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Publisher Scott Reynolds

“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got into an unconventional defense on third-and-9 on Seattle’s first possession. That 3-3-5 defense was clearly a look that Seattle had not seen before and hadn’t prepared for, which prompted Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to burn a timeout in the first quarter. Credit Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s tinkering in the lab over the summer for that forced timeout. After the timeout, Kiffin changed up his defense and gave Seattle a standard 4-2-5 look on third-and-9 that resulted in a three-and-out when cornerback Ronde Barber deflected Hasselbeck’s pass. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, Kiffin didn’t have much else in his bag of tricks against Seattle in the 20-6 loss as his defense recorded just two sacks and forced one turnover, while the Seahawks defense notched five sacks and harassed quarterback Jeff Garcia from the second quarter on while getting two takeaways.”

“Tampa Bay set the tone for the game in the first quarter, dominating time of possession 11:08 to 3:52, and total yardage 131 yards to 21 yards in taking a 6-0 lead. Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia was 7-of-9 for 118 yards in the opening stanza. However, Seattle flipped those stats around in the second quarter, outgaining the Bucs 137 yards to 62 yards, but more importantly, outscoring Tampa Bay 10-0. The Seahawks also controlled the clock 10:20 to 4:40. That’s when the momentum got out of hand for the Buccaneers, who could never get it back after falling behind 10-6 at halftime. The Bucs need to get off to a similar fast start next week against New Orleans but maintain that tempo throughout the game.”

“Linebacker Derrick Brooks still has what it takes to start for the Buccaneers defense – even though he is entering his 13th season in the NFL. Brooks was fresh in the first half, chasing down plays and finishing the game with eight tackles. But age is clearly catching up with the 34-year old linebacker, and three plays illustrated that in the second half. Seattle running back Shaun Alexander eluded Brooks on a play he would have normally made five years ago, and then Alexander bounced off a would-be tackle by Brooks on another run. Then, on third-and-5 at the Tampa Bay 34-yard line, Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren called a play that specifically targeted Brooks after a timeout. Running back Maurice Morris left the backfield and lined up wide to the left and outraced Brooks down the sidelines to haul in a 34-yard touchdown pass to put the game away, 20-6, midway through the fourth quarter. It became clear that Brooks wore down as the game went on and needs to be rested throughout the game so he won’t become a liability in the second half of future games. Brooks only recorded two of his eight tackles in the second half at Seattle. It’s time for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to replace Brooks in the nickel defense with newcomer Cato June, who is faster than Brooks at this stage of his career, and can run with running backs like Morris. Taking a player like June, who has 10 career interceptions, including two for touchdowns, off the field in obvious passing situations is crazy. Sure, the move will upset a veteran and team captain like Brooks, but expect more offensive coordinators to continue to target number 55 in pass coverage the way Holmgren did today. Removing Brooks from the nickel defense will only make him more effective in the second half and help the team.”

“Rookie Tanard Jackson had a solid outing in his first NFL start. Jackson made the opening tackle on special teams and finished the game with two special teams tackles. His only noticeable gaffe was a missed tackle that led to Shaun Alexander’s 16-yard gain in the second quarter. He delivered a couple of hard hits on his way to finishing the game with three tackles on defense and a pass breakup. Jackson didn’t look nervous or hesitant in his NFL debut and made a strong impression. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has only started one other rookie on opening day in his Tampa Bay tenure – defensive end Regan Upshaw in 1996.”

“Quarterback Luke McCown struggled with holding on to the football too long during the 2007 preseason, taking eight out of the team’s 10 sacks in August. In his first real action as a Buccaneer, McCown looked hesistant, and was unsure of whether to tuck the ball and run, keep the play alive or throw the ball out of bounds. That hesitancy resulted in him getting twice against Seattle. The fact that 37-year old Jeff Garcia already got hurt in his first game as a Buccaneer, missing two series in the third quarter, coupled with McCown’s shaky, 1-for-4 for nine yards showing, doesn’t bode well for the Buccaneers offense for the rest of the season if Garcia can’t stay healthy.”

