With starting quarterback David Garrard sidelined with an ankle injury and Quinn Gray starting in his place Sunday, the Jaguars came out running the ball early and often vs. the Buccaneers defense.
In fact, Jacksonville's first 14 play calls were running plays, and Tampa Bay initially had some trouble containing running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. Taylor rushed 15 times for 46 yards (3.1 avg.) while Jones-Drew, who played Sunday despite missing a significant amount of practice time during the week with a knee injury, carried the ball three times for 8 yards. LaBrandon Toefield also chipped in with five carries for 12 yards (2.4 avg.) and a 1-yard touchdown score that capped off a 10-play, 50-yard drive in the first quarter.
The Jaguars rushed for 81 yards on 24 carries (3.4 avg.) and one touchdown in the first half. But Tampa Bay's defense made some adjustments and did a much better job of shutting down the run in the second half. The Jaguars rushed 44 times for 133 yards (3.0 avg.) and one touchdown vs. the Bucs on Sunday. The Bucs defense held Taylor to 68 yards on 24 carries (2.8 avg.) and Jones-Drew to 48 yards (4.8 avg.) on 10 attempts.
Tampa Bay defensive end Greg Spires had mixed results defending the run, particularly in the first half. However, he came up with a big stop on Jones-Drew on a third-and-3 run on the first offensive series of the game, which forced a punt. Spires left the game midway through the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. He notched three tackles on Sunday.
Spires was replaced by Greg White, who combined with rookie DE Gaines Adams to sack Gray on a second-and-13 play late in the fourth quarter. That sack put the Jaguars in a third-and-23 situation and forced them to punt two plays later. White notched two tackles and a half of a sack while Adams, who did not receive much playing time Sunday, finished the contest with one tackle and a half of a sack.
Bucs nose tackle Chris Hovan led the defensive linemen in tackles with seven. He did a decent job of fighting off double teams and really helped the defense contain Jacksonville's running backs in the second half.
Tampa Bay under tackle Jovan Haye was active against the run and showed good speed to the perimeter. He notched four tackles, but did not get enough pressure on Quinn, who completed 7-of-16 passes for 100 yards and tossed one touchdown and no interceptions.
Kevin Carter spent most of the game playing defensive end. He made a huge stop on a Jones-Drew run on a third-and-3 play in the first half. But the Jaguars went for it on fourth-and-1, and Carter broke through the line to put himself in position to make the play on Toefield's run, but he missed the tackle, which allowed the Jags to pick up the first down. That turned out to be a big missed tackle as the Jaguars went on to score a touchdown, capping off a 10-play, 50-yard drive that put Jacksonville up 7-3 in the first quarter. Carter finished the game with four tackles.
Tampa Bay defensive tackle Ryan Sims was activated for the first time this season, but he did not see playing time.
Tampa Bay's linebackers played a big part in the defense's ability to hold Jacksonville to 3 yards per carry on 44 attempts Sunday.
Bucs middle linebacker Barrett Ruud was extremely active against the run and quick to the perimeter, where the Jaguars attempted to attack via the running game. He notched a team-high 12 tackles.
Weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks was active as well. He was second on the team in tackles with 10. However, Brooks' missed tackle on running back Greg Jones' 18-yard reception on a third-and-6 play late in the fourth quarter was costly.
Jaguars quarterback Quinn Gray's first pass attempt of the game came with less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter, and it was a big one as he completed a dump off to Jones-Drew on a third-and-5 play. That 15-yard pass play put the Jaguars on the Bucs' 1-yard line. Jacksonville punched the ball into the end zone one play later thanks to Toefield's 1-yard run. On the fourth drive of the game, June bit on Quinn's play-action, which allowed tight end Greg Estandia to get open down the right seam and haul in a pass for a 30-yard gain before June tackled him at the Bucs' 27-yard line. Tampa Bay's defense held Jacksonville to a 41-yard field goal, which put the Jags up 10-3 on the Bucs midway through the second quarter. But June came up big with two minutes remaining in the third quarter on a third-and-10 play when he sniffed out screen play to Jones-Drew. Not only did he diagnose the play, June tackled Jones-Drew for a short gain, which forced the Jaguars to punt from inside their own 10-yard line. June finished the game with five tackles.
Tampa Bay's defense, which is known around the league for playing the Tampa [Cover] 2 defense, actually played quite a bit of Cover 3 against Jacksonville. The Jaguars only attempted 16 passes, and Quinn Gray, who was starting in place of injured QB David Garrard, completed just seven passes for 100 yards.
The Jaguars picked on Bucs cornerback Phillip Buchanon, who started in place of Brian Kelly (groin), in the fourth quarter. In the beginning of the fourth quarter, Buchanon allowed Jaguars wide receiver Earnest Wilford to haul in a 13-yard pass near the sideline for a first down. That play put the Jaguars on the Bucs' 9-yard line and gave them a first down. One play later, Gray attacked Buchanon again, this time completing a fade pass to WR Matt Jones in the corner of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown. That play capped off an eight-play, 53-yard drive that put the Jaguars up over the Bucs, 24-23. Both of the receptions Buchanon gave up were one-handed grabs. He recorded one tackle on Sunday.
Tampa Bay CB Ronde Barber was used effectively as a blitzer on Sunday. On a third-and-8 play in the second quarter, Barber blitzed from the left side and tipped Gray's pass attempt to Jones-Drew. That play caused an incompletion and forced the Jaguars to punt. Late in the second quarter, Barber broke up a pass intended for Toefield on a third-and-6 play, which forced the Jags to punt. On a fourth-and-1 attempt in the third quarter, Jacksonville elected to go for it. The Jaguars were 2-of-3 on fourth downs vs. the Bucs on Sunday, but Barber stopped this particular attempt dead in its tracks by stuffing Toefield on a run blitz for no gain, which gave the Bucs the ball on their own 40-yard line. Barber finished Sunday's game with four tackles and one pass defensed.
