It may not have been pretty at times, but, in the end, the Buccaneer reserves made a stand at the goalline and salvaged a win against the Chiefs Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium. Sure, it was a preseason game, but there was some standout play from some reserves that aided in the victory.....and any time you win, it feels good.
Obviously, the concern lies with Josh Freeman's thumb, which he injured on the Buccaneers' first scoring drive of the game. Watching the action from the nosebleed seats, I wasn't able to see what exactly happened, but Raheem Morris confirmed on the postgame show that Josh has a fractured tip of his thumb on his throwing hand, but should be ready to go by week 1 against Cleveland. I don't know how much of that is optimism and speculation, as I haven't heard an announced timeframe for his injury, but I suppose it's a blessing that it's not worse.
There were certainly plenty of highlights and lowlights, starting early in the game. Kyle Moore caused a fumble on the game's opening drive, which was recovered by Geno Hayes. Three plays later, Freeman found Mike Williams for 16 yards on 3rd down along the edge of FG range. He finished with 3 catches for 44 yards. The guy just knows how to make plays and is certainly exciting to watch
The see-saw continued on the following kickoff, as Javier Arenas played pinball off several would-be Buccaneer tacklers and broke free for a 54-yard return. Engineered by QB Matt Cassel, the Chiefs dinked and dunked down the field for a scoring drive that culminated in a 9-yard TD pass on what appeared to be a blown coverage by Tanard Jackson. In fact, I can't recall the Chiefs throwing a pass over 20 yards the entire game.
Perhaps Cassel's 3-step drops are a reason why I didn't see much QB pressure on him, especially from the first-teamers, much of the night. On the night, the defense also gave up 152 yards rushing, which is obviously not good. However, that's not to say the defensive line didn't do some good things. I thought McCoy was able to hold his ground and Miller, who drew double teams, was able to keep from getting knocked back and opening up lanes.
The Chiefs' RBs seemed to find significant success off-tackle and outside on the ground. Cassel was also able to hook up with their backs outside and into the soft spots in zone coverage and in mismatches in man coverage. Very nice playcalling by Charlie Weis.
Barrett Ruud disappointed me a little bit. He overpursued terribly, as did most of the front 7, on a misdirection run that resulted in a first down. He wasn't as quick to the ballcarrier as I've seen him before.
Kareem Huggins....man, what can you say? 8 rushes for 44 yards. 5.5 ypc. Ripped off another 2nd-half run for 20-yards that was called back for a holding penalty on Derek Hardman, which didn't even really affect the play. He's a quick, springy, and explosive player who's quickly establishing himself as this team's #2 RB.
Conversely, Derrick Ward provided little spark and production, gaining 11 yards on 5 carries before leaving the game with a head injury. He finished behind Carlos Brown statistically, who rushed for 32 yards on 6 carries for 5.3 ypc against the Chiefs' 3rd-stringers.
E.J. Biggers, despite a holding penalty, had another solid game and looks to be closing in on the starting nickel spot.
Generally speaking, the backup QBs played well. JJ made some better decisions and finally tucked the football away and took off, rather than sit in the pocket and force a bad throw. He finished 6-10 for 113 yds and a TD, with a 132.5 passer rating. Rudy Carpenter finished 8-11 for 79 yards and a TD.
Clifton Smith is probably getting a little nervous after Michael Spurlock made play(s) in the passing game for the second straight week. Spurlock caught a sideline pass and broke through a tackle en route to a 53-yard house call. He also caught a 22-yard pass on a nicely-run post pattern from Rudy Carpenter on the game-tying drive in the 4th quarter. It'll be very interesting to see if Clifton can up the ante next week, because Micheal's having a pretty good preseason so far.
So what impressions do you all have from the game? Weigh in.....