2008 Bucs' Schedule: PNG

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Game Review - Week 3

This post is a little more delayed than I had anticipated due to the time it took to set the house. I was on my land all day watching the beauty of modular construction first hand. But I digress...on with the game review!

The Bucs hosted the Rams this past Sunday, with the Rams coming in desperate for their first win of the season. The Bucs, however, were clearly determined to continue the trend that they had started against the Saints a week prior, and, to some extent, against the Seahawks. In the end, the Bucs were able to down the Rams 24-3 and go to 2-1. So how did each unit do?

On Offense, the Bucs started a little slow has the Rams' defense, led by Jim Haslett, found ways to make it difficult for the Bucs to maintain their drives. The running game started off slowly, and the Rams managed to put some pressure on Garcia early with their strong pass rushing defensive line. But as the game wore on, the Bucs' offense started making some adjustments, and then the breakthrough drive kicked in just before the half when Caddy started popping of some good runs and Garcia then hit a couple of key passes. While this drive is very memorable for Clayton's drop while wide open and the fumble after the first down catch, as well as the torrential downfall that hit in the middle of the drive, the field goal at the end was crucial. That score broke open the resistance that the offense felt during the first half. When the team came out in the second half, they were able to drive down the field and score a touchdown, via Caddy, to get the score to 10-0. After the Rams matched field goals, the Bucs' offensive line, which had blocked well in the first half, started to become dominate in the second half and started opening massive holes consistently that allowed Graham and Pittman to rip off big runs, and allowed Graham to score his first career TD. Then the Bucs got it back and did the same thing, allowing Graham to score a 28 yard TD run and put the Rams away at 24-3. The Bucs could have scored another TD late, but knelt during the final minute plus while deep in the red zone. Overall I was very impressed with the line play, as well as the play of Garcia who had an interesting day getting his helmet knocked off on one scramble, then blocking Little to spring Caddy for 3 yards on a cutback run where Caddy escaped two tacklers on the left side of the line and got back to the right to get positive yardage. Caddy was Ok, but had the fumble and took a while to get the big runs going. Graham and Pittman exploited their fresh legs and tired defenders, plus the large holes, to run big yardage up on the Rams. The Bucs finished with 186 yards rushing and 300+ yards of total offense. Joey was a little quiet, but that was expected. Clayton needs to get out of the mental block or step aside.

On Defense, the secondary did an outstanding job dealing with the Rams' talented receivers. Phillips knocked Bruce out of the game for a while and caused him to fumble it on that play. The ball was picked up and ran back for a TD, but that was erased by a questionable offsides call on Kevin Carter (lining up in the neutral zone). Phillips also managed a great snare of a Bulger pass for a pick on the sideline. It was amazing that the normally crappy handed Phillips could make an interception like that. It was Bulger's first in 179 pass attempts, but would not be his last. Buchannon ended a possible scoring drive by picking Bulger off in the endzone in front of Drew Bennett. Kelly was in and out of the line up, but played well. Barber played well, but drew a taunting penalty during the Rams' drive that started with the fumble being called back, extended with a Brooks unsportsmanlike penalty, and ending with Buchannon's pick. The secondary was quite good. The linebackers played well also, making Jackson earn just about every yard he got. The hitting was crisp, and the tackling solid. Ruud did get out of his gap twice on two of Jackson's longer runs, but that's expected of him on occasion. He did pick of a Bulger pass to end the Rams' last offensive series. Brooks played well again, and June had some nice plays including blowing up Jackson for a loss on a run blitz. The defensive line consistently forced Bulger to stick to quicker passes with some solid pressure. They did get one sack, but the Rams, trying to protect Bulger behind that poor line, used a lot of 3 step drops to get the ball away. Overall, the defense played very well, and managed to hold the Rams to just 3 points, which came off the Caddy turnover in Bucs' territory.

On Special Teams, the Bucs continued to actually make it look like Bisaccia knows what he's doing. Don't know why this unit has completely turned it around all of a sudden, but they are playing lights out. The unit shut Hall down all game long, avoiding any long returns. The return units were ripping off big returns consistently, including a kick and a punt return in the mid 30's by Jones, both career highs. This is the best I've seen the return game in years, and you just hope it's not a two game fluke. The punting was solid by Bidwell, and Bryant nailed his second field goal attempt in a down pour and hit all his extra points. He did miss his first attempt, a 54 yarder, though it appeared that his plant foot slipped on the attempt.

Coaching was excellent. Gruden's offense made adjustments, likely with input from Garcia who used the 3 play audible system of Gruden's to perfection. The offense started off slowly, but found what the Rams were doing and exploited their weaknesses, something we are starting to see consistently from this offense that hasn't been the norm around here the past few years. The defense, despite problems getting sacks, played extremely well and held an explosive Rams offense to just 3 points. Not much more to say about that. And special teams continues to be a surprise. I don't know what Bisaccia has done recently to reverse our return teams, but it's working, and I have to give him his due. Overall, it was a solid well coached team that, yet again, dominated a team that hasn't been playing well. Let's see if they can do it next week, on the road, against a team that's been playing well.


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