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“Be careful what you wish for, Simeon Rice. The outspokenly selfish Tampa Bay defensive end went public with his criticism of head coach Jon Gruden last year about Gruden’s supposed lack of discipline as the Bucs were nearing the end to their dismal 5-11 season. Those comments stung Gruden, who inexplicably didn’t bench Rice when he mocked him by failing to show up for a walk through prior to the season finale at Arizona. Well, hats off to Gruden for doing what’s right and benching Rice for the San Francisco game for missing a mandatory pre-game meeting. Gruden might be difficult to play for. I wouldn’t know. I’m not an NFL player, and specifically, I’m not a Buccaneer. But he is the boss and Rice is his employee. Real, ordinary folks like you and I get reprimanded or fired for missing important meetings. The same thing needs to happen to prima donnas like Rice, who will likely not be a Buccaneer in 2006 due to his comments from a year ago, this stupid stunt and the fact that he is not worth his salary cap value next year, which is a whopping $9.2 million. Rice leads the Bucs with five sacks, but isn’t the player he was a few years ago. He hasn’t been able to win near as many one-on-one battles this season as someone of his stature (and payroll) should. I could almost forgive Rice’s stunt last year and chalk it up to the disappointment of a dreadful, losing season. But with the Bucs at 5-1 and sporting the best record in the NFC, what was Rice thinking? Gruden’s firm discipline today shows that when players get selfish – i.e. Rice, Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell – he doesn’t want or need them around anymore. The educated guess here says that Rice is traded in the offseason. Whether he plays next week for the Bucs is a different story altogether.”

“While Gruden gets kudos for handling some business prior to the game, he deserves some real criticism for his team’s lack of desire and execution today against a pretty bad San Francisco team that played awfully well against a supposedly – and I use that term strongly now – good Buccaneers team. We’ve waited two weeks … for that? I can understand, and perhaps even forgive the struggles of new quarterback Chris Simms today, but the offensive line played bad, the running backs didn’t make any plays and the receivers, generally speaking, had a hard time separating from tight coverage. The offense lacked imagination, execution and precision. Not all of that should fall on Gruden’s shoulders because he’s not out in a helmet and cleats, but for a 49ers team that has played so badly on defense this season, it is Gruden’s job to identify weaknesses and exploit them – especially with two weeks to prepare. Gruden failed in this regard today.”

“Gruden showed the willingness to let Chris Simms play his game today. Gruden called for more five- and seven-step drops to try to take advantage of Simms’ strong arm and penchant for throwing the deep ball than he called for Brian Griese. But that may have been a mistake given this offensive line’s struggles in pass protection and Simms’ inexperience. The Bucs rarely made any big plays downfield off of five- or seven-step drops. The biggest play of the day – Simms’ 78-yard touchdown pass to Joey Galloway – came on a three-step drop. Gruden has to adjust his game plan next week as his offense will face an even better and more aggressive defense in Carolina. To help the offensive line – and Simms – he’ll have to go back to a Griese-like, quick passing game.”

“With absolutely no viable running game and the sporadic passing of Chris Simms, you would think that the Bucs would have a trick play or two where they could literally manufacture a touchdown. Between the imagination of Jon Gruden and Paul Hackett, you would think that Tampa Bay would have an unconventional play such as a flea flicker, a halfback pass or a receiver pass where they could generate a big play through some trickery. Other teams in the NFL do this sort of thing. Why can’t the Bucs, especially with a man who has been called an offensive genius by some at the helm? The play calling was rather stale today and the execution was horrific.”

“Don’t get fooled into applauding Tampa Bay’s defense for a good showing against San Francisco just because they didn’t give up a touchdown. The Bucs defense did not notch a sack or record an interception against two of the NFL’s lesser quarterbacks, Ken Dorsey and Cody Pickett. They also allowed one of the NFL’s lesser runners, Kevan Barlow, to become the first back to crack 100 yards against them this year. And when it wasn’t Barlow racking up 101 yards on the ground, it was rookie Frank Gore, who rushed for 40 yards on 10 carries. Despite allowing 39 carries, the Bucs weren’t able to force one fumble. Don’t forget it was that defense that gave up that ridiculous 29-yard run just before halftime due to some pitiful tackling that allowed San Francisco to reclaim momentum and retake the lead with a Nedney field goal.”

“Tampa Bay really liked running back Frank Gore coming out of Miami this spring. If the Bucs weren’t able to draft Carnell “Cadillac” Williams in the first round of this year’s draft, Gore was one of their primary backup options in the second or third round due to his quickness, power and capable hands. After coming off a solid game against Washington that featured a 72-yard touchdown run, he outrushed Williams today with 40 yards on 10 carries. As he is worked into the lineup more frequently as the season unfolds he could threaten Williams for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Gore certainly outplayed him today.”

