The Tampa Bay Buccaneers starters went toe-to-toe with a tough, playoff-caliber Jaguars team at Jacksonville, gaining a 7-0 lead in the first quarter behind a perfect passing day from quarterback Jeff Garcia. But the Jaguars starters beat up the Bucs’ backups in the second quarter, outscoring Tampa Bay, 24-0, to build a 24-7 halftime lead due to a 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback David Garrard with four seconds left in the second quarter.
Two Tampa Bay fumbles in Jacksonville territory and a poor showing by the Bucs’ backup defense allowed the Jaguars to claim a 31-19 victory after building up a 31-7 lead in the fourth quarter. After the game, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was unhappy with the play of his backups following an impressive outing by his starters.
Tampa Bay’s starting offense opened the game with a three-and-out, the third such series in a row for the first-teamers. But punter Josh Bidwell came through with a career-best 74-yard punt, which was downed by safety Donte Nicholson at the Jaguars’ 1-yard line. Tampa Bay’s defense then forced a three-and-out of its own, and Tampa Bay took over on the Jacksonville 43.
After picking up its initial first down of the preseason, the starting offense proceeded to drive 43 yards in six plays with the drive ending with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Garcia to David Boston. Under pressure, Garcia rolled right and threw across his body and found Boston open in the end zone. With 8:21 left in the first quarter, Tampa Bay led 7-0.
At the start of the second quarter, Jacksonville would get on the scoreboard. Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich completed a dump off pass in the middle of the field to running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who gained 38 yards due to a missed tackle by rookie linebacker Adam Hayward. Rookie safety Sabby Piscitelli knocked Jones-Drew out at the Tampa Bay 2, but Fred Taylor ran through Bucs linebacker Jamie Winborn for a 2-yard touchdown on the next play. With 13:42 left in the second quarter, the score was tied at 7-7. The Jaguars’ three-play drive took just 40 seconds.
Jacksonville would take the lead midway through the first quarter after a Tampa Bay turnover. Bucs wide receiver Maurice Stovall fumbled at the Jaguars’ 28-yard line and Jacksonville safety Jamaal Fudge recovered the ball at the 30 and sprinted 72 yards down to the Tampa Bay 5. Quarterback Luke McCown showed off his speed and athleticism, racing downfield to make a one-handed, touchdown-saving tackle.
That play would prove to be key as Jacksonville had to settle for a 19-yard field goal from Josh Scobee after an incomplete pass and two runs. All three plays were stopped by Bucs rookie safety Tanard Jackson, who was very impressive on Saturday night. With 7:47 left in the second quarter, the Jaguars led 10-7.
Jacksonville’s first-string offense would build on its lead on its next offensive possession, driving 60 yards in seven plays, including a 17-yard run by Greg Jones, against Tampa Bay’s second-string defense. Running back LaBrandon Toefield’s 8-yard touchdown run with 2:25 left in the second quarter gave Jacksonville a 17-7 lead.
The Jaguars would add another touchdown to close out the first half, driving 62 yards in nine plays. The key play was a 27-yard reception by Jacksonville receiver Charles Sharon over Tampa Bay cornerback Sammy Davis on third-and-2. Sharon’s play set up the Jaguars at the Tampa Bay 14. Jackson continued to have a great first half, breaking up a pass in the end zone intended for Matt Jones. Then Jackson tackled Toefield after an 11-yard draw play with 15 seconds left at the 4-yard line. Two plays later, Garrard ran three yards for a touchdown with four seconds left to give Jacksonville a 24-7 lead.
McCown drove Tampa Bay down the field to the Jacksonville 5-yard line before rookie running back Kenneth Darby fumbled. The ball was recovered by Fudge, his second of the game. McCown was 5-of-5 for 29 yards and had a 27-yard scramble before Tampa Bay’s second turnover of the game.
Jacksonville capitalized on Tampa Bay’s second fumble with another touchdown after a 95-yard drive to push the score to 31-7 with 12:58 remaining in the fourth quarter. The key play was Bucs safety Donte Nicholson missing an easy tackle on tight end George Wrightster on third-and-7 that allowed Jacksonville’s drive to continue. Garrard was 6-of-6 for 75 yards against a mix of the Bucs’ second- and third-string defenders on the drive. Running back Alvin Pearman rushed for a 1-yard touchdown to cap off the scoring drive. Garrard finished the game 11-of-14 for 129 yards.
Tampa Bay added a touchdown in the fourth quarter when Bruce Gradkowski beat the blitz and threw a scoring strike to wide receiver Mark Jones that covered 53 yards on third-and-10. After dropping a pass he should have caught on the previous play, Jones came through with the Bucs’ biggest play of the preseason. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, fullback Byron Storrer dropped a catchable two-point conversion pass from Gradkowski. With 11:08 remaining, Jacksonville’s lead was cut to 31-13.
