The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got a comeback-inspiring touchdown run from fullback Mike Alstott, 15 tackles from middle linebacker Shelton Quarles, and a stunning and spectacular outing from their special teams coverage units against Chicago’s rookie return man Devin Hester, who has an NFL-record six return touchdowns this season. But the Pewter Report MVP of this game was backup quarterback Tim Rattay, who came off the bench at the 3:51 mark of the second quarter to help the Bucs overcome a 21-3 halftime deficit.
Rattay threw three fourth quarter touchdown passes to lead Tampa Bay’s rally to tie the game at 31-31 at the end of regulation. After a Hester fumble was recovered by Wesly Mallard at the Chicago 16-yard line, Rattay found tight end Alex Smith on a 9-yard touchdown three plays later with 9:23 left in the game to make the score 24-17. Rattay would cap off a 95-yard touchdown drive with a 64-yard touchdown pass to Joey Galloway, who finished with three catches for 107 yards. That made the score 31-24 with Chicago still leading with 6:13 left in the fourth quarter. On the Bucs’ next drive, Rattay hit Ike Hilliard on slant that wound up being a 44-yard touchdown strike. With 3:44 left in regulation, Tampa Bay had tied the score at 31-31.
Rattay finished the contest 20-of-35 for 268 yards with three TDs and a QB rating of 98.3. Rattay did have an interception in the fourth quarter that stymied a drive, but did not lead to points for Chicago.
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden would be wise to stick with Rattay, who helped an offense that was averaging just over 11 points per game score 28 points (Gradkowski led the Bucs on a field goal drive in the second quarter). Rattay should get the start next Sunday at Cleveland as Gradkowski appears to have hit a wall in his development and he is regressing.
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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: [email protected]