Publisher Scott Reynolds
“The Buccanees got waxed by the defending Super Bowl champions, 33-14 on the road on Sunday. This game was a good measuring stick for Tampa Bay, and it is obvious that the Bucs aren’t in the elite crop of NFL teams yet. But while some critics will contend that the Bucs aren’t very good because they haven’t beaten a team with a winning record yet, it is important to note that they are still 3-2 and have yet to lose a game at home. Nobody said Tampa Bay would be a playoff team in 2007, but Pewter Report predicted that the Bucs would rebound from a 4-12 mark in 2006 and show improvement, which they have. Pewter Report predicted that the Bucs would be 2-3 at this juncture, while they are in fact 3-2. And thanks to a weak NFC South that includes 3-2 Carolina, 1-4 Atlanta and 0-4 New Orleans, the Bucs still hold the lead and could sneak into the playoffs by winning the division with an 8-8 or 9-7 record. Tampa Bay didn’t play well in any phase of the game on Sunday, but there isn’t much shame in losing on the road to a stout team like the reigning Super Bowl champs featuring one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game in Peyton Manning. It would help the fans’ psyche if the Bucs had played the Colts more competitively, but in the grand scheme of things, losing an away game to an AFC team is not the end of the world in Tampa Bay. Last week’s win against division foe Carolina was much more important.”
“Left tackle Donald Penn did a pretty good job for his first NFL start. Drawing a player the caliber of Dwight Freeney is no easy task in his initial start in the pros. Penn allowed Freeney to collect two tackles and struggled a bit in the running game, which was to be expected because that is the weakest part of his game. But did quite well in pass protection and didn’t allow Freeney to go off, especially in the second half when Tampa Bay trailed Indy and had to throw the ball to catch up. While the Bucs suffered a big defeat on Sunday, Penn won a small victory by proving to himself, his teammates and the coaching staff that he can play left tackle competently – at least for one Sunday in a tough environment. Penn must develop consistency and continue to improve in the running game by being more physical and explosive off the ball. The Bucs front office and coaching staff are quietly hoping that Penn, who has great feet and good pass protection technique can develop into the team’s long-term solution at left tackle.”
“Despite losing starting running backs Carnell Williams and Michael Pittman to season-ending injuries, head coach Jon Gruden must not panic and become a pass-happy play-caller. The Bucs must do a better job of trying to establish the run with Earnest Graham next Sunday against Tennessee. The Bucs offense works much better with balance to it, and Graham must be prepared to run with authority next week in the first quarter because if the Bucs don’t have success on the ground, Gruden will likely veer away from the running game and put the game in Jeff Garcia’s hands. Tennessee can get after the quarterback and that would put an awful lot of undue pressure on Tampa Bay’s young offensive line. The Bucs need to get better production out of their guards as Arron Sears and Davin Joseph didn’t have particularly great games at Indianapolis.”
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
“Now you know why Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden has hesitated to call his defense great and has been critical of this unit’s pass rush, or lack thereof. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning took advantage of this weakness in the Bucs defense by completed 29-of-37 (78.3 percent) of his passes for 253 yards and tossing two touchdowns and one interception on Sunday. The Bucs allowed the Colts to produce 400 yards of offense and convert a whopping 75 percent of their third downs. One of the main reasons why Manning was able to pick apart Tampa Bay’s defense was because the Bucs defense failed to sustain a pass rush, which in turn gave Manning all day to find open receivers. The Bucs did not sack Manning on Sunday and have notched just seven quarterback takedowns through five regular season games. That type of production just isn’t going to cut it if the Bucs defense wants to be considered great again.”
"Speaking of Tampa Bay’s defense, hopefully this unit enjoyed being ranked in the top 10 again while it lasted. The Bucs had the No. 5-ranked defense heading into Sunday’s showdown with the Colts. They likely will fall out of the top 10 after allowing the Colts to produce 400 yards of offense and score 33 points en route to a convincing win over the Buccaneers.”
“Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia continues to be a bright spot despite Tampa Bay’s poor offensive showing in Indianapolis. Garcia completed his first nine passes vs. the Colts and had his last two passes of the first half dropped by tight end Alex Smith and wide receiver Joey Galloway, respectively. Garcia engineered a nine-play, 56-yard drive and a 12-play, 81-yard drive, both of which ended with touchdown passes to Smith. The Bucs offense was just as guilty as the defense in terms of which unit was to blame for Tampa Bay’s 33-14 loss to Indianapolis, but Garcia played well, completing 18-of-23 passes for 143 yards and tossing two touchdowns. Garcia has completed 76-of-113 (67.2 percent) passes for 914 yards and tossed four touchdowns and zero interceptions. As long as Garcia continues to take care of the football the Bucs should have a chance to win most of the games they play this season. Sunday’s loss in Indianapolis was obviously an exception.”
