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Publisher Scott Reynolds
"Tampa Bay running back Earnest Graham did not have the most productive outing in terms of rushing yards in the first half of the Green Bay game. Graham rushed seven times for eight yards, but he was a chain-mover. Graham was able to convert two third-and-1 situations with runs of four and one yard, respectively, and also converted a fourth-and-1 situation with a run of two yards. Those first downs were critical as the last two came on two different field goal drives in the second quarter and allowed the Bucs to build a 13-7 lead at halftime. In the second half, Graham proved to be an effective closer with 103 yards on 13 carries (7.9 avg.), including a 47-yard run that set up a 1-yard touchdown. Graham also had another third down conversion on a third-and-2 situation with a 3-yard run on the Bucs' fourth quarter field goal drive. Through four games, Graham has 334 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 57 carries and a healthy 5.86 yards per carry. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was really touting this guy after the game, criticizing the national media for not recognizing how good of a runner Graham is. It's nice to see Gruden stick up for his guy and heap the praise on the hard-working, no-nonsense Graham."
"I have never seen an official get in the way of so many plays as I saw today with umpire Bruce Stritesky. In the first quarter, Bucs quarterback Brian Griese hit Stritesky right in the head with the ball while attempting to connect on a pass with running back Warrick Dunn. Then Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers almost hit him as he threw a 6-yard pass to tight end Donald Lee. Later in the game, Griese almost hit Stritesky again. I don't know if it's a case of the quarterbacks throwing errant passes and not seeing the umpire, or if Stritesky just didn't do a good job of getting out of the way of the play. Either way, I've never seen an official affect the action like that on multiple plays before."
"Buccaneers middle linebacker Barrett Ruud is really making a push for the Pro Bowl and is off to an even better start than he was last September when he won the NFC Defensive Player of the Month. Through the first four games, Ruud has 36 tackles to lead the Buccaneers, and also has three passes defensed, two tackles for loss, two interceptions and his first career sack. Ruud also forced an interception against New Orleans with a quarterback hit on Drew Brees. On Sunday against the Packers, he recorded five stops, one tackle for loss, one INT and his sack. Ruud put up Pro Bowl numbers last year with a team-leading 169 tackles, four passes defensed, three tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, three interceptions and two interceptions but was snubbed in favor of San Francisco's Patrick Willis and Seattle's Lofa Tatupu. The problem was that the Bucs weren't on national television and had a string of 1:00 p.m. games in 2007, which diminished Ruud's exposure to voters. This year, Ruud has made some splash plays that have shown up on the ESPN and NFL Network highlight reels – most notably his two interceptions over the past two weeks. The Bears game and Sunday's contest against Green Bay were seen by most of the country and that national exposure will help Ruud's cause when it comes to the Pro Bowl."
"Kudos to rookie Dexter Jackson for believing in himself and his teammates, and kudos to the Buccaneers for believing in him and giving him another chance to return kicks and punts. Jackson played with supreme confidence against Green Bay, putting his slipping, falling and heartless returns behind him to have a sensational game as a return man. He averaged 33 yards on three kick returns, including a career-high 45-yarder to start the second half, and Jackson also had a key 19-yard punt return, which was a personal best, in the fourth quarter. I've heavily criticized Jackson over the first three weeks of the season, and justifiably so, but I must give credit where credit is due. The rookie from Appalachian State returned the ball with speed, decisiveness and authority on Sunday and it was refreshing to see after such a rough start. The Bucs have to hope that this outing will be a confidence-builder for him. If he can get the return game down and become an impact player in the kicking game, then head coach Jon Gruden will be more apt to use Jackson's speed, elusiveness and playmaking ability on offense."
"Last year, Tampa Bay's tight ends outscored the team's wide receivers, nine touchdowns to seven. Through the first quarter of the 2008 season, the tight ends are maintaining their touchdown lead over the receivers thanks to tight end Alex Smith's score against Green Bay. With John Gilmore's touchdown catch against Atlanta, Jerramy Stevens' touchdown reception last week at Chicago, and Smith's score on Sunday, the tight ends now have three TDs on the year. Ike Hilliard has the lone two touchdowns for the receiving corps through four games. After Sunday's 30-21 victory, quarterback Brian Griese said, ‘Throughout my career, I've always considered tight ends as my security blanket.' His statistics this year certainly back up that claim."
"Last Sunday at Chicago, the Bucs won because of Brian Griese's 67 pass attempts even though he had three interceptions against the Bears. On Sunday against Green Bay, the Bucs won in spite of Griese, who again threw three interceptions. There may come a point where Griese's interceptions cost him his starting job if they continue, but right or wrong, head coach Jon Gruden will point out how Griese manages the offense, calls the proper audibles in both the running game and the passing game and has an 8-1 record in his last nine starts as the Buccaneers quarterback. Gruden will grudgingly tolerate Griese's picks as long as Tampa Bay is winning. But if those INTs start resulting in losses, Gruden has to consider looking to Luke McCown or Jeff Garcia to quarterback a more turnover-free game."
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
"Tampa Bay's penchant for blowing halftime leads is becoming a disturbing trend. The Bucs had a 10-7 lead over the Saints at halftime of that Week 1 contest, but lost the game, 24-20. Last week in Chicago, the Bucs took a 14-9 lead into halftime, but fell behind by 10 points in the fourth quarter. They did, however, rally to tie the game and eventually win it in overtime, 27-24. Tampa Bay had a 13-7 lead over Green Bay at halftime on Sunday, but allowed the Packers to take a 21-20 lead in the fourth quarter. Just as they did in Chicago last Sunday, the Bucs kept their composure and battled back to win with a field goal and touchdown, which made the final score 30-21. The Bucs need to come out and play with a sense of urgency in the third quarter. Otherwise, this disturbing trend could continue throughout the 2008 regular season. Tampa Bay has been outscored 28-10 in the third quarter through four games."
