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Publisher Scott Reynolds
“Looking at the Buccaneers’ last two road games – a loss at Houston and another defeat at San Francisco, does this look like a team that can go on the road to Green Bay or Dallas and win? I don’t think so. Granted, Tampa Bay played a lot of reserves in the second half against San Francisco’s starters, but even the Bucs’ first-stringers didn’t play that well. If Jeff Garcia would have stayed in at quarterback I think the Bucs probably win this game – if Garcia would have made it out alive. He was hit way too often and the offensive line played somewhat poorly in San Francisco. Here’s why I think the Bucs will likey lose in a road playoff game if they can get out of their first-round home postseason contest. Tampa Bay’s defense has had serious problems giving up touchdowns inside the 30-yard instead of making stops and forcing field goals. The Bucs gave up three touchdowns inside the 20-yard line at Houston, and two inside the 23-yard line at San Francisco. It has to concern you (it concerns me) that both Sage Rosenfels and Shaun Hill each threw three touchdowns against this defense, which is not as good as its rankings suggest. Tampa Bay’s offense had trouble running the ball in the last two road games, failing to rush for 100 yards in either game. Poor short field defense and a lack of a successful running game could spell doom for Tampa Bay on the road in the playoffs.”

“Tampa Bay’s pass protection was spotty as Jeff Garcia was sacked twice and hit an additional half dozen times. Yet Garcia was able to hang in the pocket long enough to throw six passes over 20 yards in the first half, which was a season-high. Tight end Jerramy Stevens had gains of 24 (touchdown) and 20, while tight end Alex Smith (32 yards) and wide receivers Joey Galloway (29 yards), Ike Hilliard (26 yards) and Michael Clayton (25 yards) each had a reception over 20 yards against the 49ers. Garcia had five completions over 20 yards against New Orleans in Week 2 throughout the entire game.”

“The play of Tampa Bay center John Wade was atrocious at times. Wade looked lethargic and lackadaisical in pass protection on some plays, getting beaten off the ball. Garcia was replaced late in the second quarter after taking a beating. I would have liked to seen Matt Lehr replace Wade, who I don’t think will be around next year. As important as Wade has been from a line call standpoint this season, he might be the least talented blocker. Granted, legendary 49ers defensive tackle Bryant Young was playing inspired football as it was the final home game of his career, but Wade simply has to play better than he did on Sunday.”

“I mentioned after Tampa Bay’s narrow win at New Orleans a few weeks ago that the Bucs’ punt return unit is awful and I still maintain that thought. The blocking is terrible and Phillip Buchanon and Micheal Spurlock both fumbled the ball, although neither counted as a turnover because a penalty negated Buchanon’s gaffe and a successful replay challenge showed that Spurlock’s elbow hit the ground before the ball came out. During the re-kick after Buchanon’s fumble, he failed to field the punt that hit before the 30-yard line and rolled down to the Tampa Bay 7. The play was eerily similar to Ike Hilliard’s screw-up in New Orleans that backed up the offense deep into its own territory. A few plays later, Luke McCown was sacked for a safety. Against the 49ers, McCown was sacked and fumbled the ball way at the Tampa Bay 15-yard line. Buchanon finished the game with four returns for zero yards, while Spurlock returned two for 12 yards. That’s six returns for 12 yards and an ugly, ugly, embarrassingly ugly 2.0 average at San Francisco. If I’m Rich Bisaccia, I’m pulling Buchanon off punt returns and sticking with Spurlock and Ike Hilliard.”

“Can someone please tell me why Vikings cornerback Nate Clements, who beat the 49ers’ drum in the back of the end zone after his 62-yard interception return wasn’t flagged 15 yards for excessive celebration? I was under the impression that a player couldn’t use props to celebrate. Clements beat that damn drum for about 30 seconds it seemed. If it applies to Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson, it should apply universally to all players, including Clements. That was a big no-call as Frank Gore caught a 23-yard touchdown on the next play to put San Francisco up 21-13 in the fourth quarter.”

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
"Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was wise to pull most of his offensive starters late in the second quarter and the majority of his defensive starters early in the third quarter of Sunday's game in San Francisco. Gruden must be pulling the hair out of his head knowing that the Bucs lost wide receivers Maurice Stovall (arm) and Joey Galloway (arm/shoulder) and defensive end Greg White (ankle/leg) due to injury in this game, which really didn't mean a whole lot since Tampa Bay had already won its division and secured a spot in the playoffs. Plus, quarterback Jeff Garcia took a beating from the 49ers defense before being pulled in favor of Luke McCown late in the second quarter. With Tampa Bay losing 21-19 to San Francisco, the Bucs are automatically the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoff race, which means they really don't have anything to gain from a standings standpoint in their regular season finale vs. Carolina. That said, expect Gruden to take a similar approach to next Sunday's game at Raymond James Stadium, only the starters might not play as long as they did vs. the 49ers."

