Pewter Report editor-in-chief Scott Reynolds:
“Martin Gramatica must go! He must go! He must go now! Cut him and sign another kicker. One of his field goals was blocked, but the other two were bad misses. I don’t want to hear about the snaps or the holds. Linebackers can make shoe-string stops with one arm instead of form tackles. Cornerbacks can make one-handed interceptions. Quarterbacks can throw long bombs on target off their back foot. Gramatica needed to make two field goals today. He cost the Bucs a win today and at St. Louis. The guy has no confidence. He’s kicking below 60 percent on the year and hasn’t been worth a damn since the 2002 season. Any kicker off the street has to be better at this point in time, or at least worth a try.”

“It’s nice that Julius Peppers took the game over for Carolina with a blocked field goal, a sack and an interception for a touchdown. Gee, it would be nice to see Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice regain his form and take over games, too. Rice has been a major disappointment this year and got manhandled by Jordan Gross for most of the day. General manager Bruce Allen needs to go to him in the offseason and demand a paycut.”

“Nickel back Torrie Cox had a rough day today, but unlike previous nickelbacks who have failed this team – Mario Edwards, Tim Wansley or Corey Ivy – Cox will be a very good player in time. He got a tough baptism by fire today against a very good rookie receiver in Keary Colbert, but Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly and Dwight Smith had similar bad days in the past. Let’s not forget that this is essentially Cox’s rookie season, too. He was on injured reserve in 2003 with a torn ACL.”

“Before fans jump all over head coach Jon Gruden’s decision to run the ball in Tampa Bay’s third-and-6 situation just before Martin Gramatica’s last miss of the day, they need to know that Gruden called a run or a pass option for Brian Griese. This was confirmed by both Griese and Gruden in post-game interviews. Griese saw the Panthers showing blitz and checked out of the pass and into the running play, which unfortunately, failed to gain a yard. Really, neither Griese nor Gruden deserve any blame. If Gramatica had made his kick this discussion would be a moot point.”

“Is this bad Buccaneers team finally dead when it comes to the NFC playoff picture? Not yet. You can’t count them out, especially when Detroit (4-7), New Orleans (4-7), Arizona (4-7), New York (5-6) and Seattle (6-5) all lose today. I have a funny feeling that an 8-8 team will win the final NFC Wild Card spot, but after Sunday’s loss, I don’t think it will be Tampa Bay.”

Pewter Report managing editor Jim Flynn:
“Just when you thought the Bucs could do better than cornerback Mario Edwards in nickel situations, second-year CB Torrie Cox discredited that notion Sunday by allowing Panthers rookie wide receiver Keary Colbert to score not one, but two touchdowns en route to a 21-14 loss. Colbert’s first score came in the first quarter after he hauled in the pass and eluded a tackle from Cox, who failed to tackle Colbert, which allowed him to score. Colbert’s second TD came with :20 remaining in the fourth quarter when he outjumped Cox in the air to grab an underthrown ball from quarterback Jake Delhomme and race 40 yards into the end zone for the score, which proved to be difference in the game. The Panthers didn’t test Cox too often Sunday, but when they did they were successful. However, don’t expect the Bucs to necessarily yank Cox out of the lineup. At 4-7 and the playoffs almost out of reach, the Bucs will likely start to play younger players on both sides of the ball, and Cox proved that he could use the extra playing time.”

“Bucs running back Michael Pittman had a great game in terms of receiving, catching eight passes for 134 yards and scoring Tampa Bay’s only two touchdowns of the game. But his two fumbles were costly and quite alarming seeing as he now has four fumbles (all of them lost) through 11 games this season. Pittman’s first fumble came in the third quarter when Panthers defensive end Mike Rucker hit him from behind and forced the ball loose, which allowed Carolina to recover on Tampa Bay’s 31-yard line. He fumbled again in the third quarter after Al Wallace tackled him. Pittman’s fumble in St. Louis was returned for a touchdown in a 28-21 loss. His first fumble on Sunday might have cost the Bucs another touchdown in a 21-14 loss. Pittman’s inability to hold onto the football in crucial situations is inexcusable, but the scary thing is Bucs head coach Jon Gruden has no alternatives in the running game, with the exception of fullback Mike Alstott, who has had his own fumbling issues in the past and isn’t the answer as a full-time ballcarrier in Gruden’s offense.”

“Don’t blame Bucs head coach Jon Gruden for the 21-14 loss to the Panthers. While I can understand people questioning the decision to run the ball on third-and-6 late in the fourth quarter with the Bucs deep in Panthers territory (that was actually QB Brian Griese’s decision as he was sent to the field with two plays – one pass, one run), it wasn’t Gruden who missed three field goals, turned the ball over three times and had seven penalties for 40 yards. Besides, kicker Martin Gramatica would’ve built some confidence if he could’ve made the 37-yard field goal attempt that would’ve put the Bucs ahead by a field goal. Not that he didn’t have it before, but now Gruden has more than enough reasons to justify making some type of move to address Tampa Bay’s kicking woes.”

Pewter Report senior writer Leo Haggerty:
“It’s got to be driving the Bucs coaches nuts watching teams line up in the shotgun and beat them. Both Carolina touchdowns were from the gun, and on each occasion quarterback Jake Delhomme beat a blitz. The best friend of the quarterback when facing the blitz is the shotgun. The QB has the chance to see where the rush is coming and being in a position to throw the football immediately. It’s not like being under center when the signal caller has to drop back to a five- or seven-step drop depth and trying to read the blitz and then the coverage on the run. The Bucs need to give their guy the same advantage especially since Brian Griese has a hip problem.”

“It’s time to start calling this team what it really is and that’s a lower echelon bad football team, especially on offense. The additions to the offensive line have not made any significant improvements, and in fact, the group has digressed. The receivers are pretty much a wash with the loss of Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell trading off for the play of Michael Clayton and a semi-healthy Joe Jurevicius. The running backs and tight ends are the same personnel, but the quarterback has been an improvement. The problem is that quarterback Brian Griese spends more time running for his life than looking down the field at potential receivers.”

“Someone needs to remind the Bucs, especially cornerback Brian Kelly, that the play doesn’t end until the whistle blows. Granted, he made a great, acrobatic interception, but wasted any return yardage by holding the ball aloft for everybody to see. A word to the wise, the 11 guys in the other jerseys are coming at you. Tuck it away and head towards the other team’s goal line.”

“It’s becoming clear to me that the prevent defense is exactly that. It prevents you from winning. The Bucs spend 58 minutes holding the Carolina Panthers to one offensive touchdown. Then, with the game on the line, the defense decided to play it safe. The only time they blitzed was on the game-winning TD pass. They should have taken their chances when the ball was on the other side of the 50-yard line.”

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