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Publisher Scott Reynolds “Tampa Bay’s red zone defensive woes continued against the Giants. After allowing nine touchdowns from inside the 23-yard line in its last three losses while forcing just one field goal, the Bucs defense allowed two red zone touchdowns in the first half, and thanks to two Giants penalties inside the Tampa Bay 10, was able to finally force a field goal on the first drive of the second half. With all of the praise defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and this second-ranked defense have been getting in the media, this has been a season-long problem, especially over the last month of the year. At Houston, the Bucs defense surrendered three touchdowns inside the 10-yard. At San Francisco, the Bucs allowed three touchdown passes inside the 23-yard line with two of them coming against Tampa Bay’s starting defense. Against Carolina, the Bucs defense allowed three red zone touchdowns and forced just one field goal. All of the comparisons made by fans and the media to Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl defense in 2002 were quite faulty indeed. That Buccaneers defense forced field goals and created red zone turnovers. This defense does not. I think Kiffin will get a contract extension from the Glazers, but he didn’t exactly lay out the most compelling case for one on Sunday.”
“This was a team loss by the Buccaneers. The Giants outplayed the Buccaneers on offense, defense and special teams. Jon Gruden’s offense did not generate enough yardage or points, which was very disappointing. I’m not buying notion of the Bucs’ ineffectiveness on offense had much to do with Gruden resting any starters. They outgained the Giants 78 yards to minus-2 yards and jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. If this was a rusty bunch, the rust would have shown in the first quarter. The Giants are a defensive team and they deserve credit for the way they played today. It wouldn’t be right to suggest that rust was a factor. The only real play I saw some rustiness on was Galloway and Garcia not connecting on a downfield pass on second-and-8 from the 41. Galloway went outside and the pass went inside. If anything, the fact that the Bucs’ starters were rested equaled out the fact that Giants defense may have been fatigued against the New England Patriots. It just came down to execution and the Giants played better than the Buccaneers in all three phases of the game, winning the turnover battle 3-0.”
“Gaines Adams is growing up fast. The Bucs’ first-round draft pick jumped offsides in the first quarter, turning a second-and-14 into a second-and-9 situation. But like most veterans do, Adams showed great maturity by making up for that gaffe a play later, sacking Eli Manning for an 8-yard sack on third-and-9. In a display of pass rushing that resembled Simeon Rice, Adams came from the left side and wheeled around right tackle Kareem McKenzie to nail Manning and snuff out New York’s drive. That was Adams’ first postseason sack and the seventh sack of his young NFL career.”
“There will be those who will be calling for Jon Gruden’s head after this loss or at least begging the Glazers to not sign him to a contract extension. My question to those folks would be, ‘Who would you replace him with? And don’t say Bill Cowher because he has already gone on record as saying that he will not return to coaching in 2008.’ An honest look at the Bucs improvements on offense in 2007 would show improvement, and that’s what the Glazers wanted to see. Gruden needs to continue to improve the offense and add some real speed at wide receiver and running back. This offense can and should be even more explosive in 2008 – if it acquires the right personnel. Keep this in mind if you want a new coach to come in and bring in a new offense. Gruden has spent the last four drafts acquiring the type of players that would fit his system. The offensive line featured four first- and second-year players that should be even more improved next year. In my opinion, Gruden deserves at least a one-year extension (and Allen does, too) to avoid the ‘lame duck’ billing, but I wouldn’t be opposed to a two- or three-year extension, either. However, I think both Gruden and Allen would demand at least a two-year extension rather than a one-year deal.”
