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Publisher Scott Reynolds
"I was glad to see the Bucs bring back defensive tackle Jon Bradley this week. He did not deserve to be cut by the Bucs, especially after living in the Houston Texans’ backfield in the preseason finale and recording six tackles. The move was political in order to keep Tampa Bay’s fifth-round draft pick, Julian Jenkins, on the team. In my opinion, Jenkins didn’t deserve to make the team. Justice was served on Sunday when Bradley, the better defensive tackle, was the sub for Ellis Wyms and Chris Hovan – not Jenkins. And to think, the Bucs bypassed Chicago defensive end Mark Anderson, who has 6.5 sacks as a reserve, to draft Jenkins in the fifth round. The Bears drafted Anderson two picks later in the fifth.”

“Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood has had two tripping penalties in consecutive weeks. That’s a sign of poor technique. Trueblood, a huge, 6-foot-8 lineman, is a waist-bender, not a knee-bender. Despite the penalties, Trueblood has played quite well and his long arms have aided him in pass protection. Through three starts, Trueblood has played at least as well as Kenyatta Walker – if not better. He’s getting the respect of head coach Jon Gruden because there are more running plays called behind big number 65. Trueblood just needs to be more diligent with his technique and not get those drive-killing penalties.”

“This officiating crew brought new meaning to the term ‘let the guys play.’ Do you realize that there was not one offensive holding penalty called on either team the entire game? The Eagles collected two holding penalties on punts, but that’s not it. I did see Bucs center John Wade drag an Eagles lineman down without getting called for holding. But the majority of the holding was done by Philadelphia. Nose tackle Chris Hovan and defensive end Simeon Rice were held at least once, with Hovan being tackled. Defensive end Dewayne White was held at least three times and tackled twice with no call. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden didn’t want to go on the record with me after the game, fearing retribution from the league, but admitted that the no calls for holding were egregious. I think it was embarrassing.”

“I’m anxious to see if this improbable, magical win over the Eagles can spark the Buccaneers the way their epic November win against the Washington Redskins fueled Tampa Bay to the NFC South championship and an 11-5 regular season record. In the NFL, all 16 games are important, but at 2-4, the Bucs’ game at New York against the Giants is huge. I hate to say it, but a 2-5 record effectively ends any faint hopes the Bucs have for the postseason. However, a win against the G-Men would set the 3-4 Bucs up with a home game against New Orleans the following week. That would mean Tampa Bay would be in position to get to .500 and a 4-4 record after a 0-4 start.”

“The key to the Bucs vs. Giants game? Tackling. Do you remember what Tiki Barber did against the arm-tackling Kansas City Chiefs last year? The Bucs defense could look like Swiss cheese when Barber is done with it without sure tackling. I’m also concerned about the 6-foot-6 Plaxico Burress against the 5-foot-10 Ronde Barber. Barber had a great game against Philadelphia’s smallish receivers. He’ll have a real fight on his hands against a much bigger target. The Bucs may have an advantage with the Giants coming off a short week. They play on Monday Night Football at Dallas.”

“I have a lot of respect for weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks and all that he has done for this team through the years, but for him to say, ‘My missed tackle on the defense was a chance for Matt [Bryant] to come out and make that play’ was a bit ridiculous. Brooks is a deeply religious individual and was being rather spiritual in his comments to the press after the game. I certainly respect his beliefs and religion, but I don’t happen to share his sentiments with this particular situation. Brooks, who has missed a plethora of key tackles this year, missed a tackle he should have made and Bryant bailed him out with a record-setting kick. It’s as simple as that. Rather than giving Bryant this ‘opportunity’ I think everyone would have rather seen him simply make a tackle on the play. Brooks doesn’t get off the hook that easy.”

“The untold story of the game was the Buccaneers offense getting outscored 17-9 today, with the final three points coming on Matt Bryant’s 62-yard field goal. If not for Ronde Barber’s two touchdowns, this Bucs team is 1-5. Bruce Gradkowski didn’t play exceptionally well today, but the one thing he did do was not turn the ball over. Through three starts, Gradkowski is 2-1 as Tampa Bay’s quarterback with four touchdowns and one interception. He didn’t necessarily win the game for the Bucs today – although he did have a key pass and scramble on the game-winning drive – but the rookie didn’t lose it with turnovers, either.”

“Three more quick hitters – Ronde Barber answered his critics about his new contract, Michael Pittman’s season-high 37-yard kick return on the final drive was the game’s hidden big play, and the stat line in Indianapolis for Booger McFarland, who played a lot today – two tackles.”

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
“Although it gave up 506 yards of total offense and allowed the Eagles to take the lead after being down 17-0 late in the third quarter, the Buccaneers defense delivered in the turnover department Sunday. Entering Sunday’s game, the Bucs defense had created just four turnovers. Donovan McNabb had also only tossed two interceptions. But Tampa Bay managed to create three turnovers in the first 16 minutes of the game vs. Philadelphia. Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber hadn’t given the Bucs much of a return on the contract extension they gave him in training camp, but No. 20 certainly delivered Sunday by forcing a fumble and intercepting two passes and returning both for touchdowns en route to the Bucs’ 23-21 win over the Eagles.”

“You can’t help but be concerned about Tampa Bay’s offense, or lack thereof. For the second straight week, the Bucs offense was shut out by the opposing defense in the first half, and the Bucs squandered great field position on Sunday, including two drives that started at the 47-yard line and the 44-yard line, respectively, in the first half. Tampa Bay only produced 196 yards of offense vs. Philadelphia and failed to score an offensive touchdown, but it didn’t have a turnover, which proved to be key in this football game. That simply won’t be good enough production to get the 2-4 Bucs back in the playoff hunt. However, it proved to be good enough to win on Sunday.”

