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Publisher Scott Reynolds
“The play of Buccaneers strong safety Jermaine Phillips has been impressive this year. He showed his ability to blitz in the season opener at Seattle with a sack. Against New Orleans and St. Louis he showed his skills as a defensive back, picking off a pair of passes, and also had an INT against Arizona (although TV replays showed that Phillips was out of bounds). Today, Phillips showed he could be an enforcer in the defensive backfield, breaking up a couple of passes intended for wide receiver Jerheme Urban on third down at the Tampa Bay 10 in the first quarter and wide receiver Anquan Boldin on second down at midfield in the second quarter. Both passes were catchable, but Phillips dislodged the ball with jaw-breaker-type hits. Phillips, who is Pewter Report’s Most Improved Offensive Player in the first half of the season, is becoming a complete safety, capable of playing at the line of scrimmage, deep in coverage and plays across the middle.”

“In his first start, defensive end Gaines Adams played with more confidence, rushing from both the left and right sides of the defensive line. Adams applied a couple of really good pressures on Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and nearly had an interception in the second quarter on a zone blitz as he dropped into coverage. Although folks in Tampa Bay may feel like Adams is underachieving, Arizona respected his skills by chipping him with a tight end a running backs on occasion. Adams, who finished with one tackle and two QB hurries, also drew a personal foul in the third quarter when he was shoved to the ground by guard Deuce Lutui, but kept his cool and didn’t retaliate as Tampa Bay picked up a free 15 yards.”

“Why does Jon Gruden continue to run Earnest Graham on the perimeter on toss sweeps? Graham is at his best when he is running north and south and doesn’t have the acceleration to get to the outside and find a crease in Tampa Bay’s zone blocking scheme. I’ll have to go back and watch the game film, but at first glance, I doubt if Graham had a gain longer than two yards on the five or six perimeter runs that he had. As speedy Michael Bennett continues to learn the playbook, Gruden must give those perimeter opportunities to him rather than Graham.”

“There was an odd occurrence on the field in the second half of the Bucs’ 17-10 victory over the Cardinals. Tampa Bay’s offensive line, which had been powering a running game led by Earnest Graham, was actually getting tired and worn down. Typically opposing defenses that are losing the time of possession battle are the ones that are fatigued, but Arizona’s defense was tough, physical and well-rested coming off the bye week. Guards Davin Joseph and Arron Sears showed some fatigue and were slow to get up several times, as did right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who injured his shoulder in the third quarter. The bye week will do Tampa Bay a lot of good as this team is tired and needs a break. Of course, no one is as tired as running back Earnest Graham, who logged a career-high 34 carries, often running into eight-man defensive fronts.”

“Hats off to wide receiver Maurice Stovall, who only had one catch for nine yards, but had two outstanding special teams plays. Stovall downed one of Josh Bidwell’s punts at the 3-yard line in the first quarter and then drilled Cardinals rookie return man Steve Breaston and didn’t allow a return at the Arizona 16 in the fourth quarter. Stovall usually plays inside on punt coverage teams, but due to a rash of injuries has decimated Tampa Bay’s special teams, he had to play gunner on the punt team on Sunday along with wide receiver Chas Gessner.”

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
"A win is a win and when you're on a two-game losing streak you'll take one any way you can get it, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can't feel too good about their 17-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The Bucs absolutely dominated this game. They won the time of possession 43:07 to 16:53. The Bucs also out-gained the Cardinals, 350 to 195. They won the turnover battle, 2-0. Yet somehow Arizona had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter until safety Jermaine Phillips intercepted Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner near the sideline on a very questionable call. The Bucs had a chance to put the Cardinals away for good earlier in the fourth quarter, but tight end Alex Smith dropped a touchdown pass and kicker Matt Bryant missed a 26-yard field goal, which kept Arizona in a game it had no business being in. The Buccaneers can use their bye week to get healthy, but they also need to find their killer instinct. They lacked it on Sunday."

