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PEWTER REPORT EDITOR-IN-CHIEF SCOTT REYNOLDS: “Although Carnell “Cadillac” Williams is the team’s starting running back, he still has a lot to learn in the Bucs’ passing game. For the fourth straight game, Michael Pittman has replaced Williams in the lineup on obvious passing downs. Pittman has some of the best hands on the team and is much more effective in pass protection, despite the fact that he picked up a 15-yard facemask penalty in the first quarter on blitz pickup. As good as Williams has been thus far in his rookie campaign, he has some deficiencies in the passing game that limit his participation in certain situations at this time. With Williams ailing due to foot and hamstring injuries, Pittman came through as a receiver with 96 yards on six catches, including a 41-yard touchdown late in the second quarter to tie the score at 10-10. He also added 30 yards rushing on five carries (6.0 average).”
“Tampa Bay won the game against Detroit by winning on third downs. The Bucs were 7-of-16 (44 percent) on third downs, while the Lions were a woeful 2-of-12 (17 percent). What was impressive was how many third-and-longs the Bucs converted today. Tampa Bay converted a third-and-10, a third-and-12 and a third-and-3 on its first touchdown drive. Michael Pittman’s scoring reception came on third-and-3, while Brian Griese’s 80-yard touchdown to Joey Galloway in the third quarter came on third-and-10. Galloway also converted a third-and-8 in the third quarter. Detroit’s first third down conversion came at the 9:00 mark in the fourth quarter.”
“With “Cadillacmania” sweeping Tampa Bay and America, credit head coach Jon Gruden for not getting caught up in it. While Williams has clearly been the team’s Most Valuable Player through its 3-0 start, he wasn’t finding much success against a stout Detroit defense. With the Cadillac stuck in neutral, Gruden wasn’t stubborn enough to keep feeding him the ball. Instead, he switched gears and went with the player who had the hot hand – Michael Pittman. How bad was Williams’ day? He had 12 yards on his first carry, but rushed for a net gain of one yard on his next 10 carries to finish with 13 rushing yards on 11 carries.”
“Will Allen’s play over the past two games while subbing for an injured Dexter Jackson has been tremendous. Like he was against Green Bay a week ago, Allen was a force against the run and the pass versus Detroit, and was second on the team with seven tackles. When Jackson’s injured hamstring heals, he may not automatically get his starting job back. The Bucs spent a fourth-round pick on Allen last year with the idea that he would eventually be a starter. Due to his solid play, that may be happening sooner than expected. With Jackson operating under a one-year deal and Allen being the free safety of the future, it looks like the future is now.”
“Tampa Bay’s much ballyhooed offensive line showed its youth in pass protection today. The Bucs offensive line boasts new starters in left tackle Anthony Davis and guards Dan Buenning and Sean Mahan and their inexperience in pass protection showed. The strength of this offensive line is run blocking, with Buenning and Mahan coming from run-first colleges like Wisconsin and Notre Dame. In pass protection against Detroit, the unit struggled to keep an aggressive group of Lions defensive linemen away from Brian Griese. Davis and Buenning really struggled, in particular. Davis surrendered two sacks to defensive end Kalimba Edwards, who also forced Griese’s fumble. Buenning gave up a sack to Jared DeVries, who also recovered Griese’s fumble. Tampa Bay’s revamped offensive line is talented, but they will take their lumps – especially in pass protection – until they gain more experience.”
PEWTER REPORT MANAGING EDITOR JIM FLYNN: “Buccaneers right tackle Kenyatta Walker made a game-saving tackle for the second consecutive week on Sunday en route to Tampa Bay’s win over the Detroit Lions. In the fourth quarter with the Bucs leading 17-10, quarterback Brian Griese’s pass intended for tight end Alex Smith was intercepted by Terrance Holt, who returned the ball 51 yards to Tampa Bay’s 23-yard line before getting tackled by Walker. The Lions eventually settled for a Jason Hanson 23-yard field goal, which made the score 17-13. That tackle turned out to be the difference in the game. Walker made a similar effort-type play in the second half of last Sunday’s game vs. Green Bay after a Griese interception. For as much as he has been criticized during his tenure in Tampa Bay, Walker deserves a lot of credit for the Bucs’ 4-0 start. He’s preserved their last two wins with two key tackles.”
