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Publisher Scott Reynolds
"The media will be clamoring for a good, old fashioned quarterback controversy this week, but it looks like the shoulder injury to Brian Griese will make that a moot point. Barring a miraculous comeback this week, Griese's injured shoulder will likely keep him out of next week's Carolina game and Garcia will start. The media-driven quarterback controversy will have to wait a week or so to see how Griese's injury progresses and how well Garcia plays in his absence. Garcia finished the game 13-of-17 for 93 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but if Griese was perfectly healthy this week I'm not completely convinced that Garcia deserves the start. Yes, he scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but that came against a prevent defense, which was the same type of defense that allowed Griese to drive the field and score a game-tying touchdown to force overtime. At this stage of the season, I think Griese and Garcia are about neck and neck with each other. They are far from being elite quarterbacks and just a slight notch above mediocre in my book. Garcia had four full offensive possessions to rally the Buccaneers in Denver, but could only muster a touchdown against a prevent defense and threw a terrible interception on a previous possession. I have no idea what Garcia was doing throwing that pass that was intended for Antonio Bryant. It wound up being intercepted by defensive tackle Marcus Thomas. Not only was Thomas dropping back in coverage right in front of Bryant, but the back judge was also in front of Bryant. There was no way that pass was going to be caught and it was a terrible decision by Garcia. If Thomas hadn't been there, it would have hit the official. The pass was a good yard behind Bryant, too. While Griese avoided turnovers in Denver, his play was too conservative and his overthrow of tight end Jerramy Stevens in the end zone in the first quarter proved costly. Griese's worst play of the game may have been audibling to a Warrick Dunn run from the Denver 17 with 18 seconds left and one timeout. Why not take a shot at a touchdown on the road instead of settling for a tie? I still think Tampa Bay can win a lot of games this year with either quarterback due to its running game and defense, but it can't win because of either quarterback."
"The Bucs offensive line was very disappointing in Denver. While Tampa Bay was able to manage 133 yards rushing, the offensive line was guilty of four penalties and surrendered three sacks. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood easily played his worst game of the season, accounting for a holding penalty that negated a first down in a third down situation, in addition to two false starts and allowing a sack to Elvis Dumervil. The offensive line was a primary reason why the Bucs were able to rip off three straight wins, but it played a big role as in why that streak came to an end, too. The unimaginative play-calling of head coach Jon Gruden was also a big reason why the Bucs put up just six points in the first half and finished the game with only 13. Where were the screen passes, roll-outs, bootlegs, reverses that would have kept Denver's defense off balance? Aside from an occasional big run, Tampa Bay's offense never put pressure on Denver's defense. Instead, Denver's defense put undue pressure on Gruden and his offense. With the Bucs having practiced against the Cover 2 defense for years, you would think that Gruden would know how to successfully attack it by now."
"For the third time this season, the Bucs defense forced a three-and-out or a turnover on the opponents' first offensive possession. Against Atlanta, cornerback Aqib Talib picked off Matt Ryan on third-and-15 on the Falcons' first series. The next week at Chicago, Tampa Bay's defense forced a three-and-out to start the game. While the Bucs gave up a touchdown drive on the opening possession against Green Bay last week, the defense stiffened in Denver and forced a three-and-out to end the Broncos' first drive. That strong start helped set the tone for a 6-6 game at halftime. Although the Bucs defense didn't record a turnover or a sack at Denver, the unit was able to force the Broncos to kick three field goals and only allowed one touchdown. The 16 points was the fewest Denver has scored all season and is the fewest the Tampa Bay defense has allowed on the road this year. The Saints and Bears each scored 24 points against the Bucs when they strayed away from Raymond James Stadium."
"Field goal kicker Matt Bryant is off to an amazing start this season. After a rough preseason in which he made only 7-of-12 field goals (58.3 percent), Bryant nailed 8-of-8 kicks through the first four games of the 2008 season with field goals six, seven and eight coming last Sunday – just a day after burying his three-month old infant son, Tryson, who passed away on September 24. Bryant remained perfect in Denver and is now 10-of-10 on the season."
"Pewter Report is now a perfect 5-0 in our predictions for the 2008 campaign from our Season Kickoff Issue. In my 14 years of covering the Bucs professionally, I don't think we have ever accurately predicted the correct outcomes of the first five games of the season. If this current streak holds, the bad news is that Pewter Report predicts a loss at home to Carolina, which is 4-1 and coming off a 34-0 road win at Kansas City. The good news is that we have predicted the Bucs rebounding from a 3-3 start to finish the season 10-6, so don't get too down, Bucs fans. This is still a good football because of its defense, running game and offensive line – in spite of what happened in Denver. The Bucs' two losses have been by a combined seven points. Can't wait to see how the season actually unfolds."
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
"Tampa Bay's offense ranked No. 7 overall in the NFL heading into Sunday's game. That might have been one of the most misleading statistics in the NFL, evidenced by how poorly the Bucs offense fared in the 16-13 loss to the Broncos. The Bucs had 307 yards of total offense vs. the Broncos, but they didn't score their first offensive touchdown until quarterback Jeff Garcia connected with wide receiver Ike Hilliard with 2:02 remaining in the contest against a prevent defense. Denver's defense ranked 30th in the NFL coming into this contest. Its pass defense was the 31st in the league, yet the Bucs managed to pass for just 181 yards. Tampa Bay also rushed the ball just 22 times vs. a suspect Denver defense that was absolutely toasted by Kansas City RB Larry Johnson last week. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden keeps challenging his defense to score touchdowns, but he needs to take a hard look at his offense, which has scored just eight touchdowns in five games. The Bucs defense is just five TDs behind the offense at this point with three scores of its own. Perhaps Gruden should stop challenging the defense to score touchdowns and demand more from his own offense, which was inept on Sunday."
