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President Hugh MacArthur
“There is certainly enough blame to go around for this crushing loss. It begins with Chris Simms, adds in a dash of defense, and finishes with some jaw dropping play calling by Coach Jon Gruden.”

“It is very difficult to win in the NFL when you spot the opposing team 17 points. It is difficult to win when your first pass results in 7 points for the opposing team. It is difficult to win when your defense is again on the field for the entire first quarter, the offense cannot make a first down, and the enemy team repeatedly begins its possessions at mid-field.”

“All looked lost at the half. Even the touchdown drive that was finally engineered by Simms was one that was generously helped by Panther penalties. The TD pass to Galloway was pretty though. Simms used a great ball fake to completely fool Chris Gamble, and there was no one to  help with Galloway at the back of the end zone.”

“Simeon Rice said it this week. Said that a game like this meant that players needed to step up. Great players needed to step up and make plays. He said that he was a great player and needed to make plays. On Sunday, he backed up his talking. He walked the walk by repeatedly slamming into Jake Delhomme, and causing two fumbles in the third quarter. He gave Simms and the gasping Bucs offense life when there seemed to be none.”

“His play was contagious. Suddenly Derrick Brooks was all over the field. DeWayne White was in the backfield. Chris Hovan was digging for fumbles.

“And the offense capitalized on them. On short fields, the Bucs were able to mix enough running with passing to get into the end zone and make the Panthers pay. Simms looked downfield. He occasionally even looked off a safety and pump-faked.  He completed passes.”

“Chris Simms is still a work in progress.  He still telegraphs his passes, can hold the ball too long, and does not always go through he progressions to find the open receiver.  He proved on Sunday that he was tough, though.  He proved that he was a winner. He led three scoring drives off of Carolina turnovers. The last was when he could barely stand or breathe.”

“Simms, obviously hazy and dehydrated, practically had to be carried off the field at the start of the fourth quarter. The fact that he came back at all was astounding. The fact that he had the presence of mind and physical energy to throw pass after pass on a last field goal drive was amazing.”

“Here is where Coach Gruden must explain some play calling that seemingly betrayed his quarterback’s condition. A rollout inside the 10 for a QB with his hands on his knees, eyes blinking after every play? Worse than that, a 30-yard pass late in the fourth quarter for a man in a complete haze? Why not run the ball on that fateful third-and-5? At least Carolina would have had to expend their last timeout before getting the ball back. A long pass certainly had the element of surprise, but could Simms even see clearly 30 yards downfield at that point, much less throw accurately?”

“Lastly, the defense, which had been up and down on Sunday, but mostly up with three huge turnovers, gave up the fourth down conversion it could not afford to give. It was a clever call. A quarterback draw, with the Panthers knowing all of the Bucs’ defensive linemen would be tearing at the offensive line and pushing with every last sweaty breath to get upfield, and the linebackers dropped into zone coverage, exposing the soft middle.  The defense was mostly great. It was gashed on big plays when it had to blitz to get pressure and still could not quite get to Delhomme.  But in the end, this game was lost in the first half.”

“Kasay kept kicking enough 50 yard field goals to just about snuff out the Bucs’ season.  The bye week, seemingly way too early a few weeks ago, cannot come soon enough.  The questions will continue. The questions about Simms, about run defense, and now about play-calling. There will be heat. More heat than there was at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. If Coach Gruden can keep his team together, and keep them somehow believing that they still have a season to play, when they are 0-3 out of the gate and 0-2 at home, he will truly accomplish something. Good luck to him”

Publisher Scott Reynolds
“The downward spiral continues for Chris Simms, right? Simms could not have had a worse start with an interception on a quick out to Joey Galloway. Not only did cornerback Chris Gamble jump the route, but Carolina’s safety also sniffed it out. The predictability of that play call was the fault of head coach Jon Gruden, who did not help Simms out with the call. However, both Simms and Gruden rebounded in the second quarter and wound up putting 24 points on the board in the final three quarters. Granted, it wasn’t enough to claim victory, and the Bucs offense only generated 209 yards of offense, but this was a good foundation to build upon after the bye week. Yes, the season is in peril, and Tampa Bay is certainly not in position to make the playoffs right now, but there are 13 games remaining. I know a lot will be made of Gruden’s decision to throw the ball on third-and-5 on Tampa Bay’s last offensive play, but the Bucs had to put the ball in the air and try to get a first down. I think Gruden trusted Simms to throw a deep ball better than anything underneath. If Simms’ pass downfield were to get picked off, it would equal a punt. I didn’t like the play call, but I think Gruden was trusting his defense to come through with a stop, which didn’t happen. Giving up a 12-yard run by quarterback Jake Delhomme, who is not a scrambler, on fourth-and-7 was unforgivable. ”

