Grades for Buccaneers loss to the Dallas Cowboys

I dread recapping games like this; I guess its because I have to relive the demoralizing loss a time again. This outcome hurt worse than the Denver Broncos loss. Buc ‘Em contributor Kurby said it all in the Game Day Thread when he said, ‘Field goals are good, but Touchdowns are better‘. That’s the story of the ball game. The Bucs could never even crack the red zone. I don’t care if you’re playing the winless Lions, you can’t win any ball game playing like that. The Bucs gift wrapped this win for the Cowboys. Let‘s get into the grades and put this game to rest, ugh…

Quarterback:

For the most part Jeff Garcia played well. He was spreading the ball around in that first half. Hitting Antonio Bryant and getting Joey Galloway involved in the game. At some point in the game he decided he needed to make things happen with his legs and from there the offense went astray. There were several instances when he could have stayed in the pocket and didn’t, granted that’s easy for me to say as I didn’t have DeMarcus Ware threatening my blindside with brute force. He definitely had happy feet in instances and in turn he neglected to go through his reads thus missing wide receivers and he rushed several passes as well. It‘s games like this that make the fan base clamor for QB changes. Nine points is piss poor for an offense that had appeared to hit its stride the past couple weeks. In the end, enough shots/chances whatever you want to call it were not taken to win this ball game.

Runningback:

This was the worst performance by the running backs position all season. Earnest could never find that seam that he often seems to find. The Cowboys defense made the offense one-dimensional and it suffered as a result. Warrick Dunn only contributed one rush in the game and two receptions. You could tell he was playing hurt and was not the typical spin-move-elusive run threat. I can‘t believe Gruden activated Clifton Smith, a running back, and didn’t use him when Dunn was obviously not up to it. Not to mention Michael Bennett is rotting in street clothes week after week. I gave the Running backs a hideous grade, but its due in large part because their coach practically handcuffed them in this game. On the other hand, had Graham rushed better the lack of depth would have been a moot point.

Wide Receivers:

The Wide Receivers had a pretty good game. I realize Galloway and Clayton dropped a ball or two, but for the most part this unit came to play. Galloway didn’t appear to have any ill effects from his ankle injury by averaging 13+ yards a catch. Antonio Bryant had a very active first quarter and then for whatever reason was lost in action until the fourth quarter. Did you see Rookie RB/KR/WR Clifton Smith catch his first pass as a professional for a 13 yard gain and a Buccaneer first down? Why didn’t Gruden use him more? If you find success with a player or play, go to the well again. There was a lot of opportunities left on the field by the offense whether it be to personnel mismanagement, missed receivers, or lack of chances taken.

Tight End:

This unit did about all it could. Certainly Jerramy Stevens should have caught that pass from Garcia in the 4th quarter, but what can you do? These guys don‘t get used enough plain and simple. All of them have had success when they‘ve touched the ball. It‘s just a matter of getting them incorporated in the game. Alex Smith made the best of his opportunities reeling in two passes for 39 yards. Stevens had three catches, but his drop is the lasting impression of his performance.

Offensive Line:

First of all (and because its fresh in my mind) Jeremy Trueblood needs to dial it back a bit. Throwing his helmet to the ground on the final play of the game eliminated the Bucs shot at a first down and being that much closer to the goal line when Cowboys LB Bradie James took his helmet off in celebration on the same play. Rather than playing for a game winning touchdown, offsetting penalties were called, way to go Jeremy. Having watched Jeff Garcia scatter from the pocket you would have thought he got sacked five or more times. That was not the case, he got sacked twice and neither of those were courtesy of DeMarcus Ware. Garcia left the pocket A LOT, but I think that was more on Garcia than it was the pass protection. Last week he stepped up in the pocket often, this Sunday he couldn’t stay in it to save his life. This wasn’t the O-Line’s best game by any stretch of the imagination, but they weren’t the reason the offense only posted nine points.

Defense:

This unit did everything it could outside of getting a turnover. They held the Cowboys to one touchdown, that came in the second quarter. That high powered offense didn’t even crack 200 yards for the game, yet they were the victors. The run defense held Marion Barber to 71 yards on 25 carries. T.O. did not beat any of the Corners deep. Gaines Adams had two sacks and could have had several others. Barrett Ruud led the team in tackles, and Derrick Brooks almost recorded an interception late in the first half which would have been the deciding factor in the game. Another solid effort was put forth and the offense squandered it by not being able to get into the end zone. The refs also didn’t help, with a phantom personal foul call on Cato June in the fourth quarter, and a ridiculous illegal touching penalty on CB Aqib Talib that led to the Cowboys solo touchdown drive in the second quarter.

Special Teams:

Rookie KR/RB/WR Clifton Smith made his debut and really looked comfortable out there. He didn’t cower once to the oncoming hits. In most instances he initiated the contact by lowering his shoulder. He didn’t just look confident out there, he was successful in averaging 16+ yards per punt return. He averaged 20 yards a return on Kickoffs. Gruden elected to sit Djax the entire game. Gruden ought to use Djax on Kick Returns along with Clifton Smith and use Smith primarily for Punt Returns. Matt Bryant missed a field goal for the second week in a row. It didn’t turn out to be a deciding factor in the game. He also accounted for the only points in the ball game

Coaching:

I understand the rushing game wasn’t succeeding, but you shouldn’t abandon it altogether, 40+ pass plays in such a tight game came back to bite Gruden once again. Due to his lack of depth (Dunn obviously hobbled) at Running back maybe he had to go to the air to save Earnest Graham who also lined up at FB Sunday, but the last time Garcia threw 40+ times a loss ensued. The offensive game plan in the first quarter felt open, from there on it became ultra safe. Antonio Bryant, Clifton Smith, and Joey Galloway all had success in that first quarter, how did they not continue to see the ball the rest of the game? Clifton Smith gets a first down with a 13 yard reception and you never bring him back into the offense? And how in the world does he see action on Offense in his first game and Dexter doesn’t get a single shot in seven games? You have to give the rookie a chance. Look at all the rookies across the league making differences. I guess confidence goes a long way. Kiffin and Raheem Morris save the grade here from being a ‘D‘. That unit continues to kick up dust and keep this team in ball game after ball game.

This loss is exactly why I couldn’t predict the Bucs as winners over the Cowboys prior to the match-up. You could sense this outcome coming a mile away. I don‘t think they looked ahead to the Chiefs, I think they got to cute in the coaching department on offense and I also think the QB panicked on a number of occasions. No big deal, we‘re (5-3) and about to face the reeling Kansas City Chiefs. Hopefully Gruden can get his offense to throw the ball down field more often this weekend…. That was one disappointing game against the Cowboys though, ugh.

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