“Just what the Buccaneers needed – another injury at the running back position. With Cadillac Williams already sidelined for the season with a torn patellar tendon, the Buccaneers might have lost another back for the season when Michael Pittman went down with an ankle injury in the first half of Sunday’s game. The Bucs rushed for just 17 yards on 12 carries in Indianapolis. That pitiful production along with Pittman’s injury could prompt the Bucs to step up their efforts to trade for Minnesota Vikings running back Mewelde Moore. The 5-foot-11, 209-pound Moore is in the final year of his contract in Minnesota and would be an ideal replacement and successor for Pittman, who is also in the final year of his deal. Moore has averaged 4.9 yards per carry and hauled in 116 passes for 1,093 yards and scored a total of four touchdowns since entering the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick in 2004. The Bucs are reportedly offering a sixth-round selection for Moore, but it will be interesting to see if they are willing to offer a fifth-rounder instead now that Pittman is injured.”
“We’ll find out what this 3-2 Buccaneers team is really made of over the next four weeks of the season when they face opponents with a combined record of 12-6. Tampa Bay’s next four games are against 3-1 Tennessee, at 3-2 Detroit, against 3-1 Jacksonville and at home vs. 3-2 Arizona. The good news is three of those four contests will be played at Raymond James Stadium.”
Contributing Writer Charles Gonzalez
“Rookie safety Tanard Jackson has made steady progress during his first season in the Tampa 2 defensive scheme. He’s done a good job in assisting in the run game, which is what the Bucs needed in a safety. If the Bucs opponents didn’t know who Jackson was after the first four games of the season, they know who he is now. The Syracuse alum had two consecutive plays in the second quarter that just might have taken the rookie label off of his name. First, Jackson tattooed Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark on a seam route down the middle of the field. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning led Clark up the field and Jackson put Clark on his back with authority. That is a hit that brings back memories of former Bucs safety John Lynch. The rookie followed that play with an interception, the first of his career, off of Manning and returned the ball 48 yards. If not for an illegal block in the back penalty, Jackson would have set up the Bucs with great field position. These were two statement plays and show that Jackson is getting more comfortable at his position and in the defense. There’s a reason why Jackson unseated safety Will Allen at safety and these two plays are evidence of what he can do on the field. He gave the team a little bit of energy with these two plays and the offense followed with the first score of the game.”
“After three weeks of relatively good health for the Bucs, the last two weeks have taken a toll on the team. Losing running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and left tackle Luke Petitgout for the season to knee injuries last week was bad enough, but now losing running back Michael Pittman and defensive end Greg White against Indianapolis puts another dent into the depth on both sides of the ball. Pittman was going to carry the load after Williams’ injury, but if his injury forces him to miss any amount of time, the Bucs might have to cave in and give whatever the asking price is for a running back on the trade market. White has given the defense a consistent pass rusher at defensive end with the injury to defensive end Patrick Chukwurah. Chukwurah returned last week and had a couple of plays that were impressive. However, White went out early in the first half and the Bucs lost another pair of fresh legs to rush the passer. Hopefully White’s injury isn’t too serious either. Rookie defensive end Gaines Adams went down with an injury, but was able to come back into the game. The Bucs cannot afford any more major injuries as the team sits tied for first place in the NFC South.”
“Even though the Bucs were trailing at halftime, 16-7, they had an opportunity to grab momentum and put some pressure on the Colts in the second half. The defense, which has shown some improvement this year, just needed to contain QB Peyton Manning and the Colts offense, force a three-and-out and get the ball back into the offense’s hands. The defense did the opposite and the Colts used a 13-play, 77-yard drive that culminated in a 7-yard Kenton Keith touchdown run to take the air right out of the team. The Colts offense showed that even though the Bucs defense has gotten better, it still has a long way to go before they can run with the top-tier teams – Indianapolis and New England – in the league.”
“The opening drive of the second half was demoralizing for the Bucs defense, but can you blame a unit for giving up 33 points after being on the field for more than 38 minutes? The Bucs offense has given the defense either long drives to rest or double-digit leads to play behind in the last three weeks. The offense and defense have been playing off of one another during this three-game winning streak and have figured out how to work together. However, with five three-and-outs in eight offensive possessions, the defense was back out on the field before they could finish their cup of Gatorade. The Colts offense is an impressive unit, but the Bucs defense was out of gas for most of the second half, which is not a good sign when facing Manning.”
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