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QUARTERBACKS Tampa Bay’s offense was able to move the ball vs. Washington’s defense, but dropped passes and turnovers kept this unit from decorating the scoreboard, especially in the first half. In fact, three of Bucs rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski’s first four passes were dropped by his receivers. There seemed to be an awful lot of confusion on Tampa Bay’s offense in the first half as well. Gradkowski used all three of the team’s timeouts with almost 12 minutes remaining in the second quarter. Gradkowski threw several nice passes to wide receivers Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway, and running back Michael Pittman. But coming out of Tampa Bay’s third and final timeout, Gradkowski fumbled the snap from center John Wade, which allowed the Redskins to recover the loose ball on the ‘Skins’ 35-yard line. That turnover killed a promising drive by the Bucs. Late in the first half, Gradkowski helped to get the Bucs down inside Washington’s 10-yard line, but his errant throw on a third-and-9 play that was intended for Galloway was intercepted by cornerback Shawn Springs on Washington’s 7-yard line. As a result, the Bucs, who had 190 yards of offense in the first half, and Redskins went into halftime tied at 3 all. Gradkowski completed 7-of-13 passes for 90 yards, but his two turnovers in the first half were very costly. In the third quarter with a third-and-goal situation from the 2-yard line, Gradkowski attempted to complete a pass to Galloway on a slant, but the ball got deflected by Galloway and was hauled in by tight end Anthony Becht for a touchdown, which capped off Tampa Bay’s 14-play, 85 yard drive. After the defense created a turnover and gave the offense the ball on the ‘Skins’ 40-yard line in the fourth quarter, Gradkowski threw a perfect 34-yard strike down the middle of the field to a wide open Galloway for a touchdown on a third down play of that drive. That score put the Bucs up 17-10. Gradkowski completed 14-of-21 passes for 178 yards and tossed two touchdowns and one interception en route to Tampa Bay’s win on Sunday. His completion percentage would have been much better (18-of-21) had it not been for four dropped passes on the day. Gradkowski also rushed six times for 9 yards.
The Bucs produced 359 yards of total offense vs. the Redskins on Sunday.
RUNNING BACKS Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden did a nice job of sticking with the running game and getting all of his backs involved in the game plan. In fact, the Bucs rushed for 100 yards in the first half alone.
After an early drop and a trip-up on a screen pass on the second series of the game, Bucs fullback Mike Alstott got things going for the offense by bulling over Springs on a carry for a 16-yard gain in what was vintage Alstott. He actually carried the ball three consecutive times on that 10-play, 49-yard drive, which ended with a Matt Bryant field goal. The “A-Train” didn’t touch the ball again until the two-minute warning when he picked up a first down on a third-and-1 play inside Washington’s red zone. Alstott finished the first half with four carries for 29 yards (7.3 avg.) and one catch for 8 yards. One of the reasons why Alstott’s touches ceased was because backup FB Jerald Sowell came into the game as a lead blocker. He opened up a couple of nice running lanes for Cadillac Williams. The Bucs capped off that 14-play, 85-yard play with Becht’s touchdown reception. Alstott finished the game with six carries for 28 yards (4.7 avg.) and one catch for 8 yards. He also did a nice job of lead blocking for Williams throughout Sunday’s contest.
Williams was involved early as well. He rushed 13 times for 29 yards (3.5 avg.), and had four runs that were 6 yards or longer in the first half. He also hauled in a swing pass from Gradkowski for a 13-yard gain to Washington’s 34-yard line. In the second half, Williams hauled in a pass in the flat and worked his way up the field for a 21-yard gain to the Redskins’ 8-yard line. With the Bucs protecting a seven-point lead in the middle of the fourth quarter, Williams took over, breaking off a 25-yard run behind a terrific block from Alstott. Two plays later, Williams ran behind Alstott again, this time gaining 8 yards. That 7-play, 44-yard drive was capped off by a 31-yard field goal by Bryant, which put the Bucs up 20-10. Williams carried the ball 27 times for 122 yards (4.5 avg.) against Redskins on Sunday. He also caught two passes for 34 yards.