"Tampa Bay dominated the first half of Sunday's game in San Francisco, yet the Buccaneers only took a 13-7 lead into halftime. The Bucs gained 223 yards in offense, dominated the time of possession, 18:17 to 11:43 and created turnovers. So why didn't the Bucs have more to show for that effort on the scoreboard at halftime? Tampa Bay converted just 2-of-9 third downs and couldn't get the running game going, rushing for just 30 yards. Nine of Tampa Bay's 10 first downs came via the passing game. The other first down came on a penalty. The Bucs had to settle for two Matt Bryant field goals in the first half, and that proved to be costly as Tampa Bay lost to San Francisco, 21-19."

"How worried should you be about Tampa Bay's 21-19 loss to a 4-10 San Francisco team? You should be fairly concerned. Even before Bucs head coach Jon Gruden pulled most of the starters late in the second quarter and early in the third quarter, Tampa Bay's players just didn't seem like they came to San Francisco prepared to dominate. They certainly lived up to the stories you've heard about the Bucs' West Coast woes. Tampa Bay probably would have won this contest had it not pulled its starters, but you can't help but be concerned by the fact that Sunday's game was lost in large part due to miscues by significant contributors like wide receiver Michael Clayton, tight end Alex Smith and cornerback/punt returner Phillip Buchanon. One can only hope that the Bucs got sloppy play out of their system on Sunday because performances like this one just won't cut it in the playoffs."

"Don't think next Sunday's regular season finale vs. Carolina doesn't mean anything. The Bucs need to take some momentum into the playoffs. If they lose to the Panthers, they will head into post-season play having lost three of their final four games, including their final two regular season contests. A win, however, would make the Bucs the first NFC South team to ever go 6-0 in division play and would make them winners of six of their final eight regular season games heading into the playoffs. What a difference a win could make at Ray-Jay next Sunday."

Contributing Writer Charles Gonzalez
"It was the same story, new chapter for the Bucs on the West Coast vs. San Francisco on Sunday. Tampa Bay had a golden opportunity to take the life out of the 49ers and their crowd with two offensive possessions in the first quarter inside the red zone. If the Bucs put two touchdowns on the board early, they set the tone and force a 49ers team to play from behind with an offense led by a young, inexperienced quarterback in Shaun Hill. Tampa Bay, however, settled for field goals and the lack of success in the red zone came back to bite the Bucs in the end. Also, if the Bucs would have put touchdowns on the board instead field goals, they would have been kicking a game-tying extra point instead of having to go for two and the tie late in the fourth quarter. The scenario in San Francisco was eerily similar to what happened to the Bucs in the season-opening loss vs. the Seahawks. Tampa Bay dominated the first quarter with two drives in the red zone, but settled for field goals as well and flew home with a 20-6 loss. The Bucs are struggling to shake this West Coast trend that continues to haunt this franchise. Quarterback Jeff Garcia wasn't happy with the red zone offense vs. Atlanta last week, wanting touchdowns instead of field goals, and he showed his displeasure again on Sunday. This is something the Bucs must fix before the playoffs or risk a quick exit out of the postseason."

"With Bucs head coach Jon Gruden worried about getting any of his starters injured, many of the backups were inserted into the game to start the second half. Players such as linebackers Quincy Black and Adam Hayward got some game action vs. San Francisco and their offensive starters, which is a good thing for these two rookies. With linebacker Derrick Brooks in the twilight of his career, Black and Hayward have an opportunity in the next couple of seasons to make a push at a starting position. Being able to get playing time during the regular season, especially with veteran linebacker Jeremiah Trotter playing alongside them, is priceless experience. It gives them a taste of what it's like to play during the regular season, something that's hard to simulate in practice or the preseason. Look for Black and Hayward to get some more time on the field next week vs. Carolina, time well spent for a couple of rookies looking to get more plays on the field."

"The Bucs were looking and needing a breakout season from tight Alex Smith this year after two average performances in 2005 and 2006. Smith, however, has proven that he is good enough to be a backup in this offense, but is definitely not a starter. With the fact that Indianapolis' Dallas Clark and Philadelphia's L.J. Smith are free agents and the recent play of tight end Jerramy Stevens, it's not a stretch to think that Smith won't be in a Bucs uniform next season. If he is, it should be in a backup role because it's clear that he doesn't have the talent to be a starter. Stevens, on the other hand, is not only showing that he could be a starter in Gruden's offense, like he was in Seattle under Mike Holmgren, but he's also proving that he might be worth a contract extension as well. Even though Stevens missed last week's victory because of a one-game suspension for violating the NFL's Substance Abuse Policy, he has three touchdown receptions in the last two games he's played in. He found ways to get open vs. the 49ers and was a major weapon in the offense. Stevens should get more plays in the offense and they should come at Smith's expense. Smith has had his opportunity to make a name for himself in the offense and has let it slip through his hands, just like multiple passes vs. San Francisco."

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