“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers proved their critics right Sunday by losing to the San Francisco 49ers, 15-10. Most pundits were skeptical of Tampa Bay’s 5-1 record since the Bucs had not yet beaten a team with a winning record this season. San Francisco was 1-5 heading into Sunday’s game, and the 49ers managed to hand the Bucs their second loss of the season without even scoring a touchdown. Simply put, the Bucs’ performance was inexcusable. They were coming off a bye week, but the Bucs looked like a team that could use a few more week to prepare for one of the league’s worst teams, a team that got beaten badly by the Washington Redskins last Sunday. Quarterback Chris Simms struggled and threw two costly interceptions that led to six points for the 49ers – perhaps we’re seeing why the Bucs were so anxious to trade for QB Tim Rattay and tried so desperately to save Brian Griese’s season before eventually placing him on injured reserve last week. The tackling was horrible on the defensive side of the ball, and the penalties (8 for 65 yards) hindered the offense’s ability to move the ball in the first half. This loss to an NFC opponent will wind up costing Tampa Bay in terms of playoff positioning, but then again, based on the way the Bucs played vs. the 49ers, the playoffs seem like a long shot at this point for the 5-2 Bucs.”

“I didn’t think the Bucs should have played running back Cadillac Williams on Sunday even though he practiced all week on his injured foot/hamstring. I was convinced that Tampa Bay could defeat San Francisco without Williams, but as it turns out I was wrong. The Bucs lost with Cadillac in the starting lineup. In fact, the Bucs failed to establish a running game, which contributed to Simms’ less than stellar day at quarterback. Williams rushed for 20 yards on 13 carries (1.5 avg.), and the Bucs rushed 20 times for 43 yards (2.2 avg.) vs. the league’s 32nd-ranked defense. It looked like Cadillac wasn’t the only one shaking off rust on Sunday. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said earlier in the week that his team had two solid practices, but the team, particularly the offense, that took the field in pewter pants and white jerseys on Sunday simply didn’t look prepared to play.”

“You have to applaud Jon Gruden’s decision to make defensive end Simeon Rice inactive after he failed to attend a mandatory meeting on Saturday night. Rice, who pulled a similar stunt in Week 17 of last season, was also sent home. The problem is some of his defensive teammates left San Francisco with him, or at least they did mentally. The Bucs defense wasn’t its usual self on Sunday. Sure, it didn’t surrender a touchdown, but allowing 49ers running backs Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore to produce 141 yards on 36 carries was extremely disappointing, especially when you consider the fact that Tampa Bay knew San Francisco wasn’t going to put the game in QB Ken Dorsey’s hands. Tampa Bay’s defense didn’t lose the game on Sunday, but it didn’t do enough to win it, either.”

“If Simms and Co. thought they had it tough against San Francisco’s defense, just wait until next Sunday when Carolina invades Tampa Bay. Carolina has defeated Tampa Bay four straight times, and the Panthers have won four straight games. The Bucs, Panthers and Falcons each have a 5-2 record and are in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC South division. It might sound crazy, but next Sunday’s game could make or break the Bucs’ confidence and playoff aspirations.”

“Even though the 49ers had a lot of pride and respect to play for after last Sunday’s whipping at the hands of the Washington Redskins, that is no excuse for Tampa Bay to have such a sloppy loss when the talent level between the teams isn’t close. San Francisco went into the game with the last ranked defense in the league, which should have been the perfect situation for QB Chris Simms to entertain. That wasn’t the case, as Simms seemed to struggle, especially with passes into the flats and sidelines, where he routinely threw the ball low. Simms’ problems continued in the second half, throwing a pick on a pass intended for WR Michael Clayton. The third-year quarterback never seemed to get into a rhythm against and aggressive 49er defense, and that rubbed off on the rest of the offense. Looking at the stats, you would think otherwise. But as we all know, stats are for losers and the only thing that counts is the final score.”

“The defensive play also seemed very spotty, especially at the end of the second half. Allowing 49ers Kevan Barlow’s long run, which resulted in a free field goal for San Francisco, was also uncharacteristic. Poor tackling and over pursuit were culprits on that play. Consistent pressure was never put on QB Ken Dorsey and QB Cody Pickett, and the Bucs are lucky a more seasoned quarterback wasn’t playing for the 49ers today. Otherwise the loss would more than likely have been worse. What’s even more disturbing is that the Bucs top-ranked run defense was unable to stop San Francisco’s ground game in the fourth quarter when they knew it was coming, resulting in a field-goal and forcing Simms to take the team down the field to try and get the game-winning touchdown, which did not come to fruition. Tampa Bay was also unable to come up with any interceptions or fumbles, while San Francisco came away with two interceptions.”

“Wide receiver Joey Galloway has to have taken the reigns of team MVP so far this season. Galloway’s play has been instrumental to the team’s success this season. It’s scary to think what the team would be like if Galloway went down this year. The Bucs would very possibly have a repeat of last season’s debacle. Galloway possesses the speed and deep threat needed to keep defenses honest, and also opens up the underneath, which is crucial to the West Coast offense.”

“Bucs RB Cadillac Williams did not appear anywhere near ready for the game. It seems pretty clear that his foot has not fully healed. Unfortunately for Cadillac, foot injuries usually linger for the entire season when it comes to running backs. Although Caddy didn’t seem healed, it’s hard to think that RB Michael Pittman would have done any better running the ball. The offensive line did not do any favors for either the running game or the passing game, failing to open holes and pass protect adequately.”

“Overall, the team as a whole looked both unprepared and without spirit the entire game. The demeanor of the players gave the impression that the team didn’t even want to be in San Francisco for the game, which is disappointing. It’s hard to see how Tampa Bay can beat Carolina next week if it plays the way it did today. Unless Simms can improve his pocket presence, decision making and accuracy, Buccaneer fans should prepare for the possibility that this team may miss the playoffs, as the schedule does not get any easier from here on out.”

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