2008 Bucs' Schedule: PNG

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Movement/Players Practice

With Cox placed on IR, and Lucas released for being ineffective, the Bucs had two spots to fill. They filled one by signing WR Chas Gessner. He was waived injured which meant he was unavailable to us for the first 8 weeks, but could be signed by another team. The Bucs were able to bring him back, though, and he could help the team in the special teams department, as well as being an insurance policy against any more WR injuries.

Furthermore, Smith, Clayton, Pittman, Chuckwurah, and Kelly all managed to practice, though they were limited. Smith and Pittman appear to be the closest to playing this week, but all of these players have a shot at playing this week. Reality is that most will probably be held out until after the Bye. If a couple of them can come on and really help this team out and get a win going into the Bye, it would be a very helpful thing. Irregardless, it looks like all of them should be back for the game at Atlanta by the latest. The Bucs could really use all of these guys.

I will also be putting up a mid-season review tomorrow or Friday, followed by the Talking Plank. So make sure you catch both!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Game Review - Week 8

I apologize for the late response to the game results. The house is keeping me busy. But let's move on to the disappointment that was another easily winnable game that the Bucs coughed up. This is the second straight week that the Bucs statistically dominated the opponent, but lost the game. The mistakes, once again, did them in.

On Offense, the Bucs moved the ball pretty well against a solid Jags' defense, and did so under a heavy blitz scheme. Despite this fact, the Bucs had receivers running wide open most of the game, and Garcia hit most, but missed on a few key ones. Twice Garcia missed Galloway wide open deep. He also missed Ike wide open deep for what would have been a game winning TD. Garcia was just a little off at times throughout the game, and was under pressure for good portions of it, as Jax kept bringing the blitz. Despite that, the Bucs put up 385 yards of offense, and easily could have put up 450+ yards. The signs of a quickly improving offense are there, but the opponents have been getting better at the same time as their offense, and the result is a little hard to see at the moment. Their opponents, during the 2nd quarter of the season, are 22-6 this season (yes, you read that right). Despite that, the Bucs could very easily be 6-2 right now. The running game was pretty solid, with Graham putting up 62 yards on 14 carries (4.4 per) and Bennett getting 23 yards on 2 carries, including a great bubble screen (ruled a running play) that went 19 yards for a TD. The receivers were constantly beating the Jags aggressive corner play, but some dropped passes, and missed passes by Garcia, led to the team not making quite enough plays on offense to win it. The offensive line is getting a lot of grief, but they actually played OK against a very good DL that had a lot of blitz help. Still, there were breakdowns, and Garcia went down a couple of times. What really killed the Bucs were 3 picks that Garcia threw. One was a great play by a corner, returning it for a TD, another was a poor play by Garcia making a stupid throw to avoid a sack, and the third was a bobbled ball by Ike, getting hit at the right time, that popped up and ended the game. Overall, the offense played well, but needed just one more big play, or one less turnover to win the game.

On Defense, the Bucs initially started the game having problems stopping the running game. They then manned up and forced the Jags to run 44 times to get just 133 yards, with 33 of those yards coming on two plays, (remaining average of runs is 2.4 yard per carry). They also kept Gray from consistently hurting them, but he did manage to connect on some lucky throws twice on the drive that scored the winning points. The defensive line had problems getting to the QB on the plays where he did throw, but they did manage 2 sacks on just 16 pass attempts. One of those could have been a safety or TD when Gray fumbled in the Jags own endzone. The linebackers played well, but Brooks missed a tackle on Greg Jones that could have forced a quicker punt and given the Bucs the ball back with closer to 4 minutes of time left. There were a few running plays where the LB's didn't fill the hole well and didn't get solid tackles, but the effort was pretty solid for much of the night. The DB's played well, but they did allow a couple of plays that should not have happened. I just wish Buchannon would have taken a swipe at Matt Jones' arm when he was hauling in the game winning TD. Would have been a different ending if the Jags had to settle for 3. Overall, the defense held the Jags to just 219 yards and 17 points. Not too bad of a performance in that context.

On Special Teams, the Bucs really struggled at times to cover or to get good returns. The result was that the Jags won the field position battle, which I mentioned would be a big key in this game. Every Jags' score, save the defensive TD, was off a short field. When the Jags had to go the distance, a punt was the likely result. The return game is already missing Mark Jones, and the Bucs may need to find someone else who can fill those shoes. Matt Bryant was solid on kicks, and Bidwell was solid on punts, including a couple of real nice punts that backed the Jags up. The Bucs got killed on a 76 yard punting bomb from the Jags which made it hard on their next to last drive. Overall, the results were mixed. This unit needs to get back to playing as they were during the first part of the season.

Coaching was pretty solid, especially from an offensive standpoint. Gruden's game plan was very good, and had the Jaguars blitzing constantly to try to stop the Bucs. The offense had numerous opportunities to put points up and move the ball around, and managed to capitalized on many of those, but failed on a few. The missed execution by the players was clear in this game, as this game was there for the taking. Defensively, Monte started out with a somewhat soft coverage, and it cost the Bucs an early deficit on the scoreboard. He then made an adjustment, and the Jags had problems moving the ball for the majority of the game after that. Special Teams has been a let down the last two weeks, and coaching needs to improve that. The unit seemed slow and lackadaisical early on in the game, getting down field long after the returner had passed the 20. This unit needed more fire and enthusiasm to perform the way it should have. Overall, the offensive and defensive game plans were pretty solid, and the special teams needed work, but the Bucs had a number of shots to win this game, but the players failed to execute. Hopefully, the staff will help the team get their issues corrected so they can finish the season strong.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Talking Plank - Week 8

The Talking Plank -

Jaguars At Bucs:

With the Bucs coming off a disappointing loss to the Lions, and the Jaguars coming off a loss to the Colts on a short week, both teams will be looking to try and get their seasons moving forward again. The Bucs will be trying to defend their home field in a game that they need to win to avoid a losing streak. It's important that they manage to still win with their current injuries and get to the BYE week, where most of their non-IR injured players will be healthy enough to come back. Staying healthy won't be easy against a physical Jaguars team. In a lot of ways, the Jaguars and Titans are almost mirror images, so it's not likely that the Bucs will see anything they aren't used to seeing.

