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Publisher Scott Reynolds
"Less than 24 hours after lamenting the fact that the Bucs don't have a big-game receiver outside of the wounded white tiger named Joey Galloway in my latest SR's Fab 5 column, Antonio Bryant delivered a huge performance under the bright lights of NBC's Sunday Night Football that may make me change my mind. Not only did Bryant turn a 47-yard touchdown catch on Tampa Bay's first possession, which was the longest pass play of the season, but he also had gains of 14, 15 and 19 yards in the game and was the closest thing to a vertical threat as the Buccaneers have without Galloway. If Bryant, who now has two 100-yard games as a Buccaneer, continues this level of play when Galloway returns, Tampa Bay could have a real solid one-two punch at wide receiver. Bryant now has a team-leading 406 receiving yards on 31 catches and is on pace to record 928 yards by season's end. If he keeps this up, the Buccaneers need to give serious thought to extending his contract, which expires after the 2008 season."
"Congrats are in order to Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, who has tied former Tampa Bay head coach Tony Dungy for the most wins in franchise history with 56. Dungy will forever be remembered as the coach who turned the once woebegone Buccaneers around and made the franchise respectable winners, but Gruden will be known as the coach that took Tampa Bay to the promised land in 2002 and produced NFC South division titles in 2005 and 2007. With the Bucs poised to make another run at the playoffs with a hot start to the 2008 season, Gruden figures to keep piling up the wins that will ultimately distance him from Dungy and make him known as the best coach in franchise history over time. The key is to make the playoffs in a perennial fashion, as Dungy did for three straight years from 1999-2001."
"Bucs fans should be giddy over the team's 5-2 start, which is tied for the best start in team history through seven games. Under Jon Gruden, when Tampa Bay starts off 5-2 the team has produced a double-digit winning season. The Bucs started off with a 5-2 record in 2002 and finished the regular season 12-4 en route to a Super Bowl victory. In 2005, which was the last time the Bucs started off this hot, Tampa Bay finished the regular season with an 11-5 mark and an NFC South division title. To reach double digit wins in 2008, the Bucs have to only go 5-4 down the stretch. Barring a huge upset, winnable games loom at Kansas City (Nov. 2), at Detroit (Nov. 23) and at home against Oakland on December 28. That's three wins that would push Tampa Bay to at least a .500 season. Road contests against Dallas (Oct. 26), Carolina (Dec. 8) and Atlanta (Dec. 14) and home games against Minnesota (Nov. 16), New Orleans (Nov. 30) and San Diego (Dec. 21) will determine if the Bucs indeed make the playoffs or not. If Tampa Bay can find two wins from those six games and win the games against the lowly Chiefs, Lions and Raiders, the postseason awaits."
"Some in the media have disputed the effectiveness of Tampa Bay's offense this year. Don't believe them. The Bucs offense, which entered the game 11th in the NFL, averaging 344.3 yards per game, has rolled up at least 300 yards in each of Tampa Bay's seven games this year, which is simply outstanding given the inconsistency that has gripped this unit since Brad Johnson was in charge of it in 2002-03. Against Seattle, the Bucs had 266 yards by halftime and finished with 402 yards of total offense. With these stats, look for Jon Gruden's offense to move back into the top 10 this week. The Bucs have had little problem moving the ball this year, and Tampa Bay's ground attack has been a great complement to the team's stout defense. The Bucs do need to clean up their red zone efficiency, which ranks as one of the worst in the NFL. Against the Seahawks, the Bucs lost a fumble inside the Seattle 10 and also saw quarterback Jeff Garcia not locate a wide-open Earnest Graham near the goal line on a possession that ended in a field goal. Tampa Bay left at least seven – if not 14 – points on the field."
Editor-In-Chief Jim Flynn
"Tampa Bay's offense had scored just one touchdown in its last three meetings against Seattle dating back to 2004. But the Bucs quickly erased that dreadful statistic by driving 63 yards on six plays and capping it off with quarterback Jeff Garcia's 46-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Antonio Bryant on their first offensive drive of the game. That helped set the tone for the game en route to Tampa Bay's 20-10 win over Seattle."
"You can't say enough about the job Tampa Bay's offensive line did vs. Seattle's defense, which entered Sunday's game with 13 sacks. Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia was sacked just one time on Sunday, and it came when Garcia fumbled the football and dove on it to retain possession. Seattle's defense features pass-rushing threat Patrick Kerney and a variety of blitz packages, but Tampa Bay's offensive line protected Garcia very well."
