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Giving out Grades: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Overtime win Game Summary

What a thrilling finish the Tampa Bay Buccaneers provided Sunday afternoon by defeating the Chicago Bears 27-24 in overtime. This team was down 24-14 in the 4th quarter and made a valiant effort to tie the game up and put together an even better effort to steal the ball game from the Bears in overtime. The entire game can be summed up by one play:

In overtime, the Bucs were on their own seven yard line with a third and nine staring them in the face. Griese threw a two yard pass to Tight End Jerramy Stevens and then a brawl immediately ensued. The guilty party? The Chicago Bears Charles Tillman (or so the ref’s thought), he was charged with a 15 yard personal foul and that was all Tampa needed to march down the field and allow Matt Bryant to kick the game winning field goal. Was it the right call? Probably not, as Right Tackle Jeremy Trueblood threw a couple haymakers in the skirmish, but as it happens much of the time, the referees only saw Tillman jumping on the pile (as he was late to the party) and penalized him. Thank goodness.

The Bucs truly had no business winning this game considering their 2nd half performance on defense, but those are the breaks… Here’s my grades for the teams overall performance:

With three interceptions heading midway into the fourth quarter, several Buc ‘Em community members (including yours truly) in the Live Blog Gameday Thread were debating who should start next week for the Bucs. Brian Griese squashed all of that talk with his magnificent mastery of the two minute drill by leading his offense down the field for two important scores late in the fourth quarter. Griese threw for over 400 yards on the day and recorded two touchdown passes. It took Brian 67 pass attempts (A Buccaneer Record) to amass all of that offense and when it was all said and done he only completed 57% of his passes, yuck!

Griese had a pretty rough day up until that fateful fourth quarter. He had batted passes at the line (one of which was intercepted), he was off target much of the day (interception #2 and #3), but he stepped up and lead this team when it counted. If Brian Griese could harness his erratic throws, Jon Gruden could have something here, as Griese’s fearlessness to step up in the pocket is sorely needed. Of course being off target on the moderate to deep throws has always been Griese’s downfall (with the interceptions). All in all, I was ready to give Griese an ‘F’ when it looked like the game was over, but his late heroics earned him a ‘C’. I also wanted to point out how nice it is to see Brian Griese spread the wealth. It helps keep every receiver on that field focused and determined to look for the ball as it might be thrown their way.

The Chicago Bears absolutely ate up the Buccaneers rushing attack. I have to admit, Gruden was warranted in calling for 67 pass plays on the day. Graham ran the ball 12 times for 16 yards, ha! Even Dexter Jackson thinks that was weak. Despite Graham’s struggles, human tornado Warrick Dunn found moderate great success by averaging 6.2 yards a carry. You would think that success would warrant more than touches than the 5 he received, but Gruden had a lot on his plate yesterday with channeling Griese’s demons. There’s not much more to say about the run game other than it got completely shut down. Better luck next week fellas.

I fought hard with giving this unit an ‘A’, but couldn’t bring myself to do it because of a couple key drops (Stovall/Bryant). These guys came to play yesterday; Antonio Bryant eventually shook the cob webs off and had a career day with 10 catches for 138 yards. He really had some key third down catches when the team was in two minute mode. Jerramy Stevens continues to be productive in a Buccaneers uniform; he missed two games and still caught six balls for 61 yards and a touchdown. Michael Clayton showed up and caught five balls for 54 yards. He did have a drop at one point, but it hardly played a factor in the game. More on his Special Teams play later. Ike Hilliard continued to be Mr. reliable with six catches of his own for 57 yards. I swear he came out of nowhere with his lone touchdown catch. Alex Smith even caught several balls and turned them into nice gains. It pains me to say it, but the Bucs fielded a fairly capable group of Receivers yesterday WITHOUT Joey Galloway out there, hmm. Keep it up!! I’m willing to eat an entire plate of crow should this Receiving Unit continue to prove me wrong.