On Offense, the Bucs come in ranked 24th in total yards (314.9/g), 25th in points (17.7/g), 19th in rushing yards (102.7/g), and 18th in passing yards (212.1g). They will be up against the Jags' number 13 defense in total yards (318/g), 2nd in points (14.5/g), 13th in rushing yards allowed (103.8/g), and 17th in passing yards allowed (214.2/g). The Jags come in with one of those big Defensive lines that have historically given the Bucs problems. So far this season, with the exception of last week's game in Detroit, the bigger lines haven't really been very effective against the Bucs. When these teams met in the Pre-Season, the Bucs OL held up well against the Jags DL, which was a welcome change from prior seasons. Stroud has an ankle problem and Heyward has a hamstring issue, so neither will likely be 100% effective. Henderson could be a problem like Rodgers last week, but this defense is coming off the MNF loss, which means a short week to recover. The Jags linebackers have been lacking in the tackle department, and are average in ability, overall. Having said that, the Bucs should be able to find some running room on the edges, away from Stroud and Henderson. If they get out there, then they could beat the Jags LB's, whose 3 starters have just 3 more combined tackles than Ruud alone has. In fact, the Jags leading tackler is Sammy Knight, whose still good in run support, but is starting to get a little long in the tooth in pass coverage. They do have Reggie Nelson back there as well, and he's both good and quick, but he's also a rookie and does make mistakes. I expect guys like Graham and Bennett to be able to abuse the second level a lot, and get to the secondary, where they will have to fight for that extra yardage. If the Bucs can keep the Jags big DL in check, and give Garcia time to throw, the Bucs may be able to hit some home runs in this game, as the Jags play a lot of man coverage. This is a game where we may see Galloway hit a couple of big plays. Of course, the Bucs will need Stovall to step up for Clayton (Doubtful with the high ankle sprain) who was starting to come on the last 3 games. The Jags can be beaten at the intermediate range and deep when the safeties are a little late getting there. I expect the Bucs will have their moments, though I also expect it to be tough sledding for most of the game.

On Defense, the Bucs will be bringing it in physical fashion with their 12 ranked defense in total yards allowed (308.9/g), 5th in points allowed (15.7/g), 21st in rushing yards allowed (123.3/g), and 5th in passing yards allowed (185.6/g). They will face the Jags' 14th ranked offense in yardage (333.7/g), 23rd in points (17.8/g), 3rd in rushing yards (148.5/g), and 26th in passing yards (185.2/g). Just like the Titans, there's very little mystery as to what the Jags will try to do: run the ball. With Garrard out for this game, the Jags don't want to rely on Quinn Gray to beat the Bucs through the air, so they will lean heavily on Taylor and Drew to run the ball against the Bucs. Since Gray is a far lesser threat in the passing game than Garrrard, or Vince Young of the Titans, the Bucs should be able to stuff the box and stop the run. The Bucs shut the Titans' vaunted rushing attack down pretty well, and I expect to see a lot of Cover 3 with the linebackers staying up tight, and a safety coming in to lay the wood on the run. Expect a lot of popping sounds in this game. Without much of a consistent pass threat, the Bucs will likely sell out on the run pretty hard. They will need, however, to watch for draws and screens and try not to take themselves out of the play. I believe the defense will make it extremely difficult for the Jags to sustain drives, and may force Gray into a pick or two. Even though he just saw a similar defense, Gray has very little time to study up for the Bucs, with the short week, and Monte is likely to try to throw a lot of motion and disguises at Gray, hoping he'll make a bad mistake. In the end, I don't see the Jags scoring very many points unless the Bucs' defense just has a bad tackling day and/or doesn't commit to stopping the run.

On Special Teams, the Bucs will have to make do without Mark Jones, who had been having an excellent season, cut short by a patella tendon tear, similar to Caddy's, being subsequently placed on IR. Now the Bucs will have to go back to using a committee of players to return punts and kicks. Cox is likely to be the main guy on kicks, and Hilliard and Buchanon are likely to share the punt duties depending on the situation. Cox is likely to be able to hold up the kick return average, but the punt return average could slip. The Jags are only allowing 8.8 yards per punt return and 18 yards per kick return. The Bucs are allowing 9.1 yards per punt return, and just 16.3 yards per kick return. The Jags are using Northcutt to return punts, getting just 7.1 per return, and Drew for kick returns, where they are getting 28.4 yards per return from him. Both players are starters, and the Bucs special teams units will likely try to hit these guys hard and make it a little tougher for them to impact the game on offense. The Jags have Carney kicking for them, but he's failed to nail anything outside of 40 yards. Podlesh is a solid punter. Right now both teams appear to be fairly even in the kicking and punting departments, though Bryant may currently have the edge in the longer field goal attempts. Field position is going to be huge in this game, and the Bucs should be able to have the edge here, and they'll need it to shorten the field for their offense.

Overall, with the Jags coming in with a poor QB position, and playing the Bucs off a short week at Raymond James, I expect the Bucs to be fresher and to match the Jags in the physical play department. Another defensive battle is likely, with the Bucs edging out the visiting Jags.

Bucs 13 Jags 10

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

WR Chad Lucas Brought Up

In an effort to replace Mark Jones, who is now on IR, and Mike Clayton, who is out until after the BYE with a high ankle sprain, the Bucs elevated Chad Lucas to the 53 man roster. The Bucs only have 4 healthy receivers right now, though Bennett could probably be used out there in a pinch on some of the routes.

We'll see if his chance to shine shows up on game day. The one area hit hardest by the loss of Jones is kick and punt returns, where Jones was in the top third of the league. Lucas is not likely to be the return guy. He's more likely to be a back-up receiver. We'll see just who, exactly, the Bucs end up putting in the return spot.

Game Review - Week 7

Well, as I mentioned yesterday, this was a game the Bucs basically could have walked away with. Instead they flubbed their way to a loss. So let's review how the team performed overall.