“Defensive end Simeon Rice showed up today with four tackles, a momentum-swinging sack and two forced fumbles. It’s a pity that under tackle Booger McFarland, the second-highest paid player on defense behind Rice, did not. Yes, McFarland faced his share of double teams against Carolina, especially in the run game, but don’t the game’s dominant players split double teams occasionally to record the key sack or force the key turnover? It is clear that McFarland is nowhere near being the dominant player that Rich McKay thought he was when he signed him to a lucrative, multi-year contract. McFarland has largely been invisible through the first three weeks of the season with just six tackles through two games. What was McFarland’s production against Carolina? One assisted tackle. Give credit to Rice for being embarrassed by his play and addressing that on Wednesday, and then doing something about it on Sunday. The same can’t be said for McFarland, who plays the important position of under tackle in Tampa Bay’s defense.”

“The last time I saw this many missed tackles on defense, it was 2004. The Bucs’ record that year? Five wins, 11 losses. This defense is clearly showing its age. Yes, players like linebackers Derrick Brooks and Shelton Quarles and cornerback Ronde Barber all made a few big plays in Sunday’s game against Carolina, but they also looked as if their play had slipped a bit – especially in the area of tackling. But it’s not just the veterans who are the perpetrators of poor tackling. Tampa Bay’s younger players, such as the safety tandem of Jermaine Phillips and Will Allen, were guilty of taking poor angles and for poor effort as well. You wonder if the influx of the new coaches on defense has something to do with this. Yes, Tampa Bay’s offense is struggling, but the defense has its own problems – namely tackling.”

“I liked the flea flicker call. I liked the fact that play caller Jon Gruden was willing to pull out all the stops and use plays like that, and screen passes to try to move the football in unconventional means. Gruden’s playcalling lacked imagination in the first two games, largely because he didn’t trust young Chris Simms, who has thrown seven interceptions in three games. But during the Carolina game, it seemed as if Gruden was throwing caution to the wind and being aggressive. It served them well, evidenced by putting three touchdowns on the board. Hopefully this ‘go for broke’ mindset will continue in two weeks against New Orleans. At 0-3, Tampa Bay has nothing to lose.”

“The best part about the flea flicker call was that running back Cadillac Williams not only took the handoff and pitched the ball back to Chris Simms cleanly, but he also had a great pick up block on blitzing safety Mike Minter. Had Williams faltered on his block, Simms would have been easily sacked. Due to Williams’ stout pass protection, Simms was able to hit tight end Alex Smith for a big, 22-yard gain. It’s good to see that Williams has grown in this area.”

“Most fans may not have realized this but Bucs quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett was down on the field for the first time since he came to Tampa Bay last year. Typically, Hackett is up in the booth serving as Gruden’s eyes from the press box. Instead, wide receivers coach Richard Mann was up in the booth and Hackett was on the sidelines, talking to QB Chris Simms between each series. After taking a lot of heat in the media for his sideline tirades with Simms over the past two weeks, credit Gruden for doing everything he could by staying out of Simms’ face and damaging his young quarterback’s confidence and bringing Hackett and his calming influence down on the sidelines. Yes, Gruden should be able to control his emotions better when dealing with Simms, but in case you haven’t noticed, Chucky wears his emotions on his sleeves – both of them. I asked Gruden about bringing Hackett down to talk with Simms face-to-face and here’s what he said: ‘That was something we did today. We’re hard on Chris. Everybody has a feel for that, but we’re also big fans of his and we’re going to try to help him any way we can. I felt Paul Hackett coming down and talking with him between series … we’ve been with quarterbacks our whole life. Clearly we had a guy that struggled in the first two games and I just wanted to be as thorough as I could and be encouraging as we could and have Coach Hackett down there talking to him between series.’”

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
“If you didn’t already know it, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that produced an 11-5 record and won the NFC South division title overachieved last year. What else could you deem last season after watching the Bucs get off to a 0-3 start this season while keeping all but one starter (Dexter Jackson). This team is putting itself in holes that are too difficult to climb out of. To their credit, the Bucs erased a 17-point deficit to come back and take the lead twice over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. But one of the many differences between this year’s Bucs and last year’s Bucs is the way they start and finish games. The Bucs have been outscored in the first half this year, 51-10. That’s a horrific stat. To make matters worse, Tampa Bay’s defense couldn’t hold onto to the lead it helped the team get today. The Bucs allowed the Panthers to drive 48 yards on eight plays and kick a 46-yard game-winning field goal with just two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Give Tampa Bay credit for not giving up, but last year’s Bucs wouldn’t have fallen behind 17 points in the first half, and they wouldn’t have allowed the Panthers to drive down the field and win the game with a field goal.”

