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Report Card: Tampa Bay Buccaneers grades after defeating the Green Bay Packers

For the second week in a row the Buccaneers escaped the jaws of defeat with clutch performances by all involved. Your Quarterback throws THREE INTERCEPTIONS two weeks in a row and yet he’s (2-0) in those games, that never happens!! Jon Gruden actually stuck with the run game which is evident by his pedestrian 30 pass attempts. Future Hall of Famer in Derrick Brooks looked like the Brooks of yesteryear with an interception, a would be interception, and several clutch tackles and pass breakups. I think it’s safe to say the ageless ones hamstring is completely healed up. Speaking of the defense, Gaines Adams and Barrett Ruud are battling to be the team leaders in interceptions thus far. What? A linebacker and defensive lineman? Get out of here, that’s what I said. The GAME BALL goes to Kicker Matt Bryant hands down. Just the fact that he took the field should be enough to warrant a game ball, but no, he went 3 for 3 on Field Goal attempts and 3 for 3 on extra point attempts, as well as holding the Packers return team in check with his kickoffs. Great game if you’re a Bucs fans, not so much if you’re a cheesehead…

Enough with the accolades; below you’ll find my grades for this past Sunday’s victory over the Green Bay Packers (Sorry they’re a bit late, I sold my PC two weeks ago and should be receiving my laptop in the mail this week, damn you dell and your delays):

Three interceptions appears to be a trend for QB Brian Griese. Hey, as long as those three picks lead to victory I could careless and so Griese earns another ‘C’ this week. Sure he didn’t throw for the godly 400+ yards that he did last week and his interception to Charles Woodson that lead to a Packers lead late in the game caused massive loads of frustration; he did orchestrate the Bucs to a win. Griese just finds a way to get it done. He’s not entertaining (unless you’re the opposition) and he’s not a fantasy mongler, but he just gets it done however it takes. He’s on pace to have more touchdowns than Pro Bowl Whiner Quarterback Jeff Garcia (13) had last season. He’s also on pace to break Trent Dilfer’s Buccaneer record for interceptions in a season. Okay, so I’m not entirely sure about that last stat.

Griese wasn’t perfect in the game as he only connected on 50% of his passes. He didn’t miss wide open receivers this time, he just missed marginally open receivers, whatever that means. He had several drops as well that led to his lack of completions (Clayton, eh). At some point throwing three interceptions is going to cost the team. I have to believe the outcome would have been different had Aaron Rodgers not injured his arm on a touchdown strike to Greg Jennings late in the third quarter. With the wins its hard to bash Griese too much, as the win column is truly all that matters, but you would think his reckless throws would eventually catch up to him. Moving on…

The running game actually struggled a bit early on as the Bucs opened the game with a three and out. It eventually got on course thanks to Earnnie Graham. He eclipsed 100 yards for the Bucs once again. Warrick Dunn continues his case for being the oldest yet youngest looking player on the field, Atlanta’s o-line must have really been bad last year. What am I saying of course they were bad. The eye opening stat however is the fact that Gruden called more running plays (37) than passing plays (30). I’d say our Head Coach is growing up in front of our very own eyes. Graham once again capped off this Buccaneer win with a long run (47 yards) down to the 1 yard line. He’s got a great killer mentality out there. Not that he’s Jeffrey Dalmer, he just knows how to put the game out of reach… yikes!

This unit continues to look good. I can’t give them a ‘B’ this week due to a couple drops (Stovall/Clayton), but they have really impressed early on. I’m not ready to apologize for my statements regarding this unit in the off-season, but I’m on the verge of eating those words. Antonio Bryant appeared to be splitting 3rd down possession receiver duties Sunday with Ike Hilliard as he made a couple clutch catches to keep drives going. Griese continues to get everyone involved by distributing the ball to seven different receivers. Jerramy Stevens almost had his 2nd touchdown of the season, but couldn’t hold on to a high pass from Griese in the end zone. This unit doesn’t scare anybody, but they catch the balls when they have too, okay for the most part and that’s been the difference early on from a year ago. All of this is while Joey Galloway is on the bench, wow. Remember that guy?