“Kenyatta Walker earned a reputation for committing facemask penalties during his first few seasons in the NFL, and it looks like his eventual successor, second-round pick Jeremy Trueblood, is following in his footsteps. But instead of grabbing facemasks, Trueblood  is falling into the bad habit of tripping the opposition. For the second straight week, Trueblood was flagged for a tripping penalty. Trueblood’s tripping penalty came late in the second quarter, and it was quite costly, knocking the Bucs out of field goal range. Trueblood is doing a decent job, but he needs to start learning how to play a penalty-free football game.”

“Speaking of offensive linemen, I’ve seen about enough of Sean Mahan, who started in place of Dan Buenning at left guard on Sunday. I can understand why the Bucs are trying to play Mahan, who is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but Tampa Bay is a better offense, especially when it comes to the running game, with Buenning in the lineup. In the first half, Bucs RB Cadillac Williams rushed for just 20 yards on 10 carries with Mahan in the lineup. In the third quarter, and Buenning at left guard, Williams rushed for 37 yards on seven carries on one drive alone. I’m not saying all of Williams’ success can be attributed to Buenning, but he should be the starting left guard for this Bucs football team.”

“One would have been hard pressed to find anyone inside of Raymond James Stadium that gave Matt Bryant a realistic chance of making the 62-yard field goal attempt with 4 seconds remaining in the game. Well, there was one person, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, who was willing to march Bryant out onto the field to let him give it a try even though his career long up to that point was 50 yards. Bryant’s game-winning kick on Sunday was one of the most jaw-dropping finishes I’ve ever witnessed in watching or covering the Buccaneers, and it’s the kind of finish that can make a 2-4 football team feel like they’re better than that record, and right where they want to be heading into New York to take on the Giants. Don’t look now, but a Bucs win in New York will send them home with a 3-4 record and a shot to get to .500 at home against the New Orleans Saints.

Contributing Writer Mark Lennox
“I guess I’m lucky I’m not a betting man, because there is no way I would have laid odds on the fact that Matt Bryant was going to slam home a 62-yard field goal to win the game against the Philadelphia Eagles. His career long up to that point was a 50-yard field goal and he hadn’t been having the best season up to this point. He missed two field goals against the Falcons and wasn’t called upon to attempt a 52-yard field goal just before halftime. The gamble sure paid off big for head coach Jon Gruden and the Bucs, though.”

“Kudos to Ronde Barber for stepping up on the defensive side of the ball. He is without a doubt one of the best playmakers the Buccaneers have ever had and he continued to show his worth by forcing three turnovers against the Eagles and scoring two touchdowns. Now, if only the rest of the defense would match his intensity. It’s a pretty sad day when you see five Buccaneers, including Derrick Brooks, miss an easy tackle on a dump off play. The Bucs had five chances to bring down Brian Westbrook on his touchdown reception late in the game. If Matt Bryant doesn’t kick a near-record setting field goal to win the game, the loss falls solely on the defense and their inability to close games.  Remember way back when Warren Sapp used to assert: “Give us 21 points and we’ll win the game for you.” That was back in the Trent Dilfer era mind you, but the defensive scheme and players haven’t changed all that much. Granted, Sapp is gone now along with John Lynch, but these are the same players that ran the No. 1-ranked defense last season. Giving up 506 yards of total offense to anyone is horrid. Without Barber and Juran Bolden’s turnovers, the Buccaneers lose this one easily. Maybe it’s time to drag out the old tackling dummies. Can someone please page Simeon Rice? His ability to rush the passer is waiting in the lobby.”

“We’re still waiting to see who will be left standing after the Buccaneers stop playing offensive line musical chairs. The Buccaneers shuffle the rotation on a week-to-week basis and I can’t see much continuity building if the players on the line have a different neighbor each week. Last season, the Buccaneers had the same five guys all 17 games, including the playoffs. While I think Jeremy Trueblood is a vast improvement over Kenyatta Walker at right tackle and Davin Joseph has a great future ahead of him, can the Bucs please just get a starting lineup locked up?”

“One of the things I’ve noticed since Bruce Gradkowski has been under center is the Buccaneers’ ability to prevent game-changing mistakes. With Chris Simms at the helm, they usually made a huge mistake early that led to points by the opposition. With Gradkowski, the Buccaneers have had the luxury of playing with the lead for most of the games since Simms went down. While I’m not defending Simms, the entire Buccaneers offense has played better with Gradkowski in the lineup. He has had a rejuvenated running game with Cadillac Williams, and Michael Clayton escaped from the witness protection program to catch a touchdown last week. He had been missing for 19 games. Do I think that Simms would have had the same success as Gradkowski with the improved play? Maybe. But the X-factor between the two is Gradkowski’s ability to make plays with his feet and his knack for not getting balls batted down at the line of scrimmage.”

“You hate to hear the cliché that every game from here on out is a playoff game, but if the Buccaneers want a realistic shot at getting back into the division hunt, they need to do it next week at New York. If the Buccaneers fall to 2-5 on the season, they are likely out of it and have to settle for draft position and the role of the spoiler for the rest of the year. On many occasions in the Dungy era, the Buccaneers fell to 3-4 and fought their way back to the playoffs. A win next week will put the Buccaneers at 3-4 and give them a realistic shot at salvaging their season the following week at home vs. New Orleans.”

 

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