The Bucs used safeties Tanard Jackson and Jermaine Phillips to help stuff the run throughout the game. Midway through the second quarter on a third-and-6 play, Gray attempted to throw a screen pass but overthrew his intended target, which nearly led to Jackson intercepting the ball. That incompletion forced the Jaguars to settle for a 41-yard field goal. Jackson and Phillips finished Sunday's game with five tackles each.
Jacksonville converted just 4-of-16 (25 percent) of its third down attempts vs. Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant had a busy and productive game. After the Bucs' first offensive drive of the game stalled in Jaguars territory, Bryant drilled a 44-yard field goal to cap off an eight-play, 44-yard drive and made the score 3-0 in favor of the Bucs. The Bucs called on Bryant again with 15 seconds remaining in the first half. He answered the call by making a 22-yard field goal, which capped off a 10-play, 57-yard drive. That kick made the score 17-13 at halftime in favor of the Jaguars. Late in the third quarter, Bryant kicked a 42-yard field goal through the uprights to cap off a four-play, 6-yard drive that put the Bucs up 23-17. He finished the game 3-of-3 on field goal attempts.
Punter Josh Bidwell turned in a solid game. He averaged 44.5 yards per punt, but more importantly pinned three of his six attempts inside the 10-yard line, including two inside the 5.
Bucs wide receiver Maurice Stovall deflected Adam Podlesh's punt late in the third quarter. That play gave the Bucs offense the ball at the Jaguars' 30-yard line. The Bucs eventually kicked a 42-yard field goal thanks to Stovall's big play. He also fielded a kickoff and returned it 22 yards to the Bucs' 34-yard line in the fourth quarter.
The Buccaneers had some coverage issues and three costly penalties on special teams.
In the first quarter, Bucs linebacker Ryan Nece made a touchdown-saving tackle on Jaguars tight end George Wrighster's 29-yard kickoff return to the 50-yard line. Jacksonville capitalized on that favorable field position by driving 50 yards on 10 plays and capping the drive off with running back LaBrandon Toefield's 1-yard touchdown run.
On the last play of the fourth quarter, safety Tarard Jackson was called for a late hit out of bounds on Toefield's kickoff return. That 15-yard penalty gave the Jaguars the ball at midfield and led to an eight-play, 53-yard touchdown drive that put the Jaguars up for good, 24-23.
Bucs safety Kalvin Pearson was called for holding on cornerback Torrie Cox's kickoff return to the 17-yard line in the first quarter. That infraction pinned the Bucs offense on their own 9-yard line.
Speaking of Cox, he injured his left knee covering a punt midway through the second quarter. Wide receiver Chad Lucas, who was called up from the practice squad earlier in the week, replaced Cox as a return man. However, he proved to be ineffective. His two kickoff returns went for 16 and 18 yards, respectively, giving him an average of 17.5 yards per return.
The Bucs leaned on CB Phillip Buchanon to return punts late in the first half, and he took his first attempt 24 yards to the Jaguars' 43-yard line. Buchanon averaged 12 yards per punt return on three attempts. On Buchanon's final punt return of the game, he attempted to cut the ball back from the right to the left sideline, taking 17 seconds off the clock before going out of bounds. To make matters worse, Nece was called for holding on the play, which made the Bucs start their final drive of the game at their own 34-yard line with 1:43 remaining. The Bucs, who watched their final drive end on the Jaguars' 45-yard line, could have used those 10 yards for a game-winning field goal attempt in their 24-23 loss to the Jaguars.
Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway also got in on the punt return action, fielding a punt in the third quarter and returning it 10 yards to the Jaguars' 33-yard line. The Bucs took three plays to cap off that drive with running back Michael Bennett's 19-yard touchdown run, which put the Bucs up 20-17. However, Galloway's second punt return attempt didn't go as planned. With the Jaguars punting out of their own end zone, Galloway didn't go back far enough to field it, which allowed the punt to sail over his had and bounce, leading to a 76-yard punt, which put the Bucs on their own 27.
Fullback Bryon Storer, who was signed to the active roster earlier in the week, made a great open field tackle on a Jacksonville kickoff return after Galloway's 58-yard touchdown reception late in the second quarter. That tackle put the Jaguars offense on the 21-yard line – their worst starting field position of the first half.
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden called a good game from an offensive standpoint. The Bucs did not have a balanced attack, evidenced by the fact that they passed the ball 41 times and rushed it 21 times. But that ratio was justified, as there were several plays to be made through the air. However, quarterback Jeff Garcia had his worst outing as a Buccaneer, completing just 19-of-41 (46 percent) passes for 267 yards and tossing one touchdown and three costly interceptions. While he missed several throws that would have gone for big gains, Garcia was also the victim of several dropped passes. The Bucs out-gained the Jaguars 385-219, but lost 24-23.
Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's unit struggled against the run initially, but performed well overall. The Jaguars rushed 44 times for 133 yards (3.0 avg.) and one touchdown. While Tampa Bay's defense notched two sacks, the pass rush was inconsistent. The Bucs also failed to create a turnover despite the fact that the Jaguars were without quarterback David Garrard and had backup QB Quinn Gray starting in his place.
Tampa Bay's special teams coverage units had mixed results and a costly 15-yard penalty in the fourth quarter. However, Bucs kicker Matt Bryant was 3-of-3 on field goal attempts and Josh Bidwell had a banner day punting the football.
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