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Publisher Scott Reynolds“I’ve mentioned it before but cornerback Phillip Buchanon has really come a long way in his development. After coming to Tampa Bay with a reputation for not being physical and not being a good tackler, Buchanon has worked hard over the past year to dispel those myths. After recording a career-high 11 tackles last week at Indianapolis, Buchanon followed up that performance with eight more stops against Tennessee, in addition to an interception and a pass breakup. Buchanon leads the team with two picks and eight passes defensed on the season, but it is his solid play against the run on the perimeter and tackling receivers when they come his way that impresses me. The Bucs aren’t better without Brian Kelly, but Buchanon, who now has 32 tackles on the year, is more than an adequate replacement.”
“For the second straight game, the Bucs defense was on the field too long in the second half. This is a function of Tampa Bay allowing Tennessee’s offense to convert 7-of-12 third downs (58 percent), combined with four three-play drives by the Bucs’ offense in the second half. Although one of those drives resulted in a quick-strike, 69-yard touchdown by wide receiver Joey Galloway, the Bucs defense was obviously gassed in the second half for playing 46 plays. This scenario cannot be a recurring trend if the Buccaneers expect to win a fifth game this year.”
“You have to be impressed with how this Buccaneers team keeps on winning despite losing several starters to season-ending (fullback Mike Alstott, running back Cadillac Williams and left tackle Luke Petitgout) or long-term (running back Michael Pittman, tight end Alex Smith and cornerback Brian Kelly) injuries. Last year, key injuries overwhelmed a very young Buccaneers team. But in 2007, Tampa Bay’s veteran additions of quarterback Jeff Garcia and defensive lineman Kevin Carter, plus the maturation of the team’s young players have greatly helped the Bucs overcome the loss of several important starters. Players like Garcia and Carter, coupled with the likes of linebacker Derrick Brooks and cornerback Ronde Barber have provided a calming and confident influence inside the Buccaneers locker room and have kept Tampa Bay winning. But you have to wonder how many more severe injuries the Bucs can take, especially on offense.”
“Tampa Bay under tackle Jovan Haye had a breakout game for Tampa Bay, recording a career-high 10 tackles and a key sack in the fourth quarter in helping to stuff Tennessee’s high-powered running game. The Titans rushed for only 96 yards on 33 carries (2.9 avg.), and Haye was a big reason for Tennessee’s lack of success. Haye now has 39 tackles and a team-leading three sacks on the season.”
“The Buccaneers won their fourth game of the season, which ensures that this team will do no worse than its 4-12 mark last year. However, sitting at 4-2 and in first place in the NFC South with a 2-0 record, Tampa Bay appears capable of winning its division and finishing with a mark at or above .500. This has frustrated many of the ‘haters’ in the Tampa Bay media who had predicted gloom and doom for the Buccaneers in 2007 – and had invested so much ink in doing so during articles and columns in the offseason, summer and preseason. Those who had predicted 5-11 or 6-10 records won’t want to admit they were wrong about this Buccaneers team better than they had realized. Sooner or later, the local media will have to start recognizing the efforts of general manager Bruce Allen and the Tampa Bay front office for putting together a quality team with great chemistry – and not wrecking the salary cap to do so. But in order for that to happen, the Bucs will need to achieve at least eight wins. Still, don’t expect the praise to come in big doses as Allen is despised by many reporters in the local media.”
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn“For the third straight week the Bucs watched one of their offensive players get carted off of the field after suffering a serious injury. This week’s victim – tight end Alex Smith – suffered what appeared to be a serious ankle injury in the fourth quarter. It’s a good thing the Bucs have two veteran tight ends – Anthony Becht and Jerramy Stevens – on their roster. They’re still lacking depth at running back, though. The Bucs are only six weeks into the season and they’ve already matched their win total from last year. Tampa Bay is 4-2 and in first place in the NFC South division, but I’m not sure how much more the Bucs can afford to have the injury bug bite them before these injuries start costing the team wins.”
“Matt Bryant is having one heck of a season. After making just 77 percent of his attempts last year, Bryant has drilled 8-of-9 (88.8 percent) of his field goals through six games in 2007. The best kicking percentage Bryant has ever had during his six-year career was 84 percent, which came in his first season as a Buc. He was 2-of-2 on field goal attempts vs. the Titans. Bryant’s most recent field goal was his most important this season. With just 16 seconds remaining in Sunday’s contest, Bryant came through in the clutch by drilling a 43-yarder, which put the Bucs up for good over the Titans, 13-10.”
