Quarterback Jeff Garcia got back to throwing the ball with accuracy vs. the Arizona Cardinals completing 64 percent of his pass attempts. Garcia finished the game 18-for-28 for 196 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Garcia had to use his legs to get away from pressure most of the game. He was sacked three times by the Cardinals along with being hurried six times. Garcia, however, stayed away from the big turnover compared to his three-interception performance last week vs. the Jaguars.
Garcia used his feet and arm to set up the touchdown-scoring drive to open the second half. On a third-and-5 play, Garcia scrambled to his right and found wide receiver Joey Galloway on a crossing route for a 28-yard gain. That play gave the Bucs a first down and put the ball inside the 20-yard line. The drive culminated with a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Earnest Graham.
The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback followed that drive with another long, time-consuming drive, but couldn't finish the drive with points. The drive that was sandwiched between the third and fourth quarters chewed up 11:59 off the clock.
Garcia was 5-for-6 for 45 yards with his only incompletion on the drive coming when tight end Alex Smith dropped a pass right in his hands in the back of the end zone. Garcia played a part in five third-down conversions on the drive, including a 14-yard scramble on third-and-7 at Arizona's 30-yard line. He found wide receiver Ike Hilliard on two third-down conversions, 11 and 13-yard receptions to keep the drive alive. Garcia also found wide receiver Maurice Stovall for a 9-yard reception on third-and-4 at Tampa Bay's 44-yard line, and hit running back Earnest Graham on third-and-3 with a 7-yard reception at the 1:24 mark of the third quarter.
Garcia's accuracy was on display on the first drive of the game as he went 4-for-4 for 59 yards. Garcia hit Hilliard with consecutive pass plays of eight and seven yards respectively. The big play of the drive was a 37-yard touchdown pass from Garcia to Galloway that gave the Bucs a 7-3 lead. Garcia and Galloway also hooked up for a 7-yard reception on a second-and-11 play in the first quarter.
Garcia had to work the two-minute offense at the end of the first half with no timeouts. He found Hilliard with a 10-yard reception that got the Bucs into field goal range. Bryant, however, was short on his 58-yard attempt.
Running back Earnest Graham recorded his first career 100-yard performance in the win vs. the Cardinals gaining 124 yards (3.6 avg.) on 34 carries and one touchdown. Graham also had two receptions for 13 yards. He set career-highs in rushing yards and carries on Sunday.
Graham played a big part in the touchdown-scoring drive for the Bucs to open the second half. He had 18 yards on six carries, including the 2-yard touchdown straight up the gut to increase the Bucs lead to 17-3. Graham opened the drive with three consecutive runs, including a 5-yard carry on third-and-1 with 13:51 remaining in the third quarter for a big first down.
Graham put the game away with a 15-yard run straight up the middle of the field with two minutes remaining. That run put the icing on the cake of a consistent day of running the ball and controlling the clock.
Graham had five carries for 14 yards on the first possession of the game that resulted in a touchdown. On second-and-9 with 11:33 remaining in the first quarter, Graham followed the block of pulling guard Arron Sears for an 11-yard gain. On the Bucs' second scoring drive of the first half, a 32-yard field goal from place kicker Matt Bryant, Graham had an impressive 12-yard run as he made a cutback to the left side and burst through the open hole.
Running back Michael Bennett was used mainly to give Graham a rest in between plays in Sunday's victory. Bennett finished the game with 12 yards on five carries.
Fullback B.J. Askew played a big part in leading the way for Graham on most of the running plays. Askew had one reception for seven yards, which came on a second-and-8 play with 4:06 remaining in the first quarter.
The Bucs' running backs rushed for 136 yards on 39 attempts (3.5 avg.) on Sunday.
Wide receiver Joey Galloway was a part of the big play once again on Sunday and finished the game with 84 yards on five receptions and one touchdown. Galloway had two catches that resulted in points on two separate drives.
He was a big weapon in the first scoring drive of the second half with a first down reception of 28 yards from Garcia. The 13-year receiver caught the ball on a crossing route and made a defender miss to pick up the first down. Galloway made an impact on offense early in the game with a 37-yard touchdown reception on the first possession of the game for the Bucs. Garcia threaded a pass in between double-coverage with 6:06 remaining in the first quarter and Galloway was able to pull the ball in for the score.