Michael Pittman only had two touches in the first half, but he made them count. He gained 14 yards on draw play in the second quarter. Later in the quarter, Pittman ran a seam route and hauled in a 25-yard pass from Gradkowski to the Bucs’ 44-yard line. Pittman had a quiet second half and didn’t get any touches.
Tampa Bay rushed for 181 yards on 42 attempts (4.3 avg.) vs. Washington.
WIDE RECEIVERS Tampa Bay WR Michael Clayton had a sub-par first half. He dropped a pass from Gradkowski on a third-and-5 play on the first series of the game. Then, on the Bucs’ third series of the game, Clayton was on the receiving end of a double reverse and gained 5 yards before fumbling the ball out of bounds. Later in the second quarter, Clayton failed to haul in a slant pass inside Washington’s red zone, which forced the Bucs to kick a field goal. Clayton got off to a much better start in the second half, hauling in a pass from Gradkowski for a 14-yard gain on the first series of the third quarter. Later on that drive with Tampa Bay on Washington’s 5-yard line, Clayton drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone, which set the Bucs up with a first-and-goal situation from the 1-yard line. Clayton finished Sunday’s game with one catch for 14 yards.
Bucs WR Joey Galloway had a productive game. He caught a pass near the sideline from Gradkowski on the last play of the first quarter for a 9-yard gain to the Bucs’ 47-yard line. Galloway hauled in a 16-yard pass across the middle of the field halfway through the second quarter. That play put the Bucs on the ‘Skins’ 25-yard line. However, Tampa Bay turned the ball over later on that drive. Galloway finished the first half with two catches for 25 yards. In the fourth quarter after Tampa Bay safety Jermaine Phillips forced Ladell Betts to fumble, which allowed cornerback Juran Bolden to recover on the ‘Skins’ 40-yard line, Galloway came off the line of scrimmage untouched on the third play of the drive and hauled in a perfect strike from Gradkowski across the middle of the field for a 34-yard touchdown, which put the Bucs up 17-10. Galloway caught a team-leading four passes for 64 yards (16.0 avg.) and one touchdown vs. Washington’s defense. He did a great job of working the middle of the football field Sunday.
Ike Hilliard caught one pass for a 12-yard gain and a first down in the first half. While that was his only catch of the game, Hilliard threw a great block up field on Williams’ 21-yard reception in the middle of the third quarter.
Tampa Bay converted 6-of-13 (46 percent) of its third down attempts vs. Washington.
TIGHT ENDS Tampa Bay tight end Alex Smith dropped a pass from Gradkowski on the second series of the game. Smith sprained his right ankle in the beginning of the second quarter and did not return.
Bucs TE Anthony Becht had a rough outing in the first half. He was called for holding on Williams’ run off the right side early in the second quarter. Later in the first half on a third-and-4 play, Becht was called for illegal motion on Gradkowski’s scramble for a first down, which negated the play. However, Becht came up huge in the third quarter when a third-and-goal pass attempt from the 2-yard line intended for Galloway got deflected in the air and Becht dove for the pass to haul it in and score the touchdown, which allowed the Bucs to tie the game at 10 all.
While he didn’t catch any passes, Bucs TE Dave Moore was impressive in the run-blocking department with Smith out of the contest. He opened up several holes for Williams.
OFFENSIVE LINE Tampa Bay’s offensive line was dominant in the trenches, particularly in the running, where the Bucs rushed for a total of 181 yards, 100 of which came in the first half. Bucs guards Dan Buenning and rookie Davin Joseph had a tremendous outing in the run-blocking department. Both players drove Washington’s defenders off the line of scrimmage early and often, which allowed Williams to take over late in the game. Pass protection was an issue for this unit at times, especially for rookie right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who struggled vs. Redskins left end Phillips Daniels. However, Gradkowski’s mobility and ability to get rid of the ball in a timely manner allowed the young quarterback to get through Sunday’s contest without being sacked. The offensive line’s biggest gaffe came in the second quarter when center John Wade and Gradkowski botched the quarterback-center exchange, which allowed the Redskins to recover the football on their own 35-yard line and killed a promising drive.
The Bucs dominated the time of possession in Sunday’s contest, 36:01 to 23:59.
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