“How did Tampa Bay allow Kerry Collins to move the ball like he did Sunday? The answer might be simple. The Bucs spent all week preparing for a completely different quarterback in Vince Young, who completed 11-of-14 passes for 120 yards and tossed one interception before leaving the game in the third quarter with a quad injury. He did not return and was replaced by Collins, who completed 10-of-20 passes for 125 yards. Although the Bucs recorded three sacks in this game, Tampa Bay’s lack of pass rush on defense and its inability to get itself off the field on third downs proved to be costly, especially in the second half when Tennessee posted all 10 of its points and dominated the time of possession. It’s important to note that the Titans have actually been pretty good when it comes to moving the chains on third downs this season. Heading into Sunday’s contest, the Titans were converting 48 percent of their third downs. They converted 9-of-16 (56 percent) of those attempts against Tampa Bay on Sunday.”
“Tampa Bay’s wide receivers came through big for the Bucs against a tough Tennessee defense on Sunday, and the big plays didn’t just come from Joey Galloway. Bucs WR Michael Clayton, who had just three catches heading into Sunday’s game, caught two passes vs. the Titans, including a 39-yarder that helped to set up the Bucs’ first field goal in the second quarter. Galloway did a great job of adjusting for a ball thrown near double coverage by quarterback Jeff Garcia and hauling it in for a 69-yard touchdown in the third quarter. But perhaps the biggest play of the game came courtesy of WR Ike Hilliard, who on a third down play with less than one minute remaining in the fourth quarter hauled in a pass from Garcia and gained 28 yards. Not only did he catch the pass and convert the key first down, Hilliard also showed great awareness by juking defenders and sprinting out of bounds to stop the clock for the Bucs, who had just one timeout remaining. Hilliard was one of the main reasons why Matt Bryant was even able to attempt and make his 43-yard field goal with 16 seconds remaining in Sunday’s game, and it turned out to be the game winner.”
Contributing Writer Charles Gonzalez“The Bucs' running game seemed to be on track after consecutive 180-yard outputs in wins over St. Louis and Carolina. But regression in the offensive line’s run blocking and injuries to running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and Michael Pittman have set back the progress of the ground game. The holes that were starting to open in Weeks 3 and 4 have not been there in Weeks 5 and 6. Even though Tampa Bay got the win on Sunday against Tennessee, it can’t depend on rushing for 29 yards in a game, as it did against the Titans, to carry them through the season. The Bucs have been rumored for the past couple of weeks of trying to trade for Minnesota running back Mewelde Moore or San Diego running back Michael Turner. They haven’t pulled the trigger on a trade yet, but it’s time to make a move and quickly. The Bucs need an explosive running back to help this offense or face less room to throw the ball in the passing game. The Titans played a zone coverage most of the game on Sunday because they were able to stop the run with seven players in the box. Graham is a good backup, but the Bucs found out Sunday that he can’t carry the load in the backfield. It’s time to make a move because the Bucs can’t wait 6-8 weeks for Pittman to return. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Tampa Bay’s running attack is desperate for a playmaker right now.”
“Luck was not on the side of cornerback Ronde Barber on Sunday as he had three opportunities to cause a turnover and all three were taken away. Barber had the record-breaking interception on his hands twice on Sunday and had replay take it away. On both interceptions, Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher challenged the play and had the turnovers overturned. Barber joked after the game that Donnie Abraham must be praying to the ‘Football Gods’ that he doesn’t break his record. Barber has always been known for his good hands in the secondary with several key interceptions in his career. However, the first interception against Tennessee bounced out of his hands as he hit the ground. Barber can’t be blamed for either interception being taken away from him, but it’s hard to watch him run off the field with what he thinks is a major individual achievement twice and have to give the ball back. The fumble recovery, however, can be looked at in two ways. Why doesn’t Barber just fall on the ball, get touched and give the ball to the offense? Another way to look at it is Barber was just trying to make a play with the ball and you can’t blame him for that. Barber will cherish the moment when it happens, especially after having the record in his hands and having it snatched away.”
“Quarterback Jeff Garcia has been praised many times this season for the plays that he’s made, but it’s also the mistakes that he hasn’t made that has been just as beneficial to the Bucs' success. At this point last season, Bucs quarterbacks had thrown five touchdowns compared to eight interceptions. Garcia, however, has equaled last year's touchdown production with five through six games, but hasn’t thrown an interception. Not only is Garcia keeping the team in the game by eliminating the big mistakes, he’s keeping plays alive with his feet. The production from the quarterback position is just as big a part of this year’s success as is the improved play of the defense. Head coach Jon Gruden has coveted Garcia for the last couple of seasons and now Bucs fans understand why. Even though Garcia is 37 years old, he’s playing like he’s a lot younger, yet showing his experience and savvy in the offense. There aren’t too many quarterbacks in the league that can lead their team to wins without a consistent running game. Garcia, however, can’t do it all for the remainder of the season and needs help in the backfield. Just enjoy what is being displayed on the field because Garcia is special with the ball in his hands.”
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