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Publisher Scott Reynolds
"The Bears did their damnedest to make Brian Griese beat them on Sunday. Chicago often stacked the line of scrimmage with not eight – but nine – defenders, thus taking away Tampa Bay's potent running game. Earnest Graham, who came in averaging eight yards per carry, was held to just three yards on nine carries throughout most of the game before finishing with 16 yards on 12 carries (1.3 avg.). Warrick Dunn got most of his yardage on draws, rushing for 31 yards on five carries (6.2 avg.) with 18 of those yards coming on one run. Tampa Bay was often in third-and-long situations and was forced to pass. Perhaps more importantly, without the threat of a credible running attack, the Bucs weren't able to go with their play-action passing game, which is where Griese typically thrives. That made it more difficult for him to complete passes because Griese is not a pure passer like Tom Brady, Brett Favre or Peyton Manning. After throwing his third interception, which came in the fourth quarter as Tampa Bay trailed 17-14, Griese completed 13-of-22 passes (59 percent) for 137 yards with one touchdown for the remainder of the fourth quarter. Including his overtime numbers, which were 7-of-14 for 90 yards, Griese completed 20-of-36 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown after his third interception, which computes to an 83.9 QB rating for that portion of the game. Griese used the no-huddle quite well in stretches during the Bucs' comeback. It was quite a redemption for Griese, who finished the game 38-of-67 for 407 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions and a QB rating of just 66. While Tampa Bay's offensive line was overmatched and outflanked in the running game, credit them for giving Griese time to throw the ball. It's amazing that out of 67 passes, Griese wasn't sacked once."

"In Saturday's SR's Fab 5, I wrote about Dexter Jackson's slipping on kick and punt returns. Well, his first two kickoffs saw him slip and fall again – the third straight game where he has had either issues with his cleats … or his heart. I have a lot of respect for the players I cover for a living on a daily basis and I never want to call anyone a coward, but that's the first thing I think of when I see Jackson slip to the turf. Jackson's stunning admission to me that he purposefully slides down to avoid contact backs up my point of view: ‘I've heard some things and people have been saying that I fall down and this and that, but mainly, I'm trying to protect myself for the most part. If I can get a couple of extra yards, that's fine, but if there are four or five guys in front of me it's a lot easier for me to just get down. The primary reason that sometimes I'm slipping is because I am protecting myself and getting what I can get before they come.' Imagine if Earnest Graham felt that way every time he ran the ball? Graham would be out of the league. Is it too early to call the use of a second round draft pick for Jackson a catastrophic mistake? The Bucs made the right move in benching Jackson on kick returns and replacing him with Michael Clayton, who had a 37-yard return on his first attempt. Thankfully for Jackson, he did show enough aggressiveness to make the tackle on Garrett Wolfe's 38-yard fake punt and save a touchdown. Jackson finished the game with a pitiful four yards on three punt returns, in addition to two kick return for 40 yards (20 avg.). Bucs head coach Jon Gruden wisely scrapped the offensive plays he had for Jackson in this game due to his horrible play on special teams. Next week, the Bucs need to seriously consider activating Michael Bennett and deactivating Jackson until he decides he wants to be a physical return man. This is just ridiculous."

"Defensive end Gaines Adams' interception for a touchdown was a thing of beauty for couple reasons. First, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin dialed up an intricate blitz that had cornerback Ronde Barber, who recorded a sack earlier in the game, coming from the left side of the defense and linebacker Barrett Ruud coming up the middle. Those two came free and forced Kyle Orton to retreat on the play deeper than usual, although the play was designed to go to tight end Desmond Clark on a middle screen. Adams diagnosed the play early, hunkered down in front of Clark and then picked off the pass for the score. The key aspect of this play was Barber coming in with his hands up, which obstructed Orton's view and forced him to throw the ball where Clark was without seeing Adams, who used his 4.6 speed to outrace Clark. Adams is off to a tremendous start to the 2008 season with two sacks and an interception return for a touchdown."

"The Bears made some halftime adjustments and did something they should have done since the start of the game – attack first-year cornerback Marcus Hamilton, who was seeing action in his first NFL game after being signed to the active roster from the practice squad. But Hamilton responded well and broke up a pass intended for Bradon Lloyd on third down on Chicago's first possession of the second half. On its next possession, Hamilton defended a deep pass to Marty Booker on third down. Hamilton actually has less game experience than rookies Aqib Talib and Elbert Mack, who both played in Tampa Bay's first two games this season, but missed the Bears game due to an injury and a suspension, respectively. But the former Virginia product showed great fundamentals and timing in his initial NFL action. In fact, he played better at right cornerback than Ronde Barber did. Barber gave up gains of 22 and 27 yards to Lloyd on the Bears' third quarter touchdown, in addition to a 2-point conversion catch by Lloyd. Lloyd did beat Hamilton for a 25-yard gain the sidelines in the fourth quarter, but then he went back to burning Barber, catching a 19-yard touchdown pass on the same drive with 6:38 left to put the Bears ahead 24-14. Hamilton gave up another 24-yard pass to Lloyd in overtime, but it wasn't fatal as the Bears had to punt later in the drive. Given what happened to a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback like Barber today, I think Hamilton fared pretty well in his first NFL game."