“I find the comparisons of Tony Dungy’s record over his final three years in Tampa Bay and Jon Gruden’s record over last three years with the Bucs quite amusing. Yes, Dungy’s record was 30-18 in the regular season and 1-3 in the playoffs, while Gruden’s has been 24-24 during the season and 0-2 in the postseason. The difference is that Dungy’s team featured a defense full of future Hall of Famers in their prime. The expectations were that he advance in the playoffs and go to the Super Bowl. Gruden’s teams over the past three seasons have been in a rebuilding stage coming out of a dire salary cap situation. The expectations of Gruden’s teams, which have been much younger over the past three seasons than Dungy’s teams, aren’t the same. Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways and say that Gruden stepped in to a Super Bowl-ready team in 2002 and then not recognize that Dungy’s teams from 1999-2001 should have Super Bowl-ready, too. That’s why he was fired. He didn’t meet the expectations. What were the expectations this year, Bucs fans? A winning record and a playoff berth as the rebuilding continues, right? Gruden and the Bucs narrowly delivered, but they met those expectations. So what should next year’s expectations be? A return trip to the playoffs and a playoff win. Winning the division isn’t a must, and history in the NFC South suggests that will be difficult to do. But even as a Wild Card team, Gruden’s Bucs must win a playoff game next year. That is the expectation I have for Tampa Bay. For a coach who has won three NFC South titles in six years, but has yet to string together consecutive winning seasons, that might be a lofty expectation.”
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn "It's scary to think Tampa Bay had two weeks to prepare for its home playoff game for the New York Giants, yet didn't perform well in all three phases on Sunday. It's even scarier to think the Giants spent just one week preparing for the Bucs, yet New York produced a convincing 24-14 win at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay's offense, which faced a New York defense that was without cornerback Sam Madison and had an injured Kawika Mitchell at linebacker, was inept, producing just 271 yards and turned the ball two times en route to the loss. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's offense has produced just 514 yards and 24 points in Tampa Bay's last two home playoff losses to Washington and New York. That's not exactly they type of production that one would consider worthy of an offensive genius label, which has just about come off of Gruden at this point."
"On one hand Tampa Bay deserves credit for winning the 2007 NFC South division title despite losing several key players to injuries and placing more than a dozen players on injured reserve this year. On the other hand, Sunday's 24-14 loss to the New York Giants shows that Tampa Bay is good enough to win its division, but has a long way to go before it can be considered a Super Bowl contender. This team of "No-Names," as head coach Jon Gruden called it last week, better put the $30 million in salary cap room to good use this offseason as the Bucs clearly need help in all three phases – offense, defense and special teams. All three had a hand in Tampa Bay's disappointing 24-14 loss to New York and must improve in 2008 in order for the Bucs to even stand a chance of becoming the first team to ever repeat as NFC South division champs."
"While Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's offense was inept Sunday, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin certainly shouldn't escape criticism. His defense, which ranked No. 2 overall in the NFL in 2007, dominated in the first quarter, but got picked apart by quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Amani Toomer after that. Tampa Bay's pass rush, or lack thereof, failed to put enough pressure on Manning to force turnovers, and the Bucs allowed the Giants to convert 5-of-12 (42 percent) of their third downs attempts while producing 277 yards and 24 points. Sure, Tampa Bay's three turnovers put New York's offense in favorable positions, but the Bucs defense failed to produce a turnover and the pass rush wasn't even close to good enough. Some probably will want Gruden fired after watching this playoff debacle, but be careful what you wish for. Kiffin is not under contract in 2008 and his defense was grossly overrated this season. Legit No. 2 defenses don't allow 92-yard touchdown drives, especially in home playoff games."
"Tampa Bay lost four of its final five games, including an embarrassing 24-14 loss at home to the New York Giants on Sunday. I would not be surprised at all if the Glazers elect to allow head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen to enter the final years of their contracts and see how the Bucs fare in 2008 before deciding whether to give them contract extensions."
"If you were a Buccaneer fan that attended Sunday's playoff game at Raymond James Stadium you were probably embarrassed to see thousands of New York Giants fans in the stands. Tampa Bay fans failed to sellout Ray-Jay for nearly two weeks, which allowed local Giants fans to snatch up the tickets. When quarterback Jeff Garcia threw the final interception of the game with less than two minutes remaining in the contest, there were literally thousands of Giants fans left in the stands to celebrate while the Bucs fans headed for the exits. I probably haven't seen that many opposing fans in attendance for a Bucs home game since the 1997 Bucs-Packers contest. It was truly disappointing for a Bucs fans base that normally is quite loyal and supportive to their football team."
