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Publisher Scott Reynolds “After the game, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said that Jeff Garcia’s back injury was a two-week injury and that he would start against the Falcons at Raymond James Stadium next Sunday. Gruden did not know the availability of wide receiver Ike Hilliard for next week’s clash with Atlanta, but the Bucs will need Michael Clayton (four catches, 39 yards) and Maurice Stovall (two catches, 17 yards) to step up even more than they did at Houston.”
“I’ve given right guard Davin Joseph a bit of a hard time this year because I don’t think he has played up to his vast potential in his second season in Tampa Bay after being the Bucs’ first-round pick in 2006. But Joseph gets the credit for Earnest Graham’s 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter on third-and-1 by taking the Texans defensive lineman who lined up across from him, who was lunging out at him a four-point, goal line stance, and picking him up and driving him to the left to create a massive hole for Graham to run through. Joseph, who was a dominant high school wrestler in Florida, showed his natural strength and great leverage on the play and executed his block to perfection. Rookie guard Arron Sears pulled into the hole Joseph created and helped seal the deal for Graham’s score. On Graham’s second quarter touchdown, Joseph was also leading the way, this time pulling around right end and kicking out cornerback Fred Bennett.”
“Tampa Bay did a good job of bouncing right back after Houston returned the second half kickoff for a touchdown. Luke McCown was in rhythm and moved the Bucs effortlessly down the field for a quick, answering touchdown to cut the score to 21-14, but the offense and defense went into a funk after that drive, especially on third downs (Houston finished 10-of-17 on third downs, Tampa Bay finished 3-of-13 on third downs). Third downs and that kickoff return TD were the difference in the game. History shows that most teams that get a touchdown in the return game usually win the game.”
“Don’t look for Jon Gruden to veer away from using the shotgun despite the costly fumble that resulted in a mishandled snap between center John Wade and quarterback Luke McCown. That was the only real mishap that has come from using the shotgun through 13 games this season. Gruden isn’t going to panic now and can it, especially when it is an integral part of his offense. Wade struggled in run blocking and pass blocking at times and I’m sure the front office will be addressing the center position next year.”
“This was a great wake-up call for the Buccaneers. The loss wasn’t terribly harmful as it was on the road against an AFC team, and Tampa Bay can still clinch the division with a New Orleans loss on Monday night. But this defeat told what is a relatively young Bucs team that it is not invincible and must bring it’s “A game” every week to win. Veterans like Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber can talk until they are blue in the face about staying focused, but sometimes a team needs a loss in a game it thinks it can win to wake up. I think that’s what happened in Houston and I expect a fired up Buccaneers team to come out and crush the Falcons next week at Raymond James Stadium.”
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn “Earnest Graham needs to do a better job of catching the football. His inability to consistently catch the football (three drops), along with Tampa Bay’s inability to establish a consistent running game (17 carries for 71 yards) against a suspect Houston run defense are reasons why the Bucs will likely go out in free agency and sign a veteran running back in 2008.”
“Tampa Bay’s loss to Houston was a team effort and shouldn’t have come as a big surprise considering the fact that Tampa Bay entered the week prepared to rest several injured players and accept the possibility that they could lose Sunday’s game against an AFC team. Several injured players, including fullback B.J. Askew and wide receiver Joey Galloway were told they could rest this week if they wanted to. But it looked like the entire team did not do a great job in preparing for the Texans. The special teams had a lapse with the kickoff return for a touchdown, the defense couldn’t get off the field on third downs and the offense couldn’t put up enough points on the scoreboard to win.”
“Luke McCown needs to do a better job of getting rid of the football. He was victimized by a dropped pass after starting off the game 8-of-8, but McCown looked confused at times, missed open receivers and didn’t do a real good job of seeing the field against the Texans. Houston’s pass rush, which had not been active or consistent in recent weeks, came to life at the wrong times for the Buccaneers. McCown was sacked four times, but on two or three of those sacks he was guilty of once again holding on to the football too long.”
Contributing Writer Charles Gonzalez "Wide receiver Michael Clayton has had a couple of rough seasons after a stellar rookie year. This season was thought to be Clayton's last shot to prove his worth in Jon Gruden's offense or he would be looking for a new team. It seems as though Clayton has got the message and is showing some of talent that helped him set rookie records in receptions, yards and touchdowns. Clayton was getting into a groove early in the season after rough game vs. the Rams before sustaining an ankle injury that sidelined him for a couple of weeks. He seems to be healthy and showed it with his performance vs. Houston on Sunday (four receptions for 39 yards). With the injury to wide receiver Ike Hilliard, Clayton will need to carry some more of the load at the wide receiver position. The Bucs need Clayton and wide receiver Maurice Stovall to become more involved in the offense as Hilliard and wide receiver Joey Galloway don't have much more left in the tank. Clayton is a big part of the future and that future seems to be getting a little brighter with every reception."
"The Bucs defense knew that Houston's running game wasn't going to be at full strength with running back Ahman Green being placed on injured reserve this week and Ron Dayne battling an ankle injury. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin made sure that the Texans didn't get any pass plays deep down the field and wanted to keep everything in front of the defense. Even with that game plan, Houston was still able to move the ball without any kind of a running attack (71 yards) and converted 10-of-17 third downs in the win. The Bucs defense had the same issue when playing Jacksonville knowing that QB David Garrard was out of the game and the Jaguars were going to run the ball. Tampa Bay still couldn't stop the running game and ended up losing that game as well. The Bucs needed this victory to not only clinch the division, but also to stay in the running for an outside shot at the No. 2 seed. This is another game this season that the Bucs should've won, but allowed an opposing offense to do what they wanted to in order to get a victory."
"Bucs defensive tackle Jovan Haye was in the right place at the right time in the last two weeks. Haye has recovered three fumbles in the last two games, the biggest one coming last week in a 27-23 victory vs. the Saints. Haye recovered two more fumbles on Sunday and is around the ball at the right times. Haye's play at the under tackle position is just one of many reasons why the Bucs are looking to clinch their third NFC South division title in franchise history. He led the team in sacks early in the season and is part of the youth movement on the defensive line that has occurred this season. As long as Haye remains focused, he should receive more opportunities to create turnovers on this defense on key downs."
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