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PEWTER REPORT EDITOR-IN-CHIEF SCOTT REYNOLDS: “The Buccaneers were probably breathing a sigh of relief that Michael Vick returned to the game in the first quarter after injuring his right leg after being sacked by Booger McFarland on the Atlanta 1-yard line. Although Matt Schaub was sacked by Simeon Rice and fumbled, which led to Tampa Bay’s first touchdown, Schaub is a far superior passer than Vick is. But any such thoughts quickly evaporated as Vick shook off horrible start in which he was 1-of-4 for 6 yards in the first quarter, and wound up killing the Buccaneers on third down all day as he racked up over 300 passing yards and two touchdowns. For as much criticism as he takes for not being a great passer, Vick showed that he could move the chains on third down, make critical throws in the red zone and air it out downfield. This wasn’t what Tampa Bay’s defense was expecting from Vick today, but you have to give the mobile lefty a lot of credit for slinging the ball the way he did.”
“I thought Bucs strong safety Jermaine Phillips played a real poor game at Atlanta, taking bad angles and giving up several big plays in the passing game to Atlanta. He hit the weights hard and put on about 15 pounds of muscle this offseason in order to better play the run in the box this year, but I wonder if he didn’t add too much weight to where it limited his lateral movement and his ability to turn and run. He got burned on Roddy White’s 54-yard gain just before halftime, and got juked by Brian Finneran’s 17-yard gain in the second half. Both plays came on third down and led to Falcons touchdowns. Phillips used to be a pretty fluid athlete, but he seems to be hindered by the weight gain. He’s still fast, and I think he still possesses the same straight-line speed, but may have lost some agility at 230 pounds.”
“I’ve said this dating back to the Dan Reeves era, if the Atlanta Falcons were a smart football team, they would run T.J. Duckett almost exclusively against Tampa Bay for four quarters. The Bucs always do such a great job of containing Warrick Dunn because he doesn’t have the size to be overly effective against Tampa Bay’s undersized defense, and his speed is matched by that of the Buccaneers. Although Dunn did have 82 yards rushing and averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 18 totes today, Duckett did break off the longest Falcons run – a 17-yarder – and could have posted similar numbers with more than the14 attempts he received. Duckett’s power enables him to break tackles at the line of scrimmage, and once he gets to the second and third level of the defense, he is so difficult for linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks in one-on-one situations. Aside from piling up rushing yardage, Duckett does more damage against Tampa Bay’s defense because he wears them down.”
“It was good to see under tackle Booger McFarland (three tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery for a touchdown) and defensive end Simeon Rice (two tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and one pass breakup) show up for a second straight game. Both players have come under fire for their lackluster play throughout the first eight games of the season, especially from Pewter Report. And both players need a strong finish this year to remain on the team in 2006. With a couple of more dominating efforts from Rice and McFarland, their critics will be quieted.”
“As we watch young quarterback Chris Simms mature before our very eyes, it is important to note how calm and poised he was after throwing that fourth quarter interception to Atlanta linebacker Keith Brooking. That pick was costly, as the Falcons marched down to the field and scored a go-ahead touchdown with 7:41 remaining in the game. Simms was 3-of-5 for 35 yards throughout the rest of the game, including a 15-yarder to flanker Michael Clayton, a 12-yarder to tight end Anthony Becht and a critical 8-yard swing pass to Carnell “Cadillac” Williams on third-and-6 on Tampa Bay’s next possession. That play preceded Williams’ 9-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 27-27 with 1:55 left in regulation. It was like the interception didn’t faze Simms. The ability to shrug off a bad play and not dwell on it is a quality that most of the NFL’s great quarterbacks have or eventually develop. To see Simms maintain his composure in such a pressure-packed game in just his sixth NFL start is a bit remarkable.”
“Was it just me or does Jon Gruden really, really, really like beating the Atlanta McFalcons? The last time I saw Gruden pump his fists and recite the ‘(expletive) yeahs!’ and the ‘Bam! Bam! Bams!’ was at Super Bowl XXXVII over three years ago.”
“Now for a little humor. My wife, Elisa, and I always watch the hit NBC comedy ‘My Name Is Earl’ – which deals with karma – on Tuesday nights, and a couple of weeks ago I pointed out that every Buccaneers game she had seen in person (Buffalo and Green Bay) or watched on television (Minnesota, Detroit, Miami) had resulted in a Tampa Bay victory. Every game she didn’t watch (New York, San Francisco and Carolina) resulted in a Bucs loss. I told her that she had stumbled into some Buccaneers karma of her own, but she was quite skeptical and dismissed my claim. So I made a deal with her that she had to keep watching Tampa Bay games this year until the Bucs lost. Needless to say, she caught both the Washington and Atlanta games on TV to run her mark to … 7-0. And yes, she will be going to next Sunday’s game against Chicago with Jim Flynn’s wife, Jodi to maintain my premise that karma is alive and well in Tampa Bay. If and when the Bucs eventually lose, she’ll be off the hook and can resume her Sunday shopping.”