Wide receiver Ike Hilliard took advantage of the attention paid to Galloway and made the Cardinals pay for using single coverage on him. Hilliard finished the game with seven receptions for 70 yards. The 11-year wide receiver had four third-down receptions on Sunday living up to his team-given nickname of "Third-and-Ike." On the Bucs 19-play drive in between the third and fourth quarters, Hilliard had an 11-yard reception for a first down with 7:23 remaining in the third quarter.
He added a 13-yard reception on third-and-7 at Tampa Bay's 25-yard line. With 6:02 remaining in the fourth quarter, Hilliard had an 18-yard reception on third-and-5 that helped take time off the clock. Hilliard's only mistake of the game was a dropped pass on a third-and-7 play with 45 seconds remaining in the first quarter that would have been a first down. Hilliard had a 9-yard reception at the end of the first half to get the Bucs into field goal range.
Wide receiver Maurice Stovall had a quiet day catching the ball with one reception for nine yards. Stovall had a breakout game last week vs. the Jaguars with five receptions for 47 yards. However, Stovall didn't see the ball coming his way too many times vs. the Cardinals.
The Bucs converted 12-of-21 (57 percent) of their third down attempts vs. the Cardinals with the wide receivers making six third-down receptions.
Tight end Alex Smith made his return to the Bucs lineup after sitting out two weeks with an ankle sprain. Smith finished the game with two receptions for 13 yards. Smith's big play came on second-and-7 with 11:44 remaining in the second quarter when he made a 10-yard reception. Smith proved that his ankle was healed as he had the strength to shake off Arizona defensive end Calvin Pace to get up field. Smith dropped a guaranteed touchdown in the back of the end zone on a third-and-2 with 11:58 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Tight end Jerramy Stevens saw limited action and was used during running situations.
Tight end Anthony Becht also was used on two-and-three tight end sets on running plays.
The Bucs had the luxury of having the lead heading into the second half and leaned on the running game and the offensive line in the second half. Tampa Bay handed the ball to the running backs 24 times for 70 yards in the second half, pounding the ball right at the Cardinals defense. The offensive line got some decent push up the middle and left guard Arron Sears was back to his old ways of pulling out and leading Graham through the hole. The pass blocking was average as the Bucs allowed three sacks and six hurries in Sunday's win.
Center John Wade did a good job of calling out the blocking schemes despite seeing many different fronts from the Cardinals defense. Wade, however, had two penalties that put the Bucs offense in bad field position. A holding penalty in the first quarter with 2:45 remaining put the Bucs in a first-and-20 situation and the drive ended with a punt. Wade was called for another holding penalty with 4:34 remaining in the fourth quarter that put the offense in a second-and-19 hole that they couldn't climb out of.
Left guard Arron Sears was leading the way during Graham's 100-yard plus performance, many times on pulling plays. Sears did a good job battling Arizona's defensive tackles Gabe Watson and Alan Branch as they had three tackles combined and no hurries or sacks. Sears' only mistake came early in the third quarter when he was called for a false start.
Left tackle Donald Penn was consistent again at left tackle and didn't allow a sack while battling against Cardinals defensive tackle Bertrand Berry. Berry only recorded four tackles and never got a hand on Garcia during the game.
Right guard Davin Joseph continues to struggle with his run and pass blocking and did little to slow down Arizona defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. Dockett finished the game with 10 tackles, two sacks and three quarterback hurries. With 10:14 left in the second quarter, Joseph got knocked back on his heels by Cardinals linebacker Monty Beisel on a running play by Graham. Joseph fell victim to a good swim move by Dockett on a second-and-19 play with 4:26 remaining in the fourth quarter that resulted in a sack of Garcia.
Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood had to leave the game before the clock expired as he was ejected with 45 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Trueblood got into a scuffle at the end of the game and accidentally bumped a referee, which led to his ejection. He had another consistent game with run and pass blocking as many of Graham's runs went to the right side. Trueblood had one mistake in the game with a false start penalty in the third quarter.
Tampa Bay won the time of possession vs. Arizona, 43:07 to 16:53, and gained 350 total yards offense.
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