As a unit they caught 10 passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. GAME GRADE: C-
WIDE RECEIVER Tampa Bay was without starting wide receiver Antonio Bryant. The Bucs missed their franchise player against Buffalo. Replacing Bryant in the starting lineup was Maurice Stovall. Entering the fourth quarter the wide receivers totaled three catches for 56 yards.
Stovall had one catch for 23 yards in the first three quarter, but broke out with big catches in the fourth quarter. After a 19-yard catch to get a touchdown drive started, Stovall made the play that put the Bucs in a first-and-goal situation. On fourth-and-10, Stovall went up high on a wobbling pass from Leftwich downfield. The big 6-foot-5 receiver reached the ball at the highest point, and grabbed the ball as he fell to the ground at the Bills 5-yard line. The reception went for 38 yards. Stovall finished the game with three catches for 80 yards.
Rookie receiver Stroughter had a few drops in the game. One of them led to the ball being intercepted by the Bills' Brian Scott. Stroughter had some trouble holding onto the ball after getting contact from defenders. Stroughter also was called for an illegal block in the back that negated a 17-yard screen pass to Williams.
After a good game against the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo held starting wide receiver Michael Clayton in check. Clayton totaled only two receptions for 27 yards. On a 23-yard reception Clayton did a good job of fighting for extra yards and stiff-arming defenders.
Against the Bills, the Bucs receivers struggled to get open and create separation downfield. Because of that Leftwich had to throw a lot of passes short to his check down receivers. On fifty pass attempts the Tampa Bay receivers had only six receptions in large part because they were not getting open.
GAME GRADE: F
TIGHT END Winslow made the biggest play for the Bucs offense in the first half with a 42-yard touchdown reception. The Buccaneers tight end beat cornerback Terrence McGee to get behind the secondary. Winslow bobbled the ball slightly, but corralled he ball as he crossed the goal line for the score.
The Bucs went to their standout tight end throughout the game including a 17-yard reception in the third quarter. Leftwich threw a number of short passes to Winslow that helped move the chains. Winslow did have a few missed blocks in the run game, but overall had a great game as a receiver. He led the Buccaneers in receiving with seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown.
Tight end Stevens grabbed a nine-yard reception in the first half, and had a quiet game until later in the second half. In the fourth quarter on fourth-and-goal, Leftwich lofted a pass to Stevens who got open after showing the defense that he would stay in and block. Stevens reached out with one-hand and brought the ball into his body as he crossed into the end zone for a touchdown.
For the game the tight ends were the best receiving options for Leftwich. They totaled 10 catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
GAME GRADE: A-
OFFENSIVE LINE Missing starting center Jeff Faine with a triceps injury, the offensive line had a rough start to the game. On the second play from scrimmage Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams beat center Sean Mahan to tackle Cadillac Williams for a loss. On the second drive, Leftwich was under pressure. He was sacked by defensive tackle Marcus Stroud after he beat guard Davin Joseph, and running back Williams to get to Leftwich.
On the same drive the Bucs lack of pass protection cost Tampa Bay. Kyle Williams pressured Leftwich into throwing an ill-advised pass in the flat that was intercepted. Williams beat Zuttah to get at Leftwich's feet and knock the Bucs quarterback off balance.
Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood had a couple of notable mishaps with two false start penalties that put the Bucs in bad down-and-distance situations. Joseph was also called for a false start in the game.
The line opened up some good running lanes for Ward. He had rushes for 13 yards, and 10 yards going up the middle. Joseph made a great cut block on Stroud. Graham also had a 13-yarder. Outside of those runs the offense line did not have a good game blocking for the rushing attack. Tampa Bay had 57 yards rushing on 19 carries for an average of three yards per carry.
Center Sean Mahan had a bad snap that caused a fumble that was almost a disaster for Tampa Bay, but was recovered by fullback B.J. Askew. Against Buffalo, Mahan proved that there is a big drop off from Faine. He missed some double teams in pass protection, and did not consistently help to open up holes in the running game.
The Bucs left tackle Donald Penn had the best game overall for the offensive line. He led a unit that did a fairly decent job in pass protection. The Bucs allowed two sacks in 50 pass attempts, so overall that is a good percentage of protecting the quarterback. While they did allow some pressure and hits on Leftwich, part of that is due to the Bucs signal caller holding onto the ball too long.
The offensive line did lead the way for Tampa Bay to total 353 yards of offense. The time of possession with Buffalo was almost even but the Bucs had the slight lead with 30:27 compared to 29:53. GAME GRADE: C+