PEWTER REPORT MANAGING EDITOR JIM FLYNN: “Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden and his entire staff deserve credit for keeping their players in control of their emotions on Sunday. Atlanta had several self-inflicted wounds in the first quarter, being penalized seven times (six accepted). Several of those penalties had to do with extracurricular activities that occurred after plays had ended. The Bucs, who kept their cool, reaped the benefits of the Falcons’ personal foul penalties, and their fast, 13-0 start obviously contributed to their 30-27 win on Sunday.”
“What’s been the biggest difference during Tampa Bay’s two-game winning streak as opposed to its two-game losing streak? The play of the Bucs offensive line. In the Bucs’ two losses to the 49es and Panthers, the offensive line surrendered five sacks in each of those contests. Over the past two games, the Bucs O-line has not given up a sack. That feat is quite impressive, especially when considering the fact that the Bucs gave up a whopping seven quarterback takedowns en route to a 24-14 loss to the Falcons in The Georgia Dome last year.”
“You can’t help but be worried about Tampa Bay’s defense, which could fall from No. 2 overall all the way out of the top five after allowing Atlanta to post a whopping 443 yards of total offense on Sunday. The Bucs defense is designed to play 60 snaps, but the Falcons got off 77 on Sunday by converting 11-of-17 (65 percent) of their third down tries. Tampa Bay’s offense is starting to gets its act together, having posted 30 or more points in two straight games. The Bucs will need their defense to play at a much higher level if they are to have a chance of winning the NFC South division.”
“Bucs head coach Jon Gruden wasn’t kidding when he said that rookie running back Cadillac Williams was back. Of course, Gruden said that two weeks ago, but we saw firsthand how Cadillac has returned to his early-season form. On Sunday, Williams rushed 19 times for 116 yards (6.1 avg.) and a touchdown. Williams moved well and hit holes with authority. It’s nice to see Williams, who has now rushed for 632 yards on 152 carries (4.1 avg.) and three touchdowns, back on track. The Bucs will certainly need him down the stretch as they attempt to secure a playoff spot.”
“Speaking of the playoffs, Tampa Bay will have to earn its way into post-season play if it is to indeed secure a playoff spot. That’s because the 7-3 Bucs’ remaining schedule looks like this: Chicago (7-3), at New Orleans (2-8), at Carolina (7-3), at New England (6-4), Atlanta (6-4) and New Orleans (2-8). That’s a tough schedule, but then again, Tampa Bay has proven to be a tough opponent in recent weeks.”
PEWTER REPORT CONTRIBUTING WRITER JASON ARMENDAREZ: “It was great to see Bucs rookie Cadillac Williams back in form in an important divisional game against Atlanta. Coming right out of the gate, Caddy ripped off a 30-yard run that would keep the Falcons guessing on what kind of game to expect from Tampa Bay. The offensive line deserves a lot of credit for the win, opening up nice holes for Cadillac and protecting Bucs QB Chris Simms well. For the second straight week, the line protected Simms from a barrage of blitzes, allowing the young quarterback time to find his receivers.”
“Watching the Bucs defense the past three games has not been pretty. Although the Bucs have come up with key turnovers the past two weeks, they have giving up big yardage in both the running and passing game. I think the biggest key to the defensive lapse has been the injuries suffered by the secondary, more specifically the safety position. There were a few times against Atlanta where the secondary as a whole looked lost on some plays, which can be attributed to not only to some unexpectedly nice throws by QB Michael Vick, but perhaps some inexperience. There were also some really inexcusable penalties at the end of the game by the defense, one being the negated pass interference penalty near the end of the game by Jermaine Phillips, and the other being a roughing penalty by Ellis Wyms on Vick. The defense has been lucky that the offense has been able to bail them out of a couple games this season. In years past, it’s usually been the other way around.”
“Kudos have to go out to a somewhat unsung hero, kicker Matt Bryant. Back in training camp, Bryant was in a dogfight with Todd France for the kicking duties. Many fans and media, even some coaches, didn’t know who to give the job to, but coach Gruden decided on Bryant, which was the wise decision. Bryant has not only kept the team in many of its games, but finally got his long-sought game winner against the Falcons by drilling a 45-yarder. He’s been a pleasant surprise this year and Bucs general manager Bruce Allen would be wise to keep Bryant in Tampa beyond this season, as solid kickers are sometimes hard to come by.”
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