“Anyone who questioned Bucs quarterback Chris Simms’ toughness got their answer Sunday. Simms is one tough dude. He was clearly hurting in the third and fourth quarter with a rib injury and possible dehydration. But after leaving the game late in the third quarter, Simms returned and attempted to continue to play. No one should question Simms’ toughness after watching him battle through the rib injury, especially since he was hospitalized after the game. However, what people can and should continue to question is his ability to be an effective starting quarterback for Tampa Bay’s offense, which went nine and a half quarters before if scored its first touchdown of the season Sunday. Simms’ first pass of Sunday’s game was intercepted by cornerback Chris Gamble, and the Panthers made him pay on the first play of their offensive series by hitting Keyshawn Johnson for a 35-yard touchdown. Not exactly the best way to start a football game. Simms has now thrown seven interceptions and one touchdown pass through three games this season. His interception total this year matches the one he had through 13 regular season games in 2005. The Bucs need to go out and acquire a veteran quarterback, and Simms’ sersious injury – and play – should give them two good reasons to do that as they head into what will be a very long bye week.”

“Kudos to Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice for backing up his talk from earlier in the week. Rice stated on Wednesday that special players needed to step up and make big plays, especially when a team like the 0-2 Bucs were on the ropes. Rice led by example Sunday by notching one sack and forcing two fumbles in the second half. The Bucs scored 10 points off of the two turnovers Rice forced. His play also pumped life into what appeared to be a lifeless football team.”

“Only three teams have ever started the season 0-3 and still made the playoffs in the same season. Don’t hold your breath, Bucs fans. Tampa Bay will not be the fourth, especially when you look Tampa Bay’s next two opponents – the 2-0 New Orleans Saints and the 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it could.”

Contributing Writer Mark Lennox
“Tampa Bay fans, these are the Buccaneers you are used to seeing. Instead of losing a game by 20 or more points, they lost the old fashion way: by less than a field goal. Sarcasm aside, it was nice to see Tampa Bay finally compete in a game rather than let it pass them by. It is not every day that you respond from a 17-point deficit only to retake the lead twice. Granted, Tampa Bay lost this game, but it is a starting point for the season, although about two weeks late.”

“Just as slow has the offense has been (nine quarters without a touchdown), the defense has been equally as bad. Look at the statistics. Over the first 10 quarters of the season, the defense could stop no one. The Falcons ran for more than 300 yards and the Baltimore Ravens put up 20 points on Tampa Bay. But in the second half of the Carolina game, the defense finally tightened up. Most of the credit is due to the play of Simeon Rice and Dewayne White.  White recovered two fumbles, Rice forced two fumbles and the offense managed to take advantage of a short field en route to 17 points off of turnovers.  The only points the defense gave up in the second half were field goals to John Kasey. The defense also had the opportunity to seal the deal twice in the final drive, but dropped two potential interceptions. The problems do not solely lie with the offense. It took the offense nine quarters to get going, but it took the defense 10 to stop somebody.”

“Everyone screaming for the ball to be fed to Cadillac Williams got their wish. Williams ran 19 times for a paltry 48 yards. Despite running for a touchdown, Williams only managed 2.5 yards per carry. Let’s hope this isn’t the start of a Michael Clayton-esque sophomore slump. If the Bucs intend to do anything this season, they’ll need their luxury automobile to get there.”

“There were some questionable play calls late in the game that ultimately led to the demise of Tampa Bay. For instance, the Buccaneers drove the ball down to the 10-yard line late in the fourth quarter, but had to settle for a field goal.  On third-and-9, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden called a running play up the gut that got stuffed. Bye bye game-winning touchdown. Although the Buccaneers took the lead, it is definitely easier to defend a potential touchdown drive than allow John Kasey to get into field goal range. The second questionable call was on the ensuing Buccaneer drive. On third down, Bucs quarterback Chris Simms attempted a bomb to Joey Galloway that was way overthrown.  This stopped the clock and allowed Carolina to keep its final time out. When you have a running back who averages 5.7 yards per carry in the fourth quarter for his career, and its third-and-5, give it to your horse. A first down wins the game.”

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