Although Tampa Bay running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams made the biggest play of the game by sealing his team’s season-opening victory over Minnesota with a 71-yard touchdown run on third-and-1 to push the score to 24-13, another Buccaneers rookie proved to be just as impressive. Tight end Alex Smith, one of the Bucs’ two third-round draft picks, hauled in four catches for 34 yards in his NFL debut and scored two touchdowns to help the Bucs build a 17-7 lead at halftime. For his efforts, Smith is this week’s PewterReport.com Most Valuable Player.
Smith’s first touchdown came on the first play of the second quarter when Brian Griese found him a step behind Minnesota linebacker Rod Davis for a 23-yard scoring pass. Smith showed off his 4.6 speed and ability to work the seam in the middle of the Vikings defense on that play.
His second touchdown came late in the second quarter with the Bucs facing a third-and-goal at the Vikings’ 2-yard line. Griese rolled to his left to avoid the pass rush and was able to square his shoulders and fire a pass back to the middle of the field where Smith, who was wide open in the end zone, hauled in the scoring strike.
Smith’s final catch on the day, a 4-yarder, converted a third-and-3 situation for the Bucs late in the third quarter. Aside from being a weapon in the passing game, the rookie tight end proved to be a competent blocker in the running game against Minnesota as well.
Smith wins this week’s PewterReport.com MVP honors over Tampa Bay cornerback Brian Kelly, who had two clutch interceptions inside the Buccaneers’ 10-yard line, including a critical one to end Minnesota’s last scoring threat. Kelly was charged with three penalties for 25 yards in the game, including one that negated a sack and a needless 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a late hit out of bounds.
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