"Remember when everyone, including yours truly, was fretting about Matt Bryant in the preseason? After hitting over 82 percent of his field goals over the past two seasons, Bryant was a scary 7-of-12 (58.3 percent) in the month of August. But he's been perfect during the regular season, hitting his first three field goals coming into the Chicago game, and then connecting on two more field goals – a key 35-yarder in the fourth quarter and the 21-yard game-winner in overtime on Sunday. Bryant is now a perfect 5-of-5 in the regular season and has connected on his last eight attempts, including the final three field goals in the preseason. It looks like Bryant is back in a groove, although none of his field goals this season have been beyond 37 yards. Consider Bryant's slump over – and just in time for the Buccaneers."

Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
"Before you become too critical of Tampa Bay's defense for allowing Chicago's inept offense to come to life with the Brandon Lloyd-Kyle Orton connection in the second half, don't be too quick to forget how the Bucs defense kept the team in the game to begin with. Tampa Bay's defense was put in bad situations several times in the first half. The Bears started drives at the Bucs' 15, 18 and 37-yard line and held Chicago to just two field goals on those three drives thanks to linebacker Barrett Ruud's big interception in the end zone. In addition, defensive end Gaines Adams intercepted a pass from Orton and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown, which matched the offense's TD production for the first two quarters of the game. Tampa Bay's offense had four turnovers and the defense was on the field way too long in the second half (over half of the final two quarters). With the exception of Chicago's 86-yard touchdown drive, the Bears' scoring drives were fairly short, going 7, 52, 66 and 54 yards, respectively. The Bucs defense allowed 405 yards of total offense, including 259 in the second half, but this unit played a big role in Tampa Bay's 27-24 overtime win over Chicago on Sunday."

"I've been critical of Tampa Bay's offense this season, and it's been warranted, but I have to give credit where credit is due. The Bucs offense was punched in the mouth to start this game, which just happened to be Chicago's regular season home opener. Tampa Bay's offense started the game with an unnecessary roughness penalty on tackle Donald Penn, a timeout due to the play clock in danger of running out on the next play and an interception thrown by quarterback Brian Griese on the third play of the game. Down 6-0 to the Bears, the Bucs offense dug deep and engineered an 81-yard touchdown drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Griese to wide receiver Ike Hilliard. Not only did the offense generate its own points and not score off of a turnover generated by the defense, but it was a tremendous feat seeing as Chicago had not allowed an offensive touchdown in the first half through the first two regular season games of the year. And as bad as Griese's three interceptions were on Sunday, he looked, at times, like a Pro Bowler in Tampa Bay's final three drives of the game, which resulted in two field goals and a touchdown. Any hopes Jeff Garcia might have had of re-entering the starting lineup were put on hold for at least another week after Griese's impressive fourth quarter and overtime performance."

"Tampa Bay blew a halftime lead for the second time in three games this season in Chicago. The Bucs were up 10-7 at halftime over the Saints, but went on to lose that Week 1 contest, 24-20. The Bucs were up 14-9 at halftime in Chicago, but allowed the Bears to take a 24-14 lead in the fourth quarter. That lead could have been 27-14 had it not been for kicker Robbie Gould's 49-yard miss in the beginning of the fourth quarter. Talk about the stars aligning for the Bucs. Gould, who had made 85.3 percent of his career field goal attempts, misses, and then cornerback Charles Tillman is flagged for a personal foul after Chicago's defense forces the Bucs to go three-and-out inside their own 10-yard line in overtime, giving the offense new life and allowing the game-winning drive to take place. To Tampa Bay's credit, the Bucs capitalized on those mistakes by Chicago."

"Mark it down. For the first time in head coach Jon Gruden's seven-year tenure in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers have won a game in which they trailed by more than seven points. The Bucs had not accomplished that feat until Sunday when they erased a 10-point deficit to tie the game at 24 all and send it into overtime, where the Bucs won 27-24. The Bucs picked one hell of a place to accomplish that feat as Tampa Bay was 5-20 all-time in Chicago heading into its contest vs. the Bears on Sunday. Regardless of how they did it, congratulations are definitely in order for the Bucs."