"Tampa Bay has used the running game to attack the perimeter of several opposing defenses this year, including Arizona's. That worked fairly well as the Bucs rushed the ball 46 times for 162 yards (3.5 avg.) and one touchdown. However, the Bucs would still like to run the ball up the gut with success, but that's been difficult to do with center John Wade anchoring the offensive line. He is a good leader and still a serviceable player, but Wade is in the twilight of his career and often times struggles to win physical matchups in the trenches. Wade was called for two holding penalties vs. the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The Bucs attempted to unseat Wade by signing Matt Lehr and moving guard Dan Buenning over to center during the offseason. They also attempted to sign free agent C Al Johnson, who eventually signed with Arizona. To Wade's credit, he won the starting job in training camp and free agency. However, Wade is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2008 and I wouldn't' be surprised if the Bucs allowed him to walk. The only question that might remain is who will the Bucs replace him with?"

"There's no reason why the Bucs shouldn't win the NFC South division title in 2007. They are 5-4 and in first place in the division ahead of 4-4 Carolina and 4-4 New Orleans. Tampa Bay still has four division games remaining on its schedule, including two contests vs. the 2-6 Atlanta Falcons. In fact, the Bucs only face one team – the 5-3 Washington Redskins – with a winning record in their final seven games. Tampa Bay should get several injured players healthy during its bye week, including running back Michael Pittman (ankle), cornerback Brian Kelly (groin), tight end Alex Smith (ankle), defensive end Patrick Chukwurah (shoulder) and hopefully DE Greg Spires (calf). As long as the Bucs can stay healthy after their bye week they should be able to hold off the Panthers and Saints for the division title.'

"How bad did Matt Bryant's two missed field goals hurt his chances of making the Pro Bowl this season? Heading into Sunday's game, Bryant had made 12-of-14 (85.7 percent) of his field goal tries. On Sunday, Bryant missed a 58-yarder and a 26-yarder while making a 32-yard attempt. His 1-for-3 effort vs. the Cardinals dropped Bryant's kicking percentage to 76.4 through nine games."

Contributing Writer Charles Gonzalez

“The trend that has been unsettling to many Bucs fans as far as the offense having to settle for field goals instead of finishing drives with touchdowns crept its way into Sunday’s game. The Bucs were able to score touchdowns on the opening drives of the first and second half, but had to settle for a 32-yard Matt Bryant field goal after the defense got a turnover in Arizona territory. The offense dominated the contest vs. the Cardinals, but had to squeak out another close victory because it was unable to put the game away when it had the chance. Tampa Bay had a 19-play, 86-yard drive that chewed up 11:59 in the second half, but came away with nothing. This was the perfect time to knock out the Cardinals with a touchdown. However, tight end Alex Smith drops a certain touchdown on third down and Bryant missed the ensuing 26-yard field goal. The Bucs were lucky to escape with a 17-10 victory, but it is mistakes like the ones on Sunday that have the Bucs hanging on in the playoff race at 5-4 instead of in the hunt for the top two playoff seeds in the NFC with a possible 7-2 record. During the bye week, the Bucs need to get healthy and find the killer instinct to put teams away when they have the chance. A playoff berth is in reach, but this team isn’t good enough to fight through too many more mistakes.”

“It’s been a long time coming, but running back Earnest Graham finally got his first career 100-yard rushing performance vs. the Cardinals. Graham has waited patiently for four years to get his chance to carry the load of the Bucs running game and is now running away with his opportunity. Graham has been just as big of a reason for the Bucs ability to stay in the playoff race despite all the injuries as quarterback Jeff Garcia. Graham may not have the breakaway speed that running backs Cadillac Williams, Michael Pittman or Michael Bennett have, but he’s able to move a pile and battle for extra yards when there are no holes open. The Bucs will need a consistent running game in the second half of the season to keep Garcia clean and open up the passing game. Graham proved he is capable of rushing for more than 100 yards in a game and now gives the Bucs a running attack to go with Garcia.”

“It’s hard to fathom how wide receivers Joey Galloway, at age 35, and Ike Hilliard, at age 31, are leading the Bucs passing game. But the old veterans are sitting 1-2 in receiving statistics and have quickly created a chemistry with Garcia despite not even playing a whole season together. Garcia and Galloway were at it again with the big play vs. the Cardinals with a 37-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. Hilliard had four third-down receptions in the win, where he usually does most of his damage. Hilliard has great hands and finds ways to get open. Galloway still has the speed to blow past any cornerback in the league. These two veterans have had to carry the passing game with the injuries to wide receivers Paris Warren and Michael Clayton and the release of David Boston. What was thought to be the deepest and most talented group coming out of the preseason has now become a two-man show.”

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