The Buccaneers recorded their first turnover of the preseason when cornerback Carlos Hendricks forced a fumble by running back Roosevelt Kiser. Rookie linebacker Quincy Black recovered the loose ball at the Jacksonville 48. Gradkowski marched the Bucs 48 yards in eight plays for another touchdown, going 4-of-5 for 40 yards on the drive before Darby’s 1-yard touchdown made it 31-19 with 6:03 left in the fourth quarter. Another Gradkowski-to-Storrer two-point conversion pass was dropped.
IT WAS OVER WHEN… Wide receiver Maurice Stovall’s fumble in the second quarter allowed Jacksonville to widen its lead to 13-7 after Fudge’s 72-yard recovery led to a field goal. Running back Kenneth Darby’s fumble at the Jacksonville 5 in the third quarter with the score 24-7 snuffed out any chance of a Buccaneers comeback, especially after Jacksonville marched 95 yards for a touchdown to push the score to 31-7 at the start of the fourth quarter.
PEWTERREPORT.COM PLAYER OF THE GAME Do you feel better about Garcia now, Bucs fans? After last week’s 1-for-4, four-yard outing against New England in which the first-team offense went three-and-out twice, Garcia was 6-of-6 for 43 yards and one touchdown against Jacksonville. Garcia showed some of his trademark scrambling ability and veteran savvy on a couple of occasions. Garcia avoided a sack when rookie left guard Arron Sears failed to pick up defensive end Reggie Hayward, who was coming up the middle on a twist. He was able to pick up six yards on the ground on that play. Then Garcia showed his poise after receiving a bobbled shotgun snap, and then chased down the ball 14 yards behind the line of scrimmage after a botched handoff to Michael Pittman. Less experienced quarterbacks would have created a turnover on those plays. But Garcia’s signature play of the evening was on a play-action bootleg when he rolled right and waited for wide receiver David Boston to find an opening in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown strike. Garcia waited until he was almost out of bounds and then threw a missile across his body for the score. That’s the type of play that no other Bucs quarterback under Jon Gruden has made in Tampa Bay.
STATS THAT COUNT Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks were a combined 22-of-30 (73.3 percent) passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Bucs receivers dropped four passes, making the quarterbacks’ night all the more impressive. … The Bucs were outgained in total yardage, 377-322. … Jacksonville converted 62 percent (8-of-13) of its third downs, while Tampa Bay converted 45 percent (5-of-11). … Tampa Bay had two turnovers, while Jacksonville had one. … There were only four penalties in the game. Tampa Bay drew three flags for 11 yards, while Jacksonville had one penalty for five yards. … Quarterback Luke McCown was the Bucs’ leading rusher with 37 yards on three carries, including a game-high 27-yarder. McCown finished 9-of-13 passing for 66 yards. … Bucs running back Cadillac Williams rushed for minus-1 yard on three carries against Jacksonville. … Wide receiver Chas Gessner caught four passes for 48 yards to lead the Bucs. … Cornerback Marcus Hamilton and linebacker Ryan Nece, Adam Hayward and Quincy Black each recorded five tackles to lead Tampa Bay.
TAMPA BAY PERSONNEL NOTES Kevin Carter got the start over Greg Spires at left defensive end. He also got some time at under tackle. … Barrett Ruud got the start at middle linebacker after missing the preseason opener last week due to a bruised knee. … Matt Lehr got the start at center over John Wade and was shaky with some bad snaps. Wade saw his playing time in the second half, splitting time at center with Dan Buenning.Â … Left tackle Luke Petitgout, wide receiver Michael Clayton and safety Sabby Piscitelli made their 2007 preseason debuts Saturday night at Jacksonville. Petitgout was among the starters on the offensive line, Clayton had one catch for eight yards, while Piscitelli made four tackles and almost intercepted a pass. … Quarterback Chris Simms did not play for the second straight game.
KICKOFF CONDITIONS The announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Jaguars game at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium was 66,944. The temperature at kickoff was 86 degrees with 51 percent humidity. The heat index was 88 degrees.
BUCS INJURIES Tampa Bay middle linebacker Antoine Cash had a serious knee injury in the first quarter on a kickoff and had to be carted off the field. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden indicated that his season might be over. Safety Tanard Jackson left the game in the third quarter due to cramps in his right hamstring. Guard Jeb Terry was carted off the field in the fourth quarter after injuring his left leg. Gruden said it was either a high ankle sprain or possibly a broken bone.
BUC SHOTS Bucs head coach Jon Gruden turned 44 on August 17. … Tampa Bay wide receivers coach Richard Mann cramped up in pregame and had to be taken off the field. … Kevin Carter recorded his first sack as a Buccaneer when he dropped Byron Leftwich in the first half. … First-round draft pick Gaines Adams got his first sack in the NFL in the third quarter, corralling David Garrard. … Bucs receiver Michael Clayton was seen on the sidelines with a mohawk hairstyle. … The Bucs botched two snaps out of the first four shotgun snaps of the evening. Still, Gruden said he was committed to using the shotgun this season despite the gaffes.
UP NEXT The 1-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Miami to play the 2-0 Dolphins on Saturday, August 25. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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