"Bucs head coach Jon Gruden is selling quarterback Brian Griese to the fans and media, but I'm not buying it. Griese has thrown six interceptions over his last two games, yet the Bucs have found a way to win both contests thanks in most part to the defense and its ability to create its own turnovers. Griese has thrown six picks on the season, which is two more than Jeff Garcia threw in 13 starts last season. I'm not suggesting Garcia replace Griese in the starting lineup, but Griese's interceptions certainly are cause for concern. If the interceptions continue, the Bucs might have to consider running the ball 67 times as opposed to throwing it."
"The Bucs should be commended for how they handled kicker Matt Bryant's situation this week, particularly on Sunday. They allowed the fans to recognize and support him by having him introduced with the starting offense before the game started. Bryant also received the game ball after the win, and rightfully so. Bryant made 3-of-3 field goals, including a game-winning 24-yarder late in the fourth quarter, just one day after the funeral of his youngest son, Tryson, who died in his sleep on Wednesday morning. Truth is, Bryant would have deserved a game ball even if he had went 0-for-3 on field goals just for suiting up and giving it a shot on Sunday. Tryson would be proud of his father, and so should Bucs fans."
Beat Writer Charlie Campbell
"The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came out of the contest with the Green Bay Packers with a solid win that was led by the defense. The game could have been a blow out had the offense performed better. The rushing game picked up in the second half and provided the offensive output to help pull off the win with the stout play from the Bucs defense. There was one stat that really troubled this observer, and this figure is what kept the Buccaneers from a huge point total against Green Bay. That stat was the Bucs red zone efficiency. For the game, inside the Packer 20-yard line the Buccaneers were 2-6, 33 percent. They produced touchdowns on their first and last trips into the red zone, but had four other opportunities escape them. Three of them ended in made field goals, and one resulted in an interception. The second trip to the red zone saw the Bucs fail to get into the end zone when they started just outside the 10-yard line with a fresh set of downs. The next drive had the Buccaneers getting inside the 20 again to also only produce a field goal. The lack of production in the red zone opportunities allowed Green Bay to retake the lead in the fourth quarter after scoring two touchdowns. Had the Buccaneers produced another touchdown instead of a field goal they would have never given the lead back to Green Bay. In 2007, the offense and defense got into a real slump late in the season of producing touchdowns and preventing touchdowns once the ball was inside the 20. The defense seems to have improved in this aspect, but the offense is still lagging behind. In order for Tampa Bay to make the postseason and win in the postseason they are going to have to produce more touchdowns and less field goals on offense."
"Wide receiver Michael Clayton had a rough game against the Packers. It started with a bad drop in the first half. On first-and-10 at the Packers 45 yard line, Clayton had gotten open about 10 yards down field. He had the ball in his hands and was starting to race up field before he completely secured the ball in his hands. The ball sprung free and hit the turf. He made a nice play later in the drive to on third-and-11 to put the Bucs in a very makeable fourth-and-1, which running back Earnest Graham converted. After that there were two more bad plays from Clayton. Inside the Packers 20 on the first drive of the second half Clayton dropped a pass that intercepted by the Packers Tramon Williams. Then he was called for a 10-yard pass interference penalty that put Tampa Bay in a long 2-and-18 situation. The Buccaneers failed to convert and had to punt the ball. That was when they were down 21-20. For the game he produced three catches for 28 yards. Clayton has been much maligned and games like the one he had against Green Bay are the reason why. It can be frustrating to watch Clayton because at times there are definite signs of his outstanding play from his rookie season. Clayton also does a fantastic job of blocking, and helped seal the edge on a number of plays by coming in motion and getting a crack-back block. One thing seems evident, this season the Buccaneers are going to need Clayton to produce. Wide receiver Joey Galloway has missed two games with injury after missing all of training camp and the preseason with a different injury. Veteran Antonio Bryant has had a nagging knee injury that he has played through, and wide receiver Ike Hilliard got banged up over the course of last season. Clayton has to pick up his play from the production he yielded against Green Bay."
"Linebacker Derrick Brooks found the fountain of youth before the game against the Green Bay Packers. He snatched one interception to jump start he Bucs first touchdown drive, and he also came close to recording two other interceptions. The veteran linebacker made another play that really looked like the Brooks of old. The first Bucs defensive play after his interception, Brooks shot through the line of scrimmage and make a tackle for a six-yard loss. Brooks looked faster on that play than he has in years."
"Some fans have expressed concern because the Bucs defense is not ranked as highly as they typically are in league rankings. That should change for one reason. The front seven of Tampa Bay seems to be improving by the week. They recorded three sacks, three interceptions, and one forced fumble. Entering the season, the concern was whether the team would be able to produce enough pass rush, well the defense has to addressed that concern as they have recorded 11 sacks through four games. Greg White, Gaines Adams, and Jimmy Wilkerson have applied pass rush in every game this season. The front seven has also held up excellently in the run after the first game of the season at New Orleans. They have faced three good running games and good running backs the past three weeks in Atlanta's Michael Turner, Chicago's Matt Forte, and the Packers' Ryan Grant. All three of those backs were held in check. With the front seven playing as well as they, the Buccaneers have the ability to stay in every contest. They are making big plays and forcing turnovers. If the front seven continues their excellent play, the defense will quickly jump in the defensive rankings and be back in their accustomed top-10 position."