Publisher Scott Reynolds“Buccaneers defensive tackle Jovan Haye has delivered two crushing hits to quarterbacks in consecutive weeks. Last week, Haye rocked Byron Leftwich in the first quarter of the Atlanta game, forcing an interception. This week, Haye drilled Washington quarterback Jason Campbell in the midsection in the third quarter, almost knocking him out of the game. That hit by Haye on second-and-9 from the Redskins 39 at the 10:47 mark in the third quarter forced Washington to call a timeout to allow Campbell to rest from the hit. If not, Campbell would have had to come out of the game on a key third-and-9 situation. Smart call by Washington. After a full timeout, Campbell was able to find tight end Chris Cooley, who slipped behind linebacker Derrick Brooks and cornerback Phillip Buchanon for a 39-yard touchdown on the next play. Still, Haye has been adding some pressure and QB hits over the last couple of weeks, and that is encouraging.”
“Almost as troubling as the horrific play of Tampa Bay backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was the play-calling of head coach Jon Gruden when he was in there. Gruden went ultra-conservative at times with Gradkowski at the helm, but that is understandable given the second-year quarterback’s shortcomings. However, what was curious and even disturbing is that Gruden didn’t dial up any screen passes, shovel passes or other short, safe, high-percentage plays for a quarterback who apparently has accuracy trouble with anything over 12 yards. The Bucs wasted some ideal scoring opportunities inside the 20-yard line in the first quarter due to the lack of creativity in using Gradkowski’s mobility near the goal line. Instead, Gradkowski was confined to the pocket where he took one sack.”
“After being outscored in the first quarter 80-32 last year, the Buccaneers have won the first quarter in 2007. Heading into Sunday’s game against Washington, Tampa Bay has outscored opponents 44-27. Against the Redskins, the Bucs increased that margin to 54-27 against their foes, thanks to a 10-0 first quarter lead. If not for Tampa Bay’s first quarter brilliance against Washington, the Bucs likely lose this game, especially with quarterback Jeff Garcia’s ailing back hindering the offense’s output. The Bucs out-gained the Redskins 100-35 in total offense, but only picked up 92 yards throughout the rest of the game.”
“Heady cornerback Ronde Barber has shown a tremendous knack for being around the ball during his 11-year Buccaneers career. But do you know who is starting to remind me of Barber? Rookie free safety Tanard Jackson, who has recovered two fumbles, forced another one and recorded two interceptions during his first NFL season. Jackson is very smart player with great instincts, and has shown he has a nose for the football very early in his career. He has 30 more interceptions to go to match Barber’s franchise-record feat, but you have to be excited about this youngster’s potential. He is a humble, soft-spoken player off the field and I don't envision success going to this kid's head."
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn"If you were wondering why the Buccaneers traded for Denver quarterback Jake Plummer during the offseason, even after they had signed QB Jeff Garcia in free agency, you received the answer on Sunday. Garcia, who has been Tampa Bay's MVP this season, went down with a lower back injury on the first offensive series of the game vs. Washington, which led to backup QB Bruce Gradkowski replacing him in the starting lineup. At first glance, the timing could not have been better for Gradkowski, who led the Bucs to a 20-17 win over the Redskins last year, making this week's opponent a familiar one. However, Gradkowski showed that he has not progressed much since the 2006 season. He was inaccurate and ineffective as a signal caller, completing 9-of-19 (47.3 percent) passes for 106 yards. Not only did he struggle with the deep ball again, but Gradkowski also threw behind and over too many receivers in the short to intermediate part of the field, which is where he made a name for himself at Toledo. Washington's defense stacked the box and dared Gradkowski to beat them with his arm (which was the story for most of 2006, remember?), and the second-year quarterback couldn't do it, evidenced by the fact that the Bucs were just 1-of-12 (8 percent) on third downs vs. the 'Skins. Luckily for Tampa Bay, its defense played well enough to hold onto the 19-13 victory for the Redskins. Luke McCown was Tampa Bay's No. 2 quarterback in Week 1 vs. Seattle. He might not always get rid of the ball in a timely manner, but McCown is more accurate and effective than Gradkowski and needs to be Garcia's backup for the rest of the season. The Bucs also need to find a way get Garcia healthy in a hurry and lure Plummer out of retirement in 2008."
"Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant might be back on the NFC Pro Bowl ballot after his performance vs. Washington on Sunday. Bryant was 4-of-4 on field goal attempts today from 35, 27, 48 and 39 yards out, respectively. Bryant was 14-of-18 (77.7 percent) heading into Sunday's game. After his four field goal performance vs. the ‘Skins, Bryant has now made 18-of-22 (81.8 percent) of his attempts this season. The Bucs clearly needed his accurate leg on Sunday."
"Seven of Tampa Bay's last eight meetings vs. Washington had been decided by six points or less heading into Sunday's game, so it shouldn't have come as a surprise to see this game come down to the last play and be decided by six points (19-13 in favor of the Bucs). What might have come as a surprise was the fact that the Bucs beat the Redskins by just six points after their defense created six turnovers and the team won the turnover battle 6-0. However, considering how poorly Bruce Gradkowski played in place of injured QB Jeff Garcia I think the Bucs are more than happy to come out of this game with a win."
Contributing Writer Charles Gonzalez
“Veteran linebacker Derrick Brooks took some criticism early this season that he had lost a step and should think about retiring. Brooks respected the criticism, but knew he still had some gas left in the tank. That has been evident as Brooks is second on the team in tackles and is still the leader of this defense. He still is able to make the big play when the defense needs it, which was evident vs. Washington. On a fourth-and-inches play inside the 5-yard line, Brooks stuffed Redskins running back Clinton Portis to thwart a scoring drive. Brooks may not be the player he was five years ago, but there aren’t too many players in the league that are. The one definite for Brooks is that he still can make plays and remains a force on the Bucs defense. Don’t show him the door just yet because he isn’t ready to head for the exit of his career.”
“Looking at Sunday’s game from a statistical standpoint offensively, the Bucs should have never beat Washington. However, from a statistical standpoint on the defensive side of the ball, the Bucs should have run away with the contest vs. the Redskins. Head coach Jon Gruden has stressed just how important quarterback Jeff Garcia was to the offense and it was in the spotlight on Sunday. After Garcia left the game with a back injury, the Bucs offense did little damage on the scoreboard. A first quarter touchdown by running back Earnest Graham was the only time the Bucs crossed the goal line despite having the ball inside the Redskins’ 35-yard line four times in the first half due to turnovers. It only got worse in the second half as the offense totaled just 15 yards offense and left the defense on the field way too much. But with two more turnovers, the defense saved the day and got the Bucs to 7-4. The Bucs got away with a win vs. Washington that shouldn’t have been as close as it was, but then again, Tampa Bay let two wins slip away vs. Detroit and Jacksonville. Sometimes it just evens out, but the Bucs can’t afford another lackluster performance from the offense this season, especially on the road next week at NFC South-rival New Orleans.”
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