Pewter Report editor-in-chief Scott Reynolds
“For the second-straight week we’ve seen the Tampa Bay offense open up without Brad Johnson as the starting quarterback. We’ve said it before and it bears repeating – the quarterback in Jon Gruden’s offense has to be a playmaker, not a caretaker. Johnson wasn’t making enough big plays downfield during the Bucs’ 0-4 start. Brian Griese started the game 9-for-9 and led Tampa Bay on to relatively easy touchdown drives. Granted, the Bucs lost, but they did so after generating three touchdowns and 332 yards – both season highs.”

“The Bucs need to find a guy with guts to return punts. Tim Brown is allowing this team to be buried by making some stupid, unforgivable mistakes when fielding the punts. As a result, the Bucs are backed up too much inside their 10. He didn’t help himself in my book either with a fumble at the Rams’ 15-yard line as time was winding down that ended a fourth quarter comeback. When Joe Jurevicius is eligible to return from the PUP (physically unable to perform list) the team needs to really consider cutting Brown to free up the roster spot. I know he’s served a role as Michael Clayton’s mentor, but after watching Clayton absolutely shine over the past three games and light up the Rams for a career-high eight catches for 142 yards, I’m not sure this rookie needs much more tutelage.”

“Second-year tight end Will Heller stepped up tonight and his play resembled some of his preseason exploits, except instead of squaring off against opponents’ second- and third-string defenders he was going up against the Rams’ first-line defense. Heller finished the game with three catches for 31 yards and a 1-yard touchdown, which is his second career score. Hopefully, the Bucs will get more productivity out of Heller as the season rolls along.”

“If Bucs defensive end Greg Spires looks like he is playing like a man who is in a contract year … he is. Spires had a big night for the Bucs defense, recording half of the team’s four sacks of Marc Bulger. Spires forced a fumble on his second sack, a feat he has done for two straight weeks. Spires has been solid against the run this year, and so far, looks deserving of a contract extension.”

Pewter Report managing editor Jim Flynn
“After having a dismal 2003 season in which he made just 61.5 percent of his field goal attempts, Bucs kicker Martin Gramatica is struggling again. Gramatica missed two key field goal attempts (35 and 48-yarder) against the St. Louis Rams on Monday night, bringing his kicking percentage to 69.2 percent (9-of-13) on the season. Not only did those two missed kicks bring Gramatica back into a funk, but they kept six points off the scoreboard. If Gramatica continues to struggle and miss important, makeable field goal attempts, don’t be surprised if the Bucs make finding a new kicker a top priority in free agency next year since Gramatica’s salary cap value will go from $1.274 million (2004) to $1.724 million in 2005.”

“You don’t deserve to win in the National Football League when you miss two field goals, fumble the ball twice inside your opponent’s red zone and fumble the ball inside your own 10-yard line. When you add up all of those missed opportunities and lost points, it translates into a loss like the one the Bucs suffered on Monday night. The Bucs should have defeated the Rams by at least two scores on Monday night. Instead, they lost a game they couldn’t afford to drop by a touchdown and fell to 1-5 on the season. The Bucs are playing much better offensively, but it’s too little too late as they are now four games behind the first-place Atlanta Falcons and must win eight of their last 10 games just to finish 9-7 on the season.”

“A few positives came out of Tampa Bay’s loss to St. Louis. Bucs rookie wide receiver Michael Clayton is one of the few playmakers on offense, and he had the best game of his young career against the Rams by catching a team-high eight passes for 142 yards, including a 44-yarder. The only thing Clayton didn’t do was get in the end zone. The other positive is quarterback Brian Griese, whose presence behind center has opened up head coach Jon Gruden’s playbook. If you thought Brad Johnson wasn’t holding back Gruden’s offense, think again. It’s amazing what play-action rollouts, naked bootlegs and some passes downfield can do for an offense, isn’t it? Unlike Johnson, Griese is making plays and scoring points.”

“It was nice to see Bucs left defensive end Greg Spires come up with such a great performance against the Rams on Monday night. He notched two sacks and forced Rams quarterback Marc Bulger to fumble in the second half. Spires is coming up big this season, which just happens to the same year that his contract with the Bucs is set to expire.”

Pewter Report senior writer Leo Haggerty
“There is no way the Buccaneers are going to win football games on a consistent basis without a commitment to the running game. You can see that the Rams, by the middle of the second period, were ignoring the run unless it was a short yardage situation with fullback Mike Alstott coming at them. It’s amazing when you think that the team more committed to the run was the St. Louis Rams. You could see that defensive end Leonard Little was lining up so far outside of offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker that he was completely ignoring the run and became almost impossible to pass block.”

“It seems to me that the Bucs like the turf in the Edward Jones Dome more than the Rams. Every member of the Buccaneers, especially the skilled position players on offense and the defensive line in particular, were obviously faster on the artificial surface in St. Louis, and this may be why the Pewter Pirates have played the Gateway City Guys so tough. The Rams offense is built for speed and the Bucs defense has been designed with the same thought in mind. Tampa Bay is one of the few teams that can match the Rams is the speed department and they just get faster on the track meet they call a gridiron along the bank of the Mississippi. River.”

“The Bucs management are going to have to take a long look at kicker Martin Gramatica. The Buccaneers are so limited on offense that they must convert every opportunity for points. Tampa Bay was willing to part company with Warren Sapp and John Lynch on the premise that the game had passed them by. The Tampa Bay organization needs to decide whether Gramatica is over the hill or it’s a mechanical problem that can be rectified. They cannot continue to leave points on the field. His two misses tonight were inexcusable.”

“Head coach Jon Gruden may have to revisit the idea of using the shotgun. The Bucs offensive line is still having major problems protecting whoever is lined up under center. The Buccaneers have already lost Chris Simms for an undetermined amount of time, and Brian Griese has taken enough shot for a season in his two games on the field. Tampa Bay’s head honcho needs to put his disdain of the shotgun in the background and get his field general in a position to succeed as well as survive.”

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