"The Bucs defense was ranked 13th overall in the NFL heading into Sunday's game. I'd be shocked if they weren't ranked in the top 10 after the impressive 20-10 win. Tampa Bay's defense held Seattle's offense to just 176 yards. The Seahawks converted just 20 percent of their third down tries and had two turnovers. The time of possession (41:41 to 18:19) was one of the most lopsided stats I've seen in a Bucs game in a long time. While Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck did not play, you couldn't help but be impressed with the way Tampa Bay's defense dominated Seattle's offense on Sunday night."
"Before the 2008 regular season began many pundits picked Dallas to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. But things appear to be unraveling in Dallas as the 4-3 Cowboys have lost two straight games and are without starting quarterback Tony Romo. Former Bucs QB Brad Johnson threw three interceptions en route to a 34-14 loss in St. Louis on Sunday. The last time Tampa Bay visited Dallas was Thanksgiving Day in 2006. The Cowboys defeated the Bucs in that game, 38-10. People outside of the Bay Area got their first glimpse of the Bucs on Sunday night after the game was aired nationally on NBC. But the Bucs likely will receive more national attention if they go into Dallas and escape with a win over the Cowboys next Sunday to improve to 6-2 on the season. Tampa Bay is 1-6 all-time in Dallas during the regular season, but with Romo out of the starting lineup and the Cowboys struggling, the Bucs appear to be in prime position to register a big win in Big "D."
Beat Writer Charlie Campbell
"With another dominant performance, the Bucs offense is starting to be a consistent unit that opposing teams can not think of as an easy game. The quarterbacks have been effective. The running backs have been great, and Warrick Dunn and Earnest Graham form one of the best tandems in the NFL. They also have been without Pro Bowl alternate B.J. Askew at fullback. The wide receivers have been inconsistent, and could greatly help the team if they were able to produce more. The offensive line looks as if it will go down as one of the best lines in Tampa Bay history. But the unsung heroes on the offense are definitely the Bucs tight ends. They combined to produce a 100-yard receiving performance on eight catches. The perimeter blocking by them has been outstanding, and they have been very sure-handed. Alex Smith is somewhat quietly having a very good season. He makes some nice catches in every game and that go for sizable gains. Jerramy Stevens made a big 31-yard catch on the Bucs second touchdown drive. John Gilmore had two catches for 20 yards, and was an extremely physical blocker. While other players and position groups get more headlines, the Bucs tight ends are one of the most consistent and effective groups on the offense."
"With his third interception of the season rookie cornerback Aqib Talib is turning into a real playmaker for Tampa Bay. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said that he thinks Talib will be one of the premier cornerbacks in the NFL, and if he continues his current trend then that should be proven true. Considering he is improving by the week, he is on pace realistically to have somewhere between six and eight interceptions. Right now, Talib has to be near the top for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Some said the Buccaneers gambled in selecting Talib, but right now that gamble appears to be paying off as he leads the team in interceptions."
"One area of concern for Tampa Bay is the pass rush. The Bucs defense as a whole has been great, and the defensive line has played well against the run, but the Buccaneers just completed their third straight game without a sack. After the first month of the season, the Bucs pass rush appeared to be ramping up to be a real force. Since then though, it has been a quiet three games. There have been some good rushes at times, but overall the Buccaneers have not been getting to the quarterback. Greg White and Kevin Carter started out hot, but have been shutout since then. Second-year defensive end Gaines Adams has gotten some good rushes in the past two games, but they have been only a couple of plays here and there. He has not been consistent. To Adams' credit, one of his pass rushes helped force Aqib Talib's interception in the victory over Seattle. In the seven games this season, Adams has only notched sacks in one contest. Tampa Bay is going to have to make some adjustments to get their pass rush going. The secondary has played great and done a great job of blanketing the receivers and bailing out the front four. Last season Adams, White, and defensive tackle Jovan Haye came on down the stretch and gave the Bucs a better pass rush. They are going to need to do the same thing this year for Tampa Bay to win the division, and make noise in the playoffs if they get there."
"It was a let down to this observer not to see Mike Alstott have his jersey retired on Sunday night. The Buccaneers organization put on a great display of appreciation for the Bucs' all-time great fullback. They went above and beyond on displaying the great contributions that Alstott made to Tampa Bay over his 12-year career with videos and tributes. For the fans that made a special effort to be at the game to honor Alstott, it has to be disappointing knowing that there will be a different game where Alstott will have his jersey retired, and be inducted into the Buccaneers Ring of Honor. In some ways tonight seemed pointless. Why not just wait until the team was going to retire Alstott's No. 40 jersey? The organization did a great job and was very creative in the different methods they organized to honor Alstott, but it would have been appropriate at the end of the halftime ceremony for vice president Bryan Glazer to say, ‘To Mike Alstott, and all the fans of Tampa Bay, no Buccaneer will ever wear the number 40 ever again.' On the bright side, Bucs fans can look forward to hearing that, and celebrating Alstott again at another game in the future."