On Offense, the Bucs were able to consistently move the ball. In fact, Bidwell only punted twice. Graham was tearing the Lions' defense up all game long finishing with 191 total yards, with 92 on 19 carries (4.8 yards per), and 13 receptions for 99 yards. His effort, combined with Garcia's 37 of 45 (82%) for 316 yards, allowed the Bucs to put together a couple of very long drives and get the ball to within scoring range 4 times. Unfortunately, on one drive a bad penalty moved the ball back from within redzone where the Bucs would end up missing a field goal. They later had a very long drive that got down to the one yard line, only to cough the ball up on the Center-QB exchange. The Bucs also had another solid drive that had a fumble near mid-field on the hand off from Garcia to Graham. Hilliard had another strong game. Galloway had some nice intermediate catches. And Clayton had a nice 20 yard catch, only to get hit while being held down on his knee by another tackler. That hit is going to cost Clayton a couple of weeks with a high ankle sprain. Unfortunately, the blatantly unnecessary hit went unpunished on the field. Bennett came in and had a couple of good runs including the 18 yard burst that nearly went into the endzone. That run would have been better if he made it one more yard into the endzone, as the game turned for good when, on the next play, the previously mentioned fumble happened. Overall, the offense moved the ball very effectively and showed that this offense can really move it on the lesser defenses, and do so nearly at will. Unfortunately, when you make the mistakes that they made, you usually end up losing a game you could have won.

On Defense, the Bucs played passively again. I don't know what Monte is thinking, but the prevent seems to be en vogue with him this past 3 weeks. We saw this defensive style get us beat against the Colts, and the results were similar against the Lions. The Lions were able to run on us. A team averaging 72 yards per game was able to do what the potent rushing attack of the Titans could not. Why? When you decide to just keep your back 7 in the secondary for some unreasonable fear of Detroit's passing weapons, the middle is going to be soft because your Mike is backing up, and your safeties are staying deep. The Bucs have had much better success coming up tight with the LB's and bringing a safety up to pound the backs. Since the pass rush is still not where it needs to be, this strategy is death. Kitna completed 80% of his passes (16 of 20) with no picks. Now that just shouldn't happen. The Bucs gave him way too much time to throw. While the Bucs did manage 3 sacks on him (Haye 1, White 1, Hovan 0.5, Carter 0.5), they failed to consistently rattle his cage. And Kitna is a guy that you can rattle. It was frustrating to say the least. The result of the defensive scheme was pretty obvious. Even Ruud only had 4 tackles in the game. The gang tackling wasn't there due to everyone basically bailing into the secondary. Jackson and Phillips had pretty good games, as did Barber, but Buchannon had a bit of a hard time dealing with Calvin Johnson. What really epitomized this defensive scheme was the 93 yard TD drive that came after the Bucs fumbled on the 1. The defense got the Lions into 3rd and long, then backed off into prevent and allowed them to get a first down and get out of the hole. From there, the Bucs seemed to play prevent the rest of the way and the result was the game winning TD. If the Bucs defense had forced a punt there, the offense would have had excellent field position, and a much better chance of getting us back in the game. Overall, the passive scheme killed us once again, and it showed. Please Monte, for the love of God, shelve the prevent and STAY AGGRESSIVE!!

On Special Teams, Mark Jones was able to return a couple of kicks early before getting injured, which had an effect on our kick and punt return capabilities. The other guys didn't get the same results and field position starts suffered. The biggest plays that killed this unit were the blocked punt, which set up the Lions' first points, and the missed field goal which would have made it a 3 point game and could have been crucial to turning the game in our favor. That FG miss came after a very long offensive drive, making it all for not. The coverage teams only had to cover a couple of kick offs, and did OK, allowing a 27 yarder on one play, but only a 17 yarder on another. The one area that the Special Teams did good in was the onsides kick that was setup and executed beautifully. Bryant smash kicked it right at the Lions and the ball popped up into the air for Cox to recover. They tried a second one with a deep squib kick to Cox's side, but it was about 10 yards to deep, and Cox just couldn't quite beat a Lions player to the ball. Overall, it was a mixed afternoon. An executed punt, and a made field goal could have swung the game by 6 points, and who knows.

Coaching was solid on offense, as the Bucs came in with an excellent offensive game plan. Gruden's offense tore through the Lions consistently with the help of Garcia and Graham. But some of the worst penalties occurred on offense, and that hindered the Bucs ability to actually finish drives with scores. Monte's coaching was something I was not too hot on. The scheme implemented in this game, much like against the Colts, is too soft and passive. The Bucs have yet to show they can get it done playing that way, and I really don't understand Monte's thinking. Did he really fear the Lions that much? I mean, why we weren't blitzing Kitna on every pass play, and keeping the Mike in tight for run support, is beyond me. Let your guys play up on the line and use their speed to back off if it turns into a pass. Don't line them up 8 yards off the receiver and let the other team play catch! Special Teams were a mixed bag, and Bisaccia needs to correct the problem plays and keep the team running everything else well. Overall, the coaching was mixed. The one coach you usually depend on coming to the game with the right plan, once again had the wrong plan. Hopefully the Bucs offense can come to play again next week, minus the mistakes, and the defense can join them with some hard hitting physical play at the line.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bucs Give Generously In 16-23 Loss

Well, what can you say about that game? I'll do a full game review tomorrow, but it's clear which team is better of the two. The Bucs dominated the Lions in all but the most important stat: the score. A blocked punt, a bad penalty that led to a missed field goal, a fumble on a hand off during an impressive drive, and another fumble at the Center-QB exchange when it's first and goal at the one all conspired to doom the Bucs.

Quite frankly, if not for actually losing this game, I would be thoroughly impressed with what the Bucs did on offense. The defense was up and down, and allowed too much time for Kitna to throw, and allowed too many yards on the ground. Despite that, the Bucs should have thrashed the Lions. Had they not had those 4 key miscues, the Bucs likely would have scored in the 30's and eliminated half of the Lion's scoring. Unfortunately, they gave away a game they should have won, and now must face a very tough Jags team, which will, thankfully, be coming off of a Monday Night Football game (tonight versus the Colts). Hopefully they'll come in a little sluggish and the Bucs can get another tough win and take care of Arizona the following week and enjoy the BYE week.

Graham was impressive in this game, falling just 9 yards shy of 200 all-purpose yards. Bennett was highly limited in his action, but, on just one play, he showed his homerun capability when he burst straight down the middle of the field and nearly made it to the endzone. It's unfortunate that he didn't make it, because then the fumble would not have happened, and the Bucs would likely have won that game.

Ugh, is about all I can say.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Talking Plank - Week 7

The Talking Plank -

Bucs At Lions:

With the Bucs off to a solid start at 4-2, and having managed to beat a physical Titans team, the Bucs now go on the road to face a Lions team that isn't nearly as physical. The Lions are, in my opinion, a somewhat soft team. They have 3 wins, but you look at two of their losses to the Eagles and Redskins and you see that they can be blown out, though both of those were on the road. The Bucs are 1-2 on the road and 3-0 at home, while the Lions have won their 2 home games and one on the road. So what can we expect?