Beat Writer Charlie Campbell
"The Buccaneers had a great first half on defense. Quarterback Kyle Orton was intercepted twice and the Bears offense was held without a touchdown despite starting many drives with great field position. What led the Bucs to their dominant first half was the pass rush that they put on Orton. On the Bears first drive, Orton was blitzed on third down and sacked by cornerback Ronde Barber.  On the Bears third drive a punt was forced after defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson put pressure on Orton and defensive end Greg White cleaned it up to record a sack for the third straight game. Wilkerson had an outstanding game. He recorded five combined pressures and knockdowns of Orton. That is some serious pressure, and he did it from end and tackle. Right now Wilkerson has to have earned more reps in the Bucs pass rushing package. Ryan Sims also got a nice interior pass rush that led to Kevin Carter taking down Orton. Those two recorded a knockdown on the next Bears possession that helped lead to a punt that turned into a first down on a fake punt. The second half the Bucs pass rush disappeared for awhile. That made all the difference as the Orton and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd picked apart the Bucs secondary. When Griese led the Bucs comeback, the Tampa Bay picked up their play late in the fourth quarter and overtime. They stuffed the Bears running game and stopped the Bucs on third down. Since the first game at New Orleans, the Buccaneers pass rush has been much improved. It seems that they have found a nice combination of pressure from the front four and blitzes from other defenders. Next week, Tampa Bay will have to improve from their last two solid performances. The Packers have an excellent passing offense, and they can pick a team apart if they are given time to throw. The Bucs pass rush has been on the up, and it will need to continue that trend to have a shot at winning next week. The best pass rushing foursome right now is White at right end, Wilkerson at under tackle, Sims at nose tackle, and Adams at left end."

"In the latest PI Quick Hits, I wrote that the Bucs had to get more production from the wide receivers. Well after two quiet games, the receivers broke out on Sunday. They combined to catch 23 passes for 265 yards a touchdown and a fumble. Antonio Bryant had his Buccaneer coming out party and showed some of the speed and separation ability the Bucs have needed to find from a receiver outside of Joey Galloway. Ike Hilliard was his reliable self, and Michael Clayton stepped up and made some big catches. Maurice Stovall had a rough game, fumbling the ball and not hauling in some passes he normally does in practice. In the same article, I wrote how the tight ends have the ability to hurt teams and will have to be relied on with the receivers struggling in the first two games. The tight ends came through, and Jerramy Stevens picked up where he left off last season. Stevens is the Buccaneers best red zone threat, and he showed it on the game-tying touchdown. Tampa Bay knows what it has in Stevens. With the score needing to be tied with 10 seconds left, the Bucs threw to Stevens on both attempts. He is a mismatch every time he runs a route. He is too fast for most linebackers to cover, and he is too big for safeties and cornerbacks to cover. The other important thing that the tight ends and receivers did was they put on tape that the Buccaneers passing offense has the ability to hurt you, and that will help the Bucs running game avoid the fronts that they got from the Bears that negated the strength of the Tampa Bay offense."

"The Bucs got a lesson on special teams on Sunday. The Bears have the best special teams units in the NFL, and they continued to produce without their dynamic returner Devin Hester. The struggles of Dexter Jackson have already been covered, but the Buccaneers will need to sure up all phases of their special teams. The Bears had a 46-yard kickoff return and averaged 27 yards per attempt. The Bears also had a 15-yard punt return, and a fake punt that was ran for 38 yards and would have been a score if not for Jackson making a touchdown saving tackle. It was a game that the Buccaneers can learn from, and fortunately for Tampa Bay none of those plays cost the Bucs the game. Chicago put on a special teams display and it could have been worse if Hester was in the game. The Buccaneers will most likely not have to face another special teams unit like Chicago, and the positive from Sunday's game is that playing and learning from the best could help them down the road over the season."

"One thing is for sure after Sunday's victory in Chicago: the Bucs have heart. In the NFL, where the vast majority of teams have a similar talent level, heart makes the difference in losing and winning close games. The victory the Buccaneers had against the Bears is the kind of win that can ignite a win streak and lead to a team making a run to be competitive for the postseason. With New Orleans and Carolina losing, the Bucs are back into a tie for first place. Carolina won two very close games and could easily be 3-0. The Bucs also could have lost to Chicago, and would be 1-2. But the heart the Bucs have does not show up on stats or in the standings. That heart could make all the difference in Tampa Bay making the playoffs or repeating as division champions."


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