"Two Bucs players picked bad days to have off games vs. the Giants on Sunday – quarterback Jeff Garcia and wide receiver Joey Galloway. Garcia completed 23-of-39 passes for 207 yards and tossed one touchdown and two interceptions, which was half of the amount of total picks (four) he threw during the entire regular season. Galloway, who was battling a shoulder injury he suffered vs. Atlanta, caught just one pass for 9 yards. There's been some talk that Garcia might be looking for a contract extension this offseason. He played a big part in the Bucs' success this year, but playing in a total of four quarters over the final six regular season games of the year and then turning in an inconsistent effort vs. the Giants on Sunday wasn't exactly the note Garcia would have wanted to finish the season on if he expects to receive a new deal."
"How did Tampa Bay's No. 2-ranked defense, which greatly contributed to the Bucs' plus-15 turnover ratio entering Sunday's game, fail to create a single turnover against quarterback Eli Manning, who tossed 20 interceptions and fumbled the ball 13 times in 16 regular season games? The answer is not enough pressure from Tampa Bay's defensive line. Looks like the Bucs will have to make improving their pass rush a priority for the second straight offseason."
Contributing Writer Charles Gonzalez
"It's easy to put the 'rust' label on the offense after their lack of production vs. the Giants on Sunday. But I'm not buying that excuse because the offense seemed just fine in the first quarter when it racked up 78 total yards on 20 plays and scored one touchdown. It was more of the Giants making adjustments and Tampa Bay not executing the way they have for most of the season that played into the offense's struggles. Quarterback Jeff Garcia was undoubtedly shaken by the Giants' pass rush and it showed in his inaccuracy in the passing game. He also made uncharacteristic mistakes in handling the ball with two interceptions, especially the pick in the third quarter in the end zone with the Bucs trailing 17-7. Wide receiver Ike Hilliard stated earlier in the week that it's up to the players to come out and execute and I agree with him. The blame for this playoff loss goes on the players because of the lack of execution on the offensive side of the ball."
"It's been a known fact when facing the Bucs passing attack that wide receiver Joey Galloway is the only weapon that Tampa Bay has to make the big play down the field. The problem is that many of the Bucs opponents this season still couldn't keep him from making those big plays deep downfield. The Giants, however, made sure that Galloway wasn't going to beat them and Tampa Bay had no compliment to their No. 1 receiver. This is an area that needs to be addressed in the off-season in free agency or in the draft. But getting a wide receiver in the draft won't help the Bucs unless they can find a receiver coming out of college with Randy Moss-type ability. So finding a free-agent veteran receiver with play-making ability should be priority No. 1. Tampa Bay needs a second receiver that can get separation and makes plays down the field to take some pressure and coverage off Galloway. That weakness was exploited again vs. the Giants and will continue unless they get another play-making weapon opposite of Galloway because Hilliard and wide receiver Michael Clayton or Maurice Stovall aren't the answers."
"Trailing 24-7 with just over seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Bucs offense showed little energy or urgency in trying to get back into the game. Instead of being in their two-minute mode with the offense on the field, Tampa Bay was huddling up and wasting several seconds that are precious when trying to make a comeback. The offensive squad seemed to be walking to the huddle and the ball instead of being in hurry up mode. That was not a good sign for a team that needed two touchdowns and a field goal just to tie the game and save their season. It seemed like the Bucs had already packed in the season and was satisfied with just making the playoffs. These actions from a team that lost three of their last four games, including the last two regular season games, to end the season isn't a positive note to build on after a disappointing playoff loss."
"Left tackle Donald Penn learned a lot this season after having to fill in for Luke Petitgout, who went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 4. He faced some of the top pass-rushing defensive ends in the NFL – Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney, New York Osi Umenyiora and Atlanta's John Abraham – and was successful for the most part. However, heading into the off-season, the Bucs now have a training camp battle that is brewing for next year. Do you hand the starting position back to Petitgout when he is healthy and ready to go and put Penn back on the bench, possibly setting him back and ruining all the confidence he gained this year? Or do you keep Penn in the starting lineup and let the young offensive tackle continue to grow and jell with the young and talented offensive line that the Bucs have put together? That question will be debated during the off-season and into training camp, but the smart decision is to keep Penn in the starting rotation to keep the continuity that has been built between him and rookie left guard Arron Sears. He has shown that he has the talent to be a consistent left tackle in the NFL and will only get better with every game he plays. It's a demotion that Petitgout might not be happy with, but is the right thing for the team."
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