On Offense, the Bucs, 23rd in points (18/g), 25th total offense (297y/g), 22nd passing (197.8y/g), and 19th rushing (99.1y/g), will be facing one of the worst defenses in the league. The Lions are 31st in points allowed (31/g), 29th in total offense (378.6y/g), 30th against the pass (263.6y/g), and 17th against the run (115y/g). Teams have exploited the Lions poor secondary and it's inability to stop the running game and its lack of pass rush (14 sacks). The Lions are also allowing 47.8% of third downs to be converted against them. This is leading to a team that will have a lot of difficulties making Garcia uncomfortable or stopping his receivers from getting open. Galloway should be able to take advantage of the intermediate middle of the field, and Garcia should have time to find him or someone else getting open deeper down the field. The Lions may give up on the run and try to blitz and rush hard, but if they do, they will be susceptible to screens and draws, two plays you can bet that the Bucs have been getting Bennett ready to run, as he can burn them big with those plays. The Bucs should be able to get some good rushing lanes opened up against this defensive line, which hasn't been all that impressive against the run. The key will be getting a hat on the Lions' decent linebackers, especially Ernie Sims. If they can do that, then Graham and Bennett should have some opportunities to get some quality runs. The Lions don't have the very light very fast DL of Indy, and they don't have the mountains like the Titans, so we should see a much better effort in the run game. I fully expect the Bucs to put up some serious points on this defense. They've throttled weaker defenses all year long, and I don't expect that to change now.

On Defense, the Bucs are currently 5th in points allowed (14.5/g), 12 in total defense (314y.g), 8th against the pass (194.7y/g), and 21st against the run (119.3y/g). They will face the Lions 9th scoring offense (23.4/g), 14th total (338.6y/g), 5th passing (265.4y/g), and 31st rushing (73.2y/g). Teams have been attacking the Bucs consistently on the ground because of the play of the secondary. This has had limited success with really the Colts being the only team that did it consistently as they were able to hit the throws underneath all game long and get good rushing yards. The Lions are a pass first team, however, and one whose scheme is well known to the Bucs, and has been well defended through the years with only one bad game (the MNF game against the Rams in 2000). Martz's offense will find it difficult to be effective against this back 7, which has really only allowed success with the short dump off passes. Martz wants to go long or intermediate most of the time, and with the Lions giving up 28 sacks in 5 games, Kitna will find it hard to stay upright against a Bucs' DL that has been getting to the QB more and more each week, including 3 sacks against a very solid Titans' OL. Kitna's already thrown 6 picks so far, and the Lions are only converting 28% of their 3rd downs. This offense will likely have a very long day against the Bucs unless they can use their size advantage against the DB's. The Lions have a hard time sustaining runs, and the Bucs aren't exactly an easy team to run on (see the Titans). I can see 4 sacks and a number of picks, or at least opportunities for them, in this game. If that happens, it could get ugly for the Lions.

On Special Teams, the Bucs and Lions are both solid at the Kicker and Punter positions, though Hansen has been a little shaky so far this season. The punt return teams are both returning around 10 yards per punt, while the Bucs kick returns are getting 25.1 yards per return, and the Lions are getting 23.7 per. The coverage teams are different, however. The Lions are allowing 13.1 and 26.5 yards per punt and kick return, while the Bucs are allowing 9.1 and just 15.8 per punt and kick return. The Lions have both gotten and given up a TD on kicks, which bodes well for the Bucs' kick return game. This is another game where Jones will have a shot to take one back, which he only got once last week, due to touchbacks, and had a big return against the Titans. If Hansen's kicks are returnable, Jones might have a big day. This unit should give the Bucs' offense good field position all game long.

Overall, I expect the Bucs to go in there and win this game. It might be easy, but the Lions usually find a way to play us real tough. Having Marinelli and Barry across the field will make it a little tougher, though a good number of our players weren't here last year, and more weren't here when Rod was last here in 2005. If the Bucs play like they are capable of, going up there determined to play hard and with few mistakes, they will win the game, and could win it big. I expect some mistakes though, and a tighter score than I would like.

Bucs 24 Lions 17

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bucs Sign RB Michael Bennett

The Bucs ponied up a conditional 2nr round pick for Bennett, a guy known as one of the fastest players in the NFL, and someone that burned the Bucs on an 85 yard TD run back in 2002. During that year, when he was the Vikings' primary back, he rushed 255 times for 1296 yards, 5.1 per pop. He's typically been a guy that consistently gets good yardage, then pops a big one. He's a home run hitter who can also receive, as evidenced by his 145 career receptions for 1164 yards in 6 and a quarter seasons. His career rushing numbers are 769 carries for 3426 yards (4.45 yards/att).

Bennett will bring the Bucs a guy who has good vision and burst to the hole. Graham had some problems getting to the hole quick enough to eek out some yards, allowing the quick Titans' defense to close the hole before he could get started. Bennett provides that high speed 0-40 time that allows him to squirt through brief holes and still pick up yards. When he gets into the secondary, he's tough to stop, and even tougher to catch from behind. Now, Graham believes that he's shaking off the rust, and he'll likely get more chances to prove that, but Bennett will provide the Bucs with the threat they need in the running game, especially the type that will burn an overly aggressive defense on draws and screens. That will help slow the rush down and keep Garcia alive. I like the pick-up and look forward to seeing him on the field. The big question now will be how soon can he get integrated into the Bucs' offense? We shall see.

Game Review - Week 6

As I stated in my Talking Plank, this was going to be a defensive battle, but one I felt the Bucs could pull off, which they did. I even managed to nail the score (maybe I should buy a lotto ticket this week!). While it wasn't the prettiest win, and in fact reminded me of many an old Bucs ugly win during the late 90's, it's a win nonetheless, and the Bucs are now 4-2. With the win they guaranteed that they could do no worse than last year by matching last year's win total.