“Buccaneers fans were cautiously optimistic about an improved team in 2007, and the 20-6 loss at Seattle in the season opener doesn’t necessarily reflect that. The Bucs had problems scoring touchdowns, protecting the passer, rushing for 100 yards, rushing the passer and creating turnovers – the same problems that led this team to a 4-12 record last year. But let me pose this question to you. Did you think the Buccaneers would beat a playoff team like Seattle on the road? I didn’t, and I’m guessing not many fans did, either. Most realistic fans had this team at 0-1 heading into Week 2. Sure, you wanted to see a closer game, or even a win at Seattle, but there are still 15 games left to go and we all know that the most difficult part of the schedule lies in the Bucs’ first five games. Don’t press the panic button yet, Bucs fans. Press it if the Bucs don’t get more pressure on the QB next week, score more touchdowns next week, protect the passer better next week and get more turnovers on defense next week. Yep, as I said in print and on radio before the season started, the home opener against New Orleans would be the most important game of the season for Tampa Bay – and it is. With Jon Gruden’s track record at 0-2 (see 2004’s 5-11 campaign and 2006’s 4-12 mark), the Bucs desperately need a win on Sunday – or at least play well and improve in all of the areas I previously mentioned.”

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
“I don’t want to hear Bucs head coach Jon Gruden say how he’s not worried about running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams anymore. That’s usually Gruden’s response to reporters when they ask the head coach questions about Williams’ woes as a ballcarrier. On Tampa Bay’s first offensive drive of the game, Williams hauled in a short pass from quarterback Jeff Garcia and proceeded to fumble the ball after he was hit by a defender. That mistake allowed the Seahawks to recover the ball on the 50-yard line and ended a promising opening drive for the Bucs. Fortunately for Williams, Tampa Bay’s defense eventually forced Seattle’s offense to punt. Still, you can’t help but be concerned about Williams’ inability to hold onto the ball on a consistent basis. He now has seven fumbles (six lost) in 29 career games. That's an average of one fumble out of five games.”

“Jeff Garcia was the eighth quarterback to start for head coach Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay since 2002 on Sunday, and he fared well in the first half, completing 10-of-14 passes for 142 yards. However, the veteran signal caller couldn’t lead the Bucs into the end zone in the first half, which is disturbing. Remember – Tampa Bay went two and a half games without scoring an offensive touchdown in 2006. The Bucs only scored 20 offensive touchdowns in 16 games last season. On Sunday, Tampa Bay produced 134 yards of offense in the first quarter and 193 yards of total offense in the first half, yet scored just six points courtesy of kicker Matt Bryant’s two field goals. That allowed the Seattle Seahawks, who were held to just 21 yards of total offense in the first quarter, to get back in the game and go into halftime with a 10-6 lead thanks to just two plays – wide receiver Bobby Engram’s 49-yard reception and WR Nate Burleson’s 51-yard punt return, which helped to set up RB Shaun Alexander’s 1-yard touchdown run. Tampa Bay had scored just 13 points in its last two games to Seattle, both of which were losses, heading into Sunday’s game. The Bucs were able to move the ball against the Seahawks in the first half on Sunday, but they didn’t turn that production into touchdowns. The Bucs just aren’t going to get far this season if they can’t find a way to get into the end zone more.”

“The Bucs have now lost nine of their past 11 games and been held without an offensive touchdown in seven of their last 17 regular season games. If the Bucs don’t score a touchdown next week against the New Orleans Saints, who gave up 34 points to the Colts on Thursday night, they will have gone without an offensive touchdown in nearly 50 percent of their last 18 regular season contests. Of course, if the Bucs don’t score a touchdown next week they likely will fall to 0-2, which would mean there are big problems in Tampa Bay.”

