Pewter Report editor-in-chief Scott Reynolds:
“That playing surface in Atlanta is a joke. What does the Falcons crew do before the game, wipe it down with wax or some other slippery surface? Granted, the Bucs and Falcons players were slipping, but Torrie Cox slipped on Tampa Bay’s opening kickoff return and Ronde Barber slipped while making his third quarter interception. It could be said that the turf robbed the Bucs of two touchdowns. Tampa Bay did manage to score a touchdown after Barber’s turnover, but that initial kickoff return touchdown would have been a huge momentum-builder for the Bucs. Hey, the Falcons beat the Bucs today. I’m not making excuses – just pointing out the fact that the turf didn’t help Tampa Bay today.”

“Forget the Bucs-Panthers rivalry. This Bucs-Falcons rivalry is now the most intense for Tampa Bay. The play was extremely chippy and physical today between both teams. In fact, it got out of hand at times and more personal fouls needed to be called on both teams to calm it down. The worst was when Atlanta defensive back Cory Hall tackled Michael Pittman by the facemask and yanked him out of bounds. Then Hall proceeded to choke Pittman, fling Tampa Bay special teams coach Rich Bisaccia to the ground and nudge a shoulder into the ref who was trying to get him to go back to his side of the field. Another 15-yard unnecessary roughness personal foul and Hall’s ejection were in order. That would have settled things down.”

“It appears that Joey Galloway does a terrible job of reading defenses at the line of scrimmage. On two plays in which Galloway should have cut off his routes, he just kept running. It cost the Bucs a big pass play in the first half and forced an interception on the second one. Galloway admittedly had trouble learning Gruden’s offense in the offseason and it is clear that he does not have great chemistry with Brian Griese. The two have not been on the same page this year.”

“Defensive end Simeon Rice has easily been the biggest disappointment on this team through nine games. He is not a factor in run defense and his pass rush has been sorely lacking this year. Rice’s 15-yard facemask penalty on third down in the first quarter was extremely costly as it negated a Derrick Brooks sack of Michael Vick. His finesse approach did not serve the Bucs well at Atlanta, especially without the presence of under tackle Booger McFarland. He did harass Vick and recorded one sack on Sunday, but his days as a dominating defensive end may be drawing to a close.”

“Linebacker Ian Gold has not lived up to his advanced billing as a linebacker who can shut down tight ends. Alge Crumpler lit him up today for 118 yards and a key, fourth quarter touchdown. Last week, it was Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez who scorched the Bucs’ defense. Gold has not made many impact plays this year and it will be interesting to see if the Bucs retain him after the 2004 season.”

Pewter Report managing editor Jim Flynn:
“Tampa Bay doesn’t have a team talented enough to overcome 13 penalties for 83 yards and a 17-0 deficit, which came about after the Bucs defense allowed the Falcons to produce three straight scoring drives. Credit the Bucs for making this one a game and actually putting themselves in position to win, but penalties on offense spoiled good field position that was generated by the defense in second half. This loss hurts as the Bucs fall to 3-6 on the season and four games behind the 7-2 Falcons, who will likely win the NFC South Division.”

“Tampa Bay strongside linebacker Ian Gold has had a rough two weeks. One week after allowing Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez to haul in nine passes for 123 yards and one touchdown, Gold got beat deep twice by Atlanta TE Alge Crumpler, whose first catch, a 45-yarder, set up the Falcons’ first touchdown of the game, and his second grab was a 49-yarder that put the game away in the fourth quarter. These are two of the NFL’s best tight ends, but Gold, who was regarded as a speedster with the ability to cover pass-catching tight ends like Gonzalez and Crumpler when he signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent this offseason, has to do a better job in coverage. Things don’t get any easier for Gold next week. San Francisco tight end Eric Johnson leads the 49ers in receptions with over 50 this season.”

“You can’t help but second guess Bucs head coach Jon Gruden’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter when his team trailed by three points and had the ball in field goal range. Sure, kicker Martin Gramatica was questionable this week with a hip injury, but he was active for the game. With K Jason Taylor on the practice squad, Gramatica’s active status for the game tells me the team felt he was healthy enough to kick and make field goals. In fact, Gruden’s comments after the game suggested that Gramatica’s recent woes from beyond 40 yards, not his hip injury, led to his decision to go for it on the fourth-and-1 play that got stuffed on a run by Michael Pittman. I don’t fault Gruden for that way of thinking. Gramatica was, after all, 1-of-5 on field goal attempts between 40-49 yards this season heading into this huge game, but I do have one question: If you’re not confident enough in your kicker to make a 45-yarder in a dome, why was he active for Sunday’s game, or better yet, why is he on your football team?”

Pewter Report senior writer Leo Haggerty:
“It’s time for head coach Jon Gruden to stop being stubborn and put in the shotgun. I’ve seen Philadelphia Eagles head honcho Andy Reid go to it with quarterback Donovan McNabb to get him away from the rush as well as the Packers who have used it for years with signal caller Brett Favre and both of these teams are West Coast offensive disciples. It was painfully obvious that the Buccaneers offensive line was having difficulty protecting QB Brian Griese and the problem is that the Pewter Pirates have no Plan B if that is happening. Come on, Coach. It’s time to make the move now so the Griese has a fighting chance if this scenario occurs again.”

“With running back Michael Pittman what you see is what you get. I’m not criticizing the Bucs leading rusher but you have to understand what he brings to the table. The former Fresno State University Bulldog is a daylight runner as opposed to a sight runner and there’s nothing wrong with that. Pittman finds the first hole he sees and runs hard to it. He is not going to spend any time waiting for an alternative hole but run to the first opening. It’s been successful so far this year with No. 32 putting up 459 yards in 101 carries for a 4.5 average.”

“Head coach Jon Gruden has to shoulder this loss all by himself. Going for the first down on fourth-and-one from the Atlanta 28-yard line was a colossal blunder and completely turned the football game around. The fact that the Bucs top guy forgot about the basic rule of coaching was that you play for a win at home and a tie on the road doesn’t bother me. What does concern me is the fact that there’s a possibility that none of his assistants may have pointed out that fact to him. What would be even worse would be if the Pewter Pirates head honcho didn’t think kicker Martin Gramatica could make what would have been a game tying field goal from 45 yards away. If that’s the case then it’s time to make a change at kicker and right now.”

“I can easily point the finger at the offensive line for this loss, but I’m not. One thing is for sure. You could see how much the Pewter Pirates missed center John Wade and how Atlanta took advantage of rookie Sean Mahan’s first start at center. The Falcons definitely had some schemes that confused the second-year pro and you could see by the reaction of the offensive line that the wrong direction was called for the protection to slide. Hopefully, that will improve as Mahan gets more playing time but his inexperience definitely hurt the Buccaneers today.”

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