“Another Bucs offensive lineman who deserves a lot of credit is tackle Todd Steussie, who replaced starting left tackle Anthony Davis for the entire second half after Davis sustained a shoulder injury on the last play of the second quarter. Davis’ injury may have been a blessing in disguise for the Bucs, who watched their first-year starting left tackle struggle mightily vs. Lions defensive end Kalimba Edwards, who notched two sacks and a forced fumble on Sunday. Steussie played extremely well throughout the second half of the game, especially in pass protection, and may have shown enough to replace Davis as a starter for next Sunday’s game vs. the New York Jets. Many criticized Tampa Bay’s decision to re-sign Steussie one week into training camp, but re-signing the veteran tackle has turned out to be one of the best moves the Bucs front office has made this year.”
“One of the more disappointing aspects from Sunday’s game came on Detroit’s final drive, which started at its own 7-yard line. Now, with Tampa Bay’s defense being ranked No. 1 overall in the league and basically shutting down Detroit’s three dangerous receivers and running back Kevin Jones, you would have thought that the game was in good hands. But after further review, even the Bucs’ top-ranked defense has room for improvement. Tampa Bay allowed Detroit quarterback Joey Harrington and Co. to drive 93 yards down the field and score the game-winning touchdown. But luckily for the Bucs, the touchdown catch by a sliding Marcus Pollard was reviewed and controversially overturned. To Tampa Bay’s credit, it made the best of its second chance by holding Detroit out of the end zone on the next two plays, which were also the two last plays of the game.”
“I question why Bucs head coach Jon Gruden decided to leave quarterback Brian Griese in the game after the starting signal caller suffered a possible concussion on a scramble in the second quarter. Griese was clearly out of his game from that point forward, tossing four interceptions (one did get called back on a penalty, though). Two of Griese’s interceptions led to 10 points for the Lions, and those critical mistakes could have easily cost the Bucs the game on Sunday. I certainly credit Griese for playing through the injury and hooking up with RB Michael Pittman and WR Joey Galloway for touchdowns, but is a concussion-ridden Griese better than a clear-headed Chris Simms? Gruden’s decision turned out to be the right one, but it could have easily been the wrong one as the Bucs barely held on to beat the Lions on Sunday.”
PEWTER REPORT CONTRIBUTING WRITER JASON ARMENDAREZ: “Last year, Bucs T Todd Steussie was the target of much criticism, most of it deserved. However, just as anybody deserves criticism, they also deserve praise, a lot of which should be thrown Steussie’s way after his performance today. Moving back to his natural position of left tackle, the veteran backup filled in admirably for an injured Anthony Davis, anchoring the left side of the line and helping keep the offense competitive against a solid Detroit defense. It’s a nice change for Tampa Bay to not have to worry about the left tackle position so much after many seasons of uncertainty. Having Steussie play in place of Davis might have been better for the offensive line overall. A veteran presence is an important tangible that is often overlooked, especially when playing against top-rated defenses.”
“Although some thought today’s game should be a cake-walk, Detroit came in the sixth ranked defense in the league, allowing just 276 yards per game. That ranking held true today when the Lions forced four turnovers from quarterback Brian Griese. It wasn’t until late in the second quarter that Detroit’s defense finally broke, when Griese hit a wide open running back Michael Pittman down the right sideline on a rail route against linebacker Teddy Lehman for a touchdown. For the most part, Detroit’s defense held firm, with two big plays being the difference in the contest. The Bucs are lucky they have a defense that rivals Detroit. If Detroit can get a solid quarterback, they’ll be a team to watch out for week-in and week-out.”
“It was great to Michael Pittman step up big in place of Cadillac Williams. Pittman fits the mold perfectly of what a team player should be. After drafting Williams with the fifth overall pick this past April, Pittman was relegated to special teams and spot duty on offense. With Williams out and nursing foot and hamstring injuries in the second half, Pittman showed that he’s still a viable option on offense, aiding the offensive line with fierce blocking and adding a dimension that Williams needs improvement in – the passing game. In just one season, Bucs general manager Bruce Allen and the coaching staff have significantly improved what had been two big question marks last year, the left tackle position and running back.”
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