“Here’s the good news. Tampa Bay wasn’t the only NFC South team to lose in Week 1. The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons also lost to the Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings, respectively. The bad news is the Carolina Panthers downed the St. Louis Rams on the road and the Saints, who are defending NFC South champs, will invade Raymond James Stadium next Sunday. It’s pretty sad that the Bucs, who went 4-12 last year, are entering a must-win situation against the Saints just two weeks into the new season.”

Contributing Writer Charles Gonzalez

“A quick start was a necessity for the Bucs on offense and two veterans – quarterback Jeff Garcia and wide receiver Joey Galloway – stepped up and set the tone early. Garcia proved his worth to head coach Jon Gruden’s West Coast offense in the first quarter and his favorite target was Galloway. Galloway and Garcia have been on many teams during their careers and have had to learn to create chemistry quickly. Garcia is playing on his fifth team in five years and Galloway is working with his sixth quarterback since signing with the Bucs in 2004. So both players are accustomed to working quickly to get comfortable with teammates. The chemistry paid off in the first quarter when Garcia found Galloway for a 49-yard reception deep down the left sideline. The reception set up the first field goal and Bucs fans should like what they see because this tandem’s success is crucial for the passing game. Garcia has never been known as a quarterback with a big arm, but he showed that he can get the ball deep when he needs to. Galloway also showed his veteran experience using a little bump before the ball got to him to create some separation from cornerback Kelly Jennings to catch the pass. Galloway didn’t hint to the media during this week about his feelings on Seattle, but obviously Galloway wanted to win this game and stick it to his old team. His play in the first half definitely showed that. Garcia’s accuracy in the offense was evident going 19-of-27, and is the perfect quarterback for this offense. However, he needs to avoid the big hits like the one he took in the third quarter so that he can stay on the field. The offensive line has to help him out.”

“There have been experts that have said that linebacker Derrick Brooks has lost a step and has been overrated for the last couple of years, Sports Illustrated being one of those voices. Brooks showed against the Seahawks that not only has he not lost a step, but that he still is the leader of the Bucs defense. Brooks’ play in the first half was reminiscent of his play during the Super Bowl season. Brooks was flying around the field and seemed to be in on every play. Brooks had six tackles in the first half and was instrumental in the Bucs goal line stand to keep the Seahawks out of the end zone. Brooks’ second half performance, however, wasn’t much like his first half as he missed multiple tackles on running plays and was caught on a mismatch on a 34-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to running back Maurice Morris. Brooks and the defense spent most of the second half on the field because of the lack of offensive success so it’s understandable if he looked a little slow or winded in the second half. Brooks is still playing at a high level and hasn’t lost a step just yet. He still demands the respect of every offense in the league and is still a disrupting factor on the field for the Bucs defense.”

“Wide receivers Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway rotated returning punts against the Seahawks and had two stellar returns. The only problem was that both of them didn’t count because of penalties on special teams. Galloway had a punt return of 47 yards early in the first quarter that was called back on a holding penalty by cornerback Ronde Barber. Personally, the penalty looked a little fishy because Barber looked to spin around the Seahawks defender instead of holding, but the penalty was called nonetheless. In the third quarter, Hilliard had a punt return of 42 yards that had an opportunity to swing the momentum back to the side of the Bucs after losing a 6-0 lead late in the first half. Instead of having the ball in Seattle territory, an illegal block above the waist by rookie safety Sabby Piscitelli negated Hilliard’s return and put the Bucs back inside their own 20-yard line. In the past couple of seasons, the Bucs special teams have struggled to generate favorable field position for the offense on a consistent basis. The special teams had that opportunity again on Sunday and again hurt the offense with field position. There are encouraging signs that came out of the special teams, specificly the punt return team in that Hilliard and Galloway will have the opportunity to make some big returns this season. Next week against the Saints will be a perfect time for the Bucs to display that and get rid of the penalties.”

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