Offensive Line:
For the second week in a row the Offensive Line did not give up a single SACK! That’s just mind boggling unbelievable. This week they pass protected, run blocked, and it was a beautiful thing. There were a couple holding penalties that made me withhold an ‘A’ grade, but this young unit is really coming along. Jeremy Zuttah has filled the void left by Davin Joseph who should return this week and Jeff Faine continues to play flawlessly. Rookie QB Josh Johnson should be salivating at the thought of being protected by this offensive line. There will be growing pains throughout the season as they play more punishing defenses, but they answered the bell thus far into the season.

Three sacks, three interceptions, and a fumble return for a touchdown. What more could you ask for? A little pass protection would be nice! Greg Jennings burned our defense twice, once burning Ronde Barber who slipped and fell AGAIN and once burning Cato June, who let’s be honest, lost that battle before he rolled out of bed that morning. Other than those two scores, which were really freak plays, the Packers offense did not pose a threat to our defense. I think a healthy Aaron Rodgers would have made that 4th Quarter a bit more suspenseful, but Charles Woodson provided enough suspense for me to start the quarter. Barrett Ruud, Gaines Adams, and Derrick Brooks provided the interceptions, while Kevin Carter, Jimmy Wilkerson, and Barrett Ruud provided the sacks. Derrick Brooks caused the fumble that Jermaine Phillips picked up and returned to the house. This defense has been on it all season. They weren’t always in the backfield Sunday, but look at the splash plays they continue to make week in and week out. This defense continues to be a joy to watch. The opposition should be afraid, very afraid.

Special Teams:
Give THE game ball to Kicker Matt Bryant. He lost his three month old child early in the week and decided to play in this game. He was the deciding factor; in a (30-21) win, as he accounted for 12 of those points with three field goals (23, 36, 24) and three extra points. As you all know, my wife is pregnant and I can’t begin to fathom what it would be like to lose even the child I’ve yet to know to this point, much less a new born baby. Admiration, Respect, Deep sympathy, and great suffering come to mind when I think of the performance Matt Bryant put together Sunday. I swear my wife teared up each time he blew a kiss to the crowd after he kicked the ball. Moments like that put everything in perspective. That was an amazingly gutsy performance and he deserves the game ball no doubt.

DEXTER JACKSON!! Welcome to the Buccaneers my man. Maybe we should call you out weekly. He looked like a different returner out there this week. In the few opportunities he received to return the ball he was decisive with his decisions and it paid off in the end. On kickoffs he had a long of 45 yards with an average of 33.3 yards per his three returns and he had a return of 19 yards on his sole Punt return opportunity. On the 45 yard kickoff return I felt like he should have split the kicker to the right rather than dart to the left as it appeared he had a clear seam to go the distance, but regardless it was a very nice return. He didn’t cower once in the game and that’s all I ask from him as a Bucs Fan. Play fearless and you’ve got my respect. Nice game DJax keep it up man!!

Did Jon Gruden really call more run plays than passing plays; this after a game in which his signal caller threw the ball sixty-seven times? Way to go Chucky. That appears to be growth, finally. To his credit, I think the offensive line finally warrants his ability to grow with the offense. There were a couple suspect calls, like calling for a three yard pass when seven yards was needed on third down, I understand the hopes that a tackle is broken and the yardage is made up, but with Ike Hilliard and Antonio Bryant the third down conversions should at least run through them. Gruden deserves credit for hanging in there with Rookie Returner Dexter Jackson. He pulled him a couple times against the Bears and could have buried him on the bench from that point on, but he stuck with the Rookie and it paid off. You can see Gruden making adjustments from game to game though and that’s good to see. In week one he ignored the run game to his own detriment, by week four he’s found a balance that has proved to be successful.

That was another nail biter; two weeks in a row. Things don’t get any easier with a road game against the Denver Broncos, but you have to feel pretty good though coming off wins at Chicago and at home against the Green Bay Packers, for all intents and purposes two Playoff Caliber teams.