"Assuming he's healthy enough to play vs. the Carolina Panthers next Sunday, Brian Griese should not remain the team's starting signal caller if he's going to play as conservative as he did against the Broncos. Griese had thrown six interceptions over the last two games and clearly was handcuffed by conservative playcalling or had handcuffed himself in an effort to keep his starting job over Jeff Garcia, who led the team on its first and only touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. Griese completed 13-of-19 passes vs. Denver, but he averaged just 6.7 yards per completion. Tampa Bay worked extremely hard in the offseason to bolster its quarterback position, but it is not delivering for the Buccaneers."
"The Bucs defense can't escape blame from Tampa Bay's 16-13 loss to Denver. The front four provided absolutely no pressure on Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, who had been sacked just two times heading into Sunday's game. The defense also failed to force a turnover, but Cutler was extremely careful with the football, and his patience paid off. Denver's offense ranks No. 1 overall and was averaging 30 points per game before today. Tampa Bay's defense still managed to hold Denver to 330 yards and one offensive touchdown, and three of the Broncos' four scoring drives went 40, 42 and 47 yards. Tampa Bay's defense wasn't perfect, but this unit is not the reason why the Buccaneers lost to the Broncos."
"The Bucs lost some ground in the NFC South division due to their loss to the Broncos. The Carolina Panthers improved to 4-1 and the Atlanta Falcons are now 3-2 and tied with Tampa Bay for second place in the South. If New Orleans defeats Minnesota on Monday night it will also be tied with Tampa Bay and Atlanta. Carolina travels to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers on Sunday. The good news is the Bucs have a great opportunity to make pull into a first place tie with the Panthers with a win. The bad news is Tampa Bay has lost five straight to Carolina at home dating back to the 2003 season."
Beat Writer Charlie Campbell
"In looking at the offensive numbers, the Bucs and Broncos were very even in many important statistics. The Bucs and Broncos controlled the football for virtually the same amount of time. They had almost the same net yards. Both threw one touchdown pass, had 17 first downs, went 6-15 on third downs, and neither team had a rushing touchdown. However, in watching the game the Broncos offense was more effective in completing passes at clutch times. The Broncos had eight different receivers make catches of over 10 yards, and they produced 227 yards through the air compared to Tampa Bay's 168. In the first half with the game low scoring and close, the Bucs really struggled to convert on third down attempts. The Buccaneers were 1-5 on third down before their final drive of the first half. If the Bucs had been able to control the ball more in the first half, they would have been able to run the ball more often. Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn combined for only 21 carries, and that was in large part due to the situations the Bucs found themselves in. Tampa Bay fell behind in the second half, and had to pass the ball. They also had penalties that put them in throwing situations, but in order to rack up a good number of carries for both Dunn and Graham, the Bucs have to convert on third down. Sustaining drives allows the team to be able wear a defense down with Graham, Dunn, and their powerful offensive line. The Bucs started out the game committed to the run game. They ran on six of their first 10 plays, but the passing offense's inability to help convert when needed prevented Tampa Bay from really getting any consistency in the running attack. While the Bucs entered the game at Denver with the a top-10 rated passing attack, it is obvious that it is the weak link for the Buccaneers offense, and for the team overall at this point in the season."
"The two primary parts of the passing offense that have been letting the Bucs down has been the quarterback play and the inability of the wide receivers to gain separation from defensive backs. Brian Griese's interceptions have been well documented, and over his career he has shown an inclination to throw them. This week, Griese seemed so adamant on not throwing an interception that he would not push the ball downfield at all. That was reminiscent of Jeff Garcia in the first game at New Orleans. When Garcia came into the Denver game he did throw a ball deep downfield, but that pass was not close to being a completion. Garica stayed in the short to intermediate part of the field on every other throw. Last week, the Buccaneers had a number of passes that were broken up because defensive backs were running step-for-step with receivers, this week the Bucs receivers did not have a high number of passes slapped away, but they did not have very many passes thrown to them because they were not getting very much separation. Considering the interceptions, Griese did not look comfortable throwing the ball into the tight spaces that he was given as options. Tampa Bay averaged only seven yards a completion against Denver. The Broncos do deserve credit as well. They have a solid group of defensive backs and were tough to pass on last season. The Broncos shelved their man-to-man defense and played mostly Cover 2 on Sunday, which limited Tampa Bay's big-play potential. Nevertheless, the passing offense will have to find ways to be more effective going forward."
"The Buccaneers offense has missed their explosive playmaker in Joey Galloway. It remains to be seen if Galloway will make it back this season, and how effective he will be. That is the problem with relying on players in their mid-30's, eventually their skills are going to diminish or they are going to have a hard time staying healthy. None of the wide receivers have been able to fill in the breakaway plays that Galloway provided from 2004-07. Antonio Bryant, Ike Hilliard, and Michael Clayton have had their moments this season as support players. None have broken a big touchdown, and none are players that cause defenses to keep their safeties deep. All three receivers are good second and third receivers, but Tampa Bay obviously does not have a number one receiver. With the receivers not having explosive big-play ability, the Bucs may have to get more creative on offense. The Dolphins, and a few other teams, have done that in an effort to add a different dimension that causes other wrinkles, such as the Wildcat formation, for the opposition's defense to account for. It is unclear whether the Bucs have the players to run a single-wing formation that has worked for Miami, but Tampa Bay could do some of the gadget plays that they practiced in training camp. They are in the playbook, the players have practiced them, and defenses have not seen them. In a game like the one in Denver, why not pull out some of those plays when you are having a hard time sustaining drives or creating big plays? In this reporter's opinion, it will only help the Bucs to get more creative in the absence of Galloway. They already have a rushing attack that can be the base of an effective offense. All they really need is a curveball to go with it."