On Offense, the Bucs had trouble, as expected, running the ball against a great run defense. Graham failed to get anything significant going, averaging under 3 yards per carry, but he did have some timely runs that got first downs, including one at the end of the first half that got the Bucs out of the endzone area and kept them from having to punt the ball back to the Titans. Overall, the running game was virtually non-existent. The passing game, however, was pretty effective for most of the game, though Garcia did get pressured at times. He managed to hit Galloway for yet another 69 yard TD catch, which allowed the Bucs to go up 10-3 and stay in front (they never trailed in this game). He also had an outstanding last minute drive, hitting Hilliard for a huge gain on 3rd and 10 to keep the drive going, and then hit Hilliard a few plays later to get the ball to the spot from which the winning kick was hit. Galloway and Hilliard continue to make big plays. What was nice was to see Clayton catch a couple of big first down's, with one coming early to keep a drive alive with a nice 14 yard catch and run. Then he had a big 39 yard reception to get the Bucs in scoring range. A nicer pass from Garcia, who was pressured on the throw, would have likely led to a TD as Clayton had to slow down for the ball. The offensive line protected Garcia pretty well for much of the game, but did have a few breakdowns that led to Garcia having to scramble. The running holes weren't as numerous as they needed to be, but there were times they opened holes but Graham wasn't quick enough to take advantage before the Titans closed them up. The offense won the first half of this game, but failed to stay on the field during the second half, allowing the Titans to reverse the time advantage greatly in their favor. Overall, the offense made plays when they needed them the most and scored enough points to win the game.

On Defense, the Bucs held the Titans' vaunted rushing game to just 96 total yards and around 3 yards per carry. The Bucs really never let the Titans hit any big plays in the running game, and showed that this team has, in general, become a much more physical team in the trenches than years past. Unfortunately, the pass rush is still not where it needs to be to consistently force the opposing QB into bad decisions. It needs to get better and more consistent. The pass rush has been getting noticeably better every week, though, and did manage to pick up 3 sacks against a team that had only allowed 5 sacks coming in. Adams managed to get his first sack while running in front of Young who ran into his running back and fell. Adams may have gotten the sack anyways, but he got the help and is now off the snide. The line as a whole played excellent against the run with Adams getting 5 tackles, and Haye getting 10. Haye also got a sack in the game. The linebackers were once agains pretty solid in run support, but continue to struggle at times with the Tight Ends. Ruud led the team in tackles again. The secondary was hot and cold. At times the Titans had nowhere to go, but then, especially during the second half, the secondary started giving up third and long plays again, allowing the Titans to move the ball down the field. That needs to end, and end soon. Ronde nearly picked off two passes, and had a fumble recovery but tried to pick it up and run and had it knocked out of his hands for a Titans' recovery. Jackson brought a few more big hits, including one that stopped Brown in his tracks. Buchannon picked off a pass where his right foot was right at the line (if you watch his toe pivot up onto the toe, you can see that his foot had to be inbounds because the lower portion of the tip of his toe was right there on the edge of the sideline). Overall, the defense was physical and managed to hold up well despite the long second half where they were on the field for over 20 minutes.

On Special Teams, the Bucs had a decent kickoff return in the second half that went nowhere on offense, and the punt returns were limited. The punt and kick coverage was outstanding, for the most part. Bryant nailed his kicks, including the game winner. Bidwell punted well and kept the Titans from getting great field position. Overall a solid effort, though two kickoff's for touchbacks limited Jones' ability to burn a poor kick coverage unit for the Titans.

Coaching was solid, but not spectacular. Gruden needs to find a way to get the running game going, and that may take our new running back (Michael Bennett). The Bucs can't continue to play with this type of running game. They need to at least be in the 80's or 90's to keep Garcia from getting killed. The passing game was effective though and Gruden's play-calling and Garcia's audibles and execution made difference. Monte's defense played well for most of the game but got winded late as they had problems stopping the third and long pass plays. That's a problem he needs to get resolved. The defense that they are running in those situations is not good enough, and needs to be changed. You can't keep stuffing teams for 2 plays then giving up a 3rd and long, and letting the team chew up 7, 8 , or 9 minutes of clock time. Special teams were well coached and played well. There weren't a lot of good opportunities for returns with all of the touchbacks, so it's hard to say just how good they could have been. Overall, it was a solid team effort that managed to get the job done, and once again do it without committing a ton of penalties.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Talking Plank - Week 6

The Talking Plank -

Titans At Bucs:

After a horrendous loss at Indy, the Bucs return home hoping to return to the type of play that got them to 3-1 before last week's loss. The Titans, are coming to town having managed to hold off against the pathetic Falcons. With the Bucs in the midst of their toughest stretch of 4 games against 4 teams with winning records. If the Bucs can get through this quarter with at least 2 wins, they'll be in great shape heading into the second half of the season. So let's look at the prospects of this game.

On Offense, the Bucs, ranked 25th (295.6 y/g) in total yards, 20th in points (19/g), 15th rushing (113 y/g) and 26th passing (182.6 y/g), are hoping to rebound from a bad showing against the Colts' defense. The Titans' defense is ranked 5th (275.8 y/g), 3rd against the run (72.2 y/g), 10th against the pass (203.5 y/g), and 6th in points allowed (14.8/g). This is a tough defense to play, but they have a so-so secondary and a poor pass rush. Their main strength is stopping the run, which is primarily a product of Haynesworth in the middle. He will, however, be on an ankle that kept him out of practice for most of the week, which means he may have trouble planting and driving against our o-line and in stopping our backs. The Bucs will have to, clearly, attack the Titans through the air and take advantage of the talent and size advantage that they have against the secondary. This is a game that Galloway may be able to get free in, and expect the third receiver, whether Clayton or Stovall, to have a chance to make an impact. Garcia should be able to set up and pass with a lot more time than last week, unless Haynesworth becomes difficult to stop in the middle. If the Bucs can hit some big passes and force the Titans to back off the line in an effort to slow the passing game, then the Bucs should be able to get some running going with a running by committee approach. It's hard to say which back will make the biggest impact, but someone will need to step up and take advantage of any holes the line creates. Whether or not the Bucs can get a consistent ground game going is the biggest question mark with Pittman and Caddy out. If Haynesworth has problem generating leverage off his foot, and the Bucs' passing game hits some big plays, the running game could open up for the Bucs. The rest of the Titans' defensive line is average in size and can be pushed around if our offensive line is aggressive and getting off the line. The Titans don't have the speed that the Colts had so we'll see if the line can play more like it did the first 4 weeks of the season. While I think the offense will struggle at times, I think it will hit enough plays in the passing game to allow the team to move the ball and score.

On Defense, the Bucs dropped in rank down to 12th overall (313.4 y/g), 8th in points (15.4/g), 22nd against the run (124 y/g), and 9th against the pass (189.4 y/g). The Titans' offense comes in ranked 24th overall (299 y/g), 16th in points (21/g), 4th rushing (153.2 y/g), and 30th passing (145.8 y/g). The Titans are all about the run with their big backs Brown and White, and with Young running from the QB position. Young is sort of a smarter, more accurate Vick, though he hasn't had to deal with a lot of pressure. When you can run as often as the Titans do, you can generally keep the game out of the hands of their young QB. The Tampa 2 scheme gave Young a lot of fits when he played Indy. If the Bucs can limit the running game and force Young to try to beat them in the passing game, then the Bucs will have an excellent chance at beating the Titans. This could be the game where Adams finally gets to the QB, as he should have a distinct speed advantage against both the left and right Tackles. The Bucs need to maintain a steady pass rush without giving up the running lanes for Young to scramble out of trouble. They'll be unlikely to have to deal with Young a lot, however, if they can't stop the running game. This may be a good game for Trotter to come in and get his feet wet, as he can hold up very well against the bigger backs. If the Bucs do slow down the run and force Young to beat them in the passing game, the Bucs should be able to deal with the Titans' receivers, with Moulds past his prime, and Brandon Jones opposite him. The Tight Ends aren't very active in the passing game either. Even without Kelly, the Bucs have the DB's to deal with these threats, so long as they don't play a passive, back off style that they did last week. If the Bucs slow the run down, it should be a long day for the Titans' offense. I think the Bucs will have some issues against the run at times, and shut them down at others. If the Bucs' offense can stay on the field, or hit some big plays to run the score up, they'll be able to handle this offense. If not, it could be along day for our defense.

On Special Teams, the Bucs come in off a sub par week in which their coverage teams were a little soft at times, and which their return teams on had a couple of decent returns amongst many chances. The Bucs are still a very good return and coverage team, and the Titans have a good punt return and punt coverage team, as well as a good kick return team. Their kick coverage isn't very good at all, however, allowing over 30 yards per return (even allowing 27 per return when the 76 yarder is removed from the stats). This could be one of those opportunities where Jones might be able to break a very long kick return, and maybe even have a shot at taking it the distance. The return game will be crucial for the Bucs. The Bucs have a better kicker and punter and that could be a huge difference in a game that looks to be a big defensive battle.

In the end, I think the Bucs will be fired up and ready to come out playing lights out after having been embarrassed by last weeks pitiful effort. The home field advantage will also come into play in this game, and I see the Bucs pulling out the win in a defensive slug fest.

Bucs 13 Titans 10

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Game Review - Week 5

As I mentioned yesterday, this game was ugly. The Bucs traveled up to Indy and came in and played scared. They played not too lose, instead of playing to win, as they had the last 4 weeks. Hopefully, this game will be a reminder to this team, and coaching staff, of what happens when you play not too lose in the NFL.

On Offense, the Bucs got the ball first, but the middle of the offensive line had huge problems initially dealing with the speed of the Colts DL. The OL should have been able to get on them and knock them on their way undersized butts, but they weren't aggressive in their blocks and allowed way too much penetration. The result was a running game that never had a chance to get going and pound the Colts, as it should have, and an over-reliance in the passing game to try and get back into the game. After the initial issues, and an early sack, the offensive line settled down and began to pass block like normal, and even started to open some holes in the running game. By then, however, it was too late to get the running game going, and Garcia was trying to get us back into the game via the air, which he briefly did. Garcia actually finished with solid numbers and a passer rating in the 120's, higher than Manning's 101. Galloway dropped a couple of passes, and the connection just seemed to be off. Garcia almost connected with Galloway on a play that would have gotten the Bucs into the lead due to the extra point block against the Colts. But it was not to be, as the offense only managed 177 yards of offense, a whopping 17 on the ground. The failure to come out swinging hard early cost them dearly in this game.

On Defense, the Bucs, for whatever reason, decided to come out with a soft cover 2 scheme, basically designed to force Mannning to move the ball slowly and methodically. It worked, except for the fact that Manning only really made one mistake in the game and scored TD's on virtually every drive. The defense didn't play anything like it had during the first 4 weeks except for a brief period when Jackson killed Clark, then picked off Manning shortly after. That brief return of the aggressive Bucs defense allowed the offense to get on the field, score a TD, and start to make it a game. Only, the defense decided to keep playing like pansies with that soft coverage crap. Quite frankly I'm amazed Monte didn't switch up and just go for it and press the receivers hard and give his line an extra second or two to get to Manning. Instead, it was pitch and catch. Adams actually played well, making some plays, including hitting Manning just as he got rid of the ball. The pass was completed, but Adams nearly got Manning on a number of occasions, and seemed to be the most determined DL during this game. The tackling wasn't very good against the run either, but a lot of that can be attributed to the length of time the defense was on the field. Some of which is their fault; some of which is the offenses. I will say this, after the first offensive 3 and out, the defense allowed the Colts to run a very long drive, and did it again after the next offensive series. Nothing makes it harder for an offense to find some rhythm than to be sitting on the bench for 7-8 minutes in between drives. I sincerely hope that this is the last time we see this soft cover 2 and we see a return to the aggressive flying defense of the past 4 weeks.

On Special Teams, this unit had some problems containing the Colts on kick and punt returns, allowing a couple of big returns which made it difficult on the defense. The return units also failed to deliver the consistently big returns that they had provided the past 3 weeks. While Jones did manage a couple of solid returns, most were short, and the Bucs drive starts were consistently deep in their own territory, which didn't help them in their struggles. The kick block team was excellent, blocking an extra point attempt, and nearly blocking two more kick attempts, including the late field goal by the Colts. They showed good penetration. Punting was solid, and kickoffs were good. Bryant did not attempt a field goal.

Coaching was not as good as you would like. The entire team seemed flat...playing scared for most of the game, and the adjustment in their play never came. Gruden never got his offense into a rhythm and had to abandon the run. Monte's defense had a plan, but it was passive and it killed us, and he never adjusted what we were doing, despite the fact that we had corners that were more than capable of pressing the receivers they were playing. And Bisaccia's unit played OK in spots, but didn't provide the consistent return game the Bucs needed to shorten the field and allow the offense to better apply the pressure to the Colts' defense. This was an all-around letdown. I think we will see a fired up team this weekend, though, and I expect them to rebound with a win.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Bucs Knocked Silly By Colts 14-33

That was an ugly game. I'll try to get a Game Review up tomorrow, but in general what I saw was not so much a huge disparity in talent, as the score and stats suggest. No. It's more so the mindset that the entire team seem to have when they went in there. They played scared in all 3 phases of the game, and the result was horrendous. There was a moment when the Bucs nearly jumped back in, and even had a shot to put themselves up ahead thanks to the blocked extra point. But Garcia and Galloway fail to connect and then the Colts get another score, and the game's over.

It was disappointing to see the Bucs lack the fire they played with the last two weeks. Of course, it's likely, in my mind, that they will come back this weekend and play fired up and hit like crazy. Unfortunately, they'll have to do it without Pittman, who has a 6-8 week ankle injury. The Bucs will need to get production out of Graham and Darby, and will likely try to bring another back in. Hopefully, this won't kill the Bucs' offense. I don't think it will, but running is going to be a little tougher. Of course, Darby may give a bit of a surprise if he runs the ball some. Who knows?

This game is one of those games where the lack of experience on the field really hindered this team. It's the type of game you know can happen to a young team, but expect to see few of as they progress through the season. If the Bucs win the next 3 games, they'll be in great shape. They do need to win at least one or two to keep from getting out of the race. The back half is the easiest part of the schedule, by far, so the Bucs need to take advantage of their start and get some more wins during the hard part to put them in great position for the rest of the year.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Talking Plank - Week 4

The Talking Plank -

Bucs At Colts:

Well this is an interesting one to predict. If the Colts were completely healthy, I would give them a healthy nod (no pun intended) just because of the shear weapons available to Manning and the fact that this is on the road. I predicted a loss at the beginning of the season, though I stated that an upset was possible. Looking at the situation now, will it change my mind?

On Offense, the Bucs' 18th ranked offense (325.2 y/g), 8th rushing (137 y/g) and 24th passing (188.2 y/g), will be facing the Colts' 11th ranked defense (303.5 y/g), 22nd against the rush (127.5 y/g) and 7th against the pass (176 y/g). The Colts are giving up 18.5 points per game while the Bucs are scoring 20.2 per game. But what is really going to be a factor is score early. The Bucs, if they can get a lead early, or keep the game within a score during the first half, will be able to run the ball against this defense, unless it sells out. The Colts are severely undersized up front, with all but two DL's under 280 (Johnson is 296 and Reid is 288). Mathis and Freeney are small, but quick. If the Bucs's big, but quick OL can get there hands on the Colts' linemen, it's all over. I expect to see some gaping holes at times, with the Colts occasionally closing them down with their speed. The biggest problem Indy may have is with Harris out already, if Keiaho can't go either, the Colts will be very vulnerable at the LB spot. Bob Sanders would normally be there to help out, but he may not go either, meaning that they won't have the explosive Safety play at the line, and will have further vulnerabilities in the secondary. Quite frankly, just with the loss of Harris, and McFarland already lost for the season, the Bucs really shouldn't have any excuse for not being able to generate a running game. The Bucs should also be able to handle the pass rush, as the Colts have had to use blitzes to establish any consistent rush. Freeney only has a sack so far, and Mathis has 2. Furthermore, they've had problems generating any real rush at all. Garcia should have time, assuming Penn doesn't have any issues with Freeney. If he does, he should be able to exploit a secondary that's been exploited a lot. QB's have had some good success except for Brees. This could be another big game for Galloway. If they double him up that will leave Hilliard open, and Clayton open during 2 wide sets. I expect to see Gruden use a lot of 3 wide sets to force the Colts into a nickel package and force the box to be light in players. He can still run at of that. Needless to say, the Bucs will score points in this game, and they might score a lot. If Keiaho, Rushing, and Sanders are all out, the Colts will be a sieve. If that happens, the Bucs will put up big numbers.

On Defense, the Bucs' 5th ranked defense (291.8 y/g), 1st in points allowed (11/g), 6th against the pass (173.5 y/g) and 20th against the run (118.2 y/g), will face the Colts' number 3 offense (both points, 32.8, and yards, 403.5), 6th passing (262.8 y/g) and 7th rushing (140.8 y/g). This will be the strongest test of the season, assuming Addai and Harrison play. If one or both are out, it will severely hamper Manning's ability to find an open receiver in the passing game, and put more pressure on him, as it will make it harder to run the ball. With the exception of Diem, who goes 320 at LT, the rest of the Colts' line is under 300 lbs. which means they should have a hard time opening running lanes against the Bucs' very solid defensive line. The DL will probably struggle mightily to get to Manning (only sacked 3 times this year) because of his quick decision making and release. But the Bucs have the back 7 to cover all of the Colts' weapons, especially if Harrison and Addai are out, and that might slow down Manning's progressions some. We could also see the Bucs' active, and slightly bigger DL break through the Colts' OL at times. The big key, though, is to hit the Colts' receivers hard and quick, gang tackle, and make Manning fight for every yard. If you do that, get a little pressure, and take the running game away, he will make mistakes. Whether or not the Bucs can do that is the key question. I think they will be able to do it at times, more so if the afore mentioned injured players are out. Stopping Manning all game will be very difficult unless the Bucs can create a bunch of turnovers. This defense will show us how good, or bad, they are with this game.

On Special Teams, the Bucs bring in their high ranked coverage and return units to face a Colts' team whose lead returner may be out, and whose coverage teams have had problems stopping people. The Bucs could get very good field position all game long, much as they did last week, and that could be huge. If Rushing is out, the Colts' will have to find someone else to return punts. The Colts do have Vinatieri to kick field goals, but the game's in a dome, so Bryant should be up to the challenge. Both punters are about on par, but Bidwell has been doing some outstanding things, which has resulted in the Bucs allowing a grand total of 13 return yards on punts since the so-so showing in week 1. That's about 1/10th of what the Colts have allowed. It's an amazing stat, almost as much so as the 15.3 yards per kick return the Bucs have allowed. Needless to say, this unit will be key in backing Manning up, while getting us good field position. If they continue to play as they have, and they get Cox back this week, then the Bucs could be in very good shape.

Overall, this is a game that is hard to judge because of the critical nature of the possible losses to the Colts. The Colts have a Bye next week, and may decide to hold most of these players back since we are an NFC team, and they are in the AFC. If they do that, then the Bucs have a solid 50-50 shot at winning the game. If the players play, and I have to assume they will right now, then the chances are more 45-55. The Bucs look like they have the right team, overall, to match-up favorable against the Colts, but this is in the RCA Dome. Because of that, I have to give a very slight edge to the Colts. If Harrison, Addai, Sanders, and Keiaho are all out, then the Bucs will win by 3 points. Otherwise...

Colts 28 Bucs 27

Bucs Playing Colts At Right Time?

The Bucs chances to win this Sunday may be going up with the walking wounded in Indy becoming more numerous. The Colts have lost starting SLB Ron Morris is Out this Sunday, as is TE Ben Utecht and Receiver Roy Hall (the last two are back-ups). Starters WR Marvin Harrison, RB Joseph Addai, Will LB Freddy Keiaho, S Bob Sanders, KR/PR/CB TJ Rushing, and back-up WR Aaron Moorehead are all Questionable. None of which, to my knowledge, managed to practice this week.

Needless to say, the Colts are banged up good. While we lost Caddy and Luke, Penn played just about as well last week (I saw no drop-off) and Pittman and Graham have been playing well, and both are actually better receivers than Caddy. Kelly, Buchannon, Spires, and Hilliard all practiced, and look to be ready to go. If Harrison, Addai, and Sanders are scratches, the Bucs odds of winning this game improve drastically. Throw in Keiaho and that's icing on the cake. The Colts should have problems containing the Bucs' rushing attack, so long as the Bucs don't get down big and have to abandon the run.

I'm going to start plugging away on the Talking Plank. It will be up no later than tomorrow afternoon, if not later tonight.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ruud Named NFC Defensive Player Of The Month

In an unsurprising announcement, Barrett Ruud was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month, leading the league in tackles, causing 3 fumbles with a couple of recoveries, a couple of passes defensed, and picking another pass off. He's been a monster on the field and has been able to help the Bucs shut the opposing offenses down.

Ruud's bigger size has allowed him to hold up against the run better than Quarles, though Ruud still gets out of his gap on a occasion. At the rate he's going, Ruud could end up in the Pro-Bowl this year as his picture is consistently plastered on the NFL main page as the leader in tackles. The notoriety is coming fast and furious with each team the Bucs play. If he continues to perform like this against the Colts, you can pretty much bank on him getting to Hawaii. With him manning the middle and Brooks and June to either side, the Bucs have one of the fastest and most capable group of linebackers in the league and it's been showing. It's going to be fun to continue to watch him all year and see if he can continue to raise the bar as the season progresses.

Bucs Bring Darby and Roland Up

To address the losses of Caddy and Luke, the Bucs promoted RB Kenneth Darby and OT Dennis Roland. Darby was, at times, explosive during the Preseason and the Bucs took the risk of placing him on the practice squad. Luckily, nobody picked him up, because now they need the depth. Darby was viewed by many, myself included, as a sleeper late round pick up out of Alabama. He's similarly built like Caddy, but doesn't have the injury history. If Pittman and Graham can't get it done, he'll get a shot to see if he can duplicate some of his Preseason success.

Roland is being brought up purely for depth reasons. Penn played quite well in Luke's place during the Panthers game, with little to no drop off. This is pretty much the same thing we saw from him during Preseason as well, so he should be fine. But with his advancement, there's no backup for the ROT. That's where Roland comes in, as he's more suited for the right side than the left.

Of the two players brought up, Darby is the most likely to see meaningful time on the field.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Game Review - Week 4

The Bucs went up to Carolina with the opportunity to take the lead in the Division, or be behind the Panthers by a game and face going to Indy after a loss. Thankfully, the Bucs continued to play as they have all season by starting out strong. The Bucs were able to continue that moment and essentially put the Panthers away early and simply run clock the rest of the game.

On Offense, the Bucs were able to come right out of the shoot and drive 71 yards for the opening score. Garcia continued his excellent effort in the passing game, and finished the drive off with a 3 yard run for the TD. While Galloway only had one catch in the game, Hilliard took advantage of the single coverage going for his first 100+ yard game as a Buc. His 4 catches on the opening drive set the tone early, as did the running of Caddy, who started off the game quitely running for good yardage. Caddy, dropped two passes, but was just starting to find the holes in the defense as he ripped off an 18 yard run play, only to go down back on his leg causing what is believed to be a patella tendon tear. He's out for the season now. Pittman and Graham came in for relief and racked up 138 yards rushing between the two. The other bad news is that Petitgout also had his knee injured, and now it appears he needs surgery to correct it, which means he's out as well. Thankfully, Donald Penn has come in and been pretty stellar at the LT spot, as there hasn't been a noticeable drop-off. Alex Smith was able to haul in several passes, becoming a nice relief valve for Garcia. Clayton also caught a nice intermediate pass for a first down that helped the Bucs get into scoring position. The ability of the offense to start out fast then grind the clock down with a lot of running late has helped them cement their leads and allow the defense to stay a little fresher. As Garcia continues to get more familiar with the offense and its weapons, we should expect the offense to become more capable.

On Defense, the Bucs were 23 seconds away from laying a goose egg on the Panthers. They held Steve Smith in check all game, and after some initial big hits on receivers, the drops started happening with some regularity. The Bucs had some problems getting Carr down early in the game, though they ended the game with 3 sacks and did manage to collapse the pocket more frequently as the game went on. But with the way the secondary and linebackers are playing in coverage, you almost don't need a pass rush. Buchannon basically shut down Smith, which left Ronde with the easy guys. June and Brooks helped keep the Tight Ends from being effective for much of the game. Ruud continue to play well and force another fumble, and worked with the other LB's and the safeties to shut down the Panthers' running attack for much of the game. Phillips continues to play lights out, picking off another player and hitting some guys hard. Jackson managed to force another Foster fumbler that the Bucs recovered. Overall, the defense continues to get stingier and stingier each week. If not for the last minute 60 yard TD drive, the Bucs would have held the Panthers scoreless and well under 200 yards of offense. The pass rush is slowly getting better with White, Haye, and Peterson starting to make plays more regularly. Chukwurah showed some push on the edge, regularly getting into Carr's vision and making him a little nervous. Adams is still having trouble consistently beating the Tackles, but there were occasional signs. One play of his that did