Offensive Line:
Give the GAME BALL to the Offensive Line RIGHT NOW! Sixty-Seven pass attempts and NO SACKS ALLOWED, wow, impressive fellas, very impressive. Your run blocking stunk to the high heavens, but that pass protection was something else. I hope Brian Griese ditched a second dinner date with Kyle Orton and took you guys out for a feast. I LOVED how chippie the unit was throughout the game. I know it got to be a bit too much for a lot of you, but I liked seeing that scrappiness out there. Donald Penn and the Bears Alex Brown got into it early on (how hard was Penn pushing Brown? My goodness) and Arron Sears got into a shoving match complete with facemask grabbing of his own. Not to be out done, Jeremy Trueblood threw a couple haymakers at the end of the game (in overtime) while in the midst of a pile up. Luckily the referee’s did not see those punches and elected to penalize Charles Tillman. I bet Trueblood gets fined for that. A good grimy performance by the line, they were definitely in the trenches yesterday.

The first half performance was Beautiful! We’ve talked about Gaines Adams awareness in the backfield before and he showed his athleticism Sunday returning an interception all the way to the house (granted he had to catch the ball as Kyle Orton put a nice touch on it, ha!). How stiff did Gaines look running down the field? Like he had one of those old school neck braces on, you know the one line backers used to wear that would rise higher than their helmets? Moving on, the entire defensive line had a pretty good day. Greg White padded his checkbook with a sack, how much do you think he makes per sack? Maybe he’ll let us in on that in a future interview? Kevin Carter and Ronde Barber also contributed sacks. Jovan Haye didn’t get in on the sack-act, but he did help stuff the run, as did Chris Hovan. Forte ran 27 times for only 89 yards. The Bucs certainly held their own against the run.

LB Barrett Ruud had a ridiculous interception in the end zone some 30-40 yards away from the line of scrimmage, how focused did he have to be to hang on to that ball? Despite the defenses stifling first half, the same couldn’t be said for the second half. The defensive line did not get the push it enjoyed in the first half for much of the second half and Kyle Orton abused Ronde Barber and back-up Marcus Hamilton (although Hamilton had some pretty good pass break-ups on the day). I don’t think Brandon Lloyd caught a single pass in the first half and he finished the game with 124 receiving yards. It would have been interesting to see if Rookie CB Aqib Talib would have had a better go of it, but he was inactive on the day. Considering how many three and outs the offense had, it’s not a surprise that the Bears found success in the second half. The defense can only do so much and last so long. In the end, they did just enough.

Special Teams:
How money is Matt Bryant in the regular season? You would never know he struggled throughout the Pre-Season. The coverage unit did a great job yesterday holding Hester, Manning, and Vasher to modest yardage in the return game.

In his opening sentence from his Game Summary post, Scott, from Buc Stats says what Jon Gruden and a majority of the fan base was thinking while watching 2nd Round Draft Pick Dexter Jackson yesterday. Scott even suggests sitting DJax for RB Michael Bennett and I can’t argue with that.

I’m not ready to give up on the Appalachian State product three games into the season, but he’s got to STOP cowering down when the hit comes. I realize he’s avoiding injury, but to the fan base and coaching staff he’s making himself look VERY BAD, especially when slow receivers like Hilliard and Clayton are coming in to return for him. They don’t possess a smidgeon of his speed yet they gain as much yardage as him because they aren’t afraid to take a hit. Not to mention several returners have taken a first hit to only escape it and return the ball for more yardage, DJax ought to try it. I would say coaches must tell him or at the very least condone him getting down, but Michael Clayton returning kickoffs eliminates that thought process. It says it all when Clayton fumbled on a kick return and Gruden still sent him back out there. As we all know Gruden hates fumbles like a fat kid loves cake. At the very least Michael Bennett should be out there returning kickoffs with DJax and he should be the one spelling DJax when he’s not producing, not our slow footed receivers.

What a game though. That was a game for the ages. Nobody would ever be insane enough to watch it twice, but it certainly filled my entertainment quotient yesterday!!