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Report Card: Grades for the Bucs thrashing of the Carolina Panthers

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Count me as one of those fans who was very surprised by yesterday’s performance. Not that the defense would dominate like it did or even that Jeff Garcia would be as proficient as he was, no, I was very shocked that the Carolina Panthers did not show up. The Panthers signal caller summed up their performance perfectly: "Very simple, we didn’t play well," said QB Jake Delhomme. No kidding, three interceptions, zero sacks, and three points from that high powered offense. Being a Florida State fan, I’ve seen my share of lifeless performances over the years (30-0 at Home to Wake Forest, ugh), but yesterdays performance from the Carolina Panthers takes the cake, as college athletes are amateurs compared to their professional counterparts. For a game that was dubbed to be a defensive battle and has been in recent memory, it was a runaway from the start as Panthers Head Coach John Fox alluded to in his post game presser after the game: "Before we broke a sweat, it was 14-0." … I was disappointed in the least by the action on the field; I’m just shocked at the outcome of the ball game.

Alright let’s get into this week’s grades:


vs CAR / 10.12.08 Passing Rushing
Comp Att Pct Yds TD Rush Yds Avg TD
Jeff Garcia 15 20 75.0 173 1 3 6 2.0 0

Quarterback:

Welcome back Jeff Garcia, what a performance. I’ve never seen Garcia stand tall (relatively) in the pocket as he did against the Panthers. Forget the fact that he didn’t eclipse 200 yards passing or throw for more than 1 touchdown. He did NOT throw an interception, manned up in the pocket, and led his team to a stunning victory over the (at the time) NFC South Division Leaders. The difference between Week one and Week six for Garcia was accuracy, confidence, and staying in the pocket. He must have been licking his chops after witnessing Brian Griese throw 97 passes without having to break from the pocket or succumb to a sack. Well done sir. You’ve been named the starter for next week and rightfully so… Keep it up!


vs CAR / 10.12.08 Rushing Receiving
Rush Yards Avg TD Rec Yards Avg TD
Warrick Dunn 22 115 5.2 0 3 18 6.0 0


vs CAR / 10.12.08 Rushing Receiving
Rush Yards Avg TD Rec Yards Avg TD
Earnest Graham 5 11 2.2 1 2 47 23.5 0

Runningback:

What a job Warrick Dunn did carrying the load. Nobody thought he would be this productive coming into the season. When 2nd string Full back Byron Storer went down with a torn acl, Earnest Graham became a starting emergency fullback, and Warrick Dunn became the primary load carrier. He amassed over 100 yards on the ground and allowed Earnest Graham to fill the void at full back. This wasn’t a record day from the pigskin touting duo, but considering the adversity they had to overcome, it was a pretty nice day overall. The question is: Who will become this team’s fullback? You could essentially move Graham there permanently and use Bennett/Dunn at the 1-2 punch, but I’m not sure that would be fair to Earnest. It is what it is though. Great performance all things considered.


vs CAR / 10.12.08 Receiving
Rec Yards Avg TD
Antonio Bryant 1 13 13.0 0


vs CAR / 10.12.08 Receiving
Rec Yards Avg TD
Michael Clayton 2 29 14.5 0


vs CAR / 10.12.08 Receiving
Rec Yards Avg TD
Ike Hilliard 1 6 6.0 0

Wide Receiver:

How determined did this unit look out there? Antonio Bryant snatched a ball out of the sky, Michael Clayton actually caught a ball in space, and Hilliard contributed as well. Ha! This was Garcia’s first full game back so it was nice to see he and the receivers on the same page. Only 20 passing attempts were made, but there didn’t appear to be any missed assignments. Drops, or wide open receivers being over/under thrown. Given the limited amount of opportunities this unit received, it was a nice day.


vs CAR / 10.12.08 Receiving
Rec Yards Avg TD
Alex Smith 3 43 14.3 1

Tight End:

Alex Smith led the team in receptions as he was catching balls left and right. I sometimes wonder what the results would look like if the Bucs swapped positions between Michael Clayton and Alex Smith. Give Smith more opportunities to catch the ball and have Clayton blocking full time and catching balls sparingly. If you paid Clayton I’m sure he would do it. Who knows if either would excel in their new roles, but I wonder if they would. Gilmore contributed early on, and helped spring several runs by Warrick Dunn. Jerramy Stevens had a drop and was pretty quiet on the day.

Offensive Line:

Is this line sick or what? Sears goes down in the first quarter, Zuttah steps in, and the unit doesn’t skip a beat. Jeff Garcia didn’t get sacked once! Julius Peppers was a non-issue yesterday. How often does that happen with our offensive line? Gruden won’t let his kids drink Dr. Pepper(s) at home, that’s how disruptive Julius has been in the past and this offensive line dominated him. The line literally forced Garcia to stay in the pocket. Even when the defense knew they had to stop Dunn and only Dunn the offensive line answered the bell. Cut the game ball up into threes and give this unit a portion, as well as Garcia, and Special Teams.

Defense:

The defense allowed three points to the powerful Carolina Panthers offense, respect. This defense continues to step up to the challenge week in and week out. Barrett Ruud was everywhere, who knew he was coming off an injury? Brooks, Adams, and Ruud could have all had interceptions had they been professional wide receivers and the team still managed three interceptions in spite of those three drops. There was only two instances in which the defense got beat: One was a 40-something yard reception to WR Steve Smith in which Phillip Buchanon dropped into zone coverage and Tanard Jackson got beat on a stop and go of sorts, the Panthers turned that miscue into three points. The other miscue came in the 4th quarter when Elbert Mack got beat by WR Steve Smith for a would be touchdown reception, only Smith didn’t catch the ball. Those were the only blunders of the day. Flawless…

Special Teams:

Geno Hayes absolutely opened the game up with his punt block and return for a touchdown. He single handedly said to the Panthers, ‘Thank you for making the trip and good luck the rest of the way’. The game was over from that point on. Thank you for your contributions Mr. Sixth Round Pick out of FLORIDA STATE. The Special Teams constantly left the Panthers starting drives inside their own 30 yard line. Two drives started on or inside the five yard line. As the Denver game can attest, it’s hard to get the offense moving, much less win a game with horrible field position like that. Speaking of horrible field position, DJax had another one of those sideline-to-sideline atrocities that landed the Bucs inside their 20 yard line, but Garcia bailed him out with an immediate pass and catch to the 40 yard line. Other than that, DJax did a decent job. You’d like to see more from the 2nd Round pick obviously, but at least there’s marginal progress. He allowed the opposition to tackle him twice yesterday. Matt Bryant missed his first field goal of the season, his performance thus far through the season warrants looking past the miss though. Moving on…

Coaching:

Gruden did a fine job with the play calling. He had an out with the full back situation to chuck the ball 40+ times, but he allowed Warrick Dunn to do what he does and that is run the football effectively without turning the ball over. He made Garcia throw the ball immediately out of the gates and that had to help the previously rusty QB’s confidence. I’m not sure how much Gruden talked to Garcia about staying in the pocket throughout the week or whether Garcia came to that conclusion on his own vices, but I would like to think Gruden made a point of getting his QB to at least consider the option of staying in the pocket, as it paid off. Monte Kiffin did a bang up job as usual. We get the same performance from his staff and players week in and week out.

What a bizarre game. I’m still shell shocked as I type this. I wasn’t even looking forward to this game. I thought the Bucs were inviting a buzz saw in to town and that was not the case. They completely held their own against the NFC South Division leaders and that should pay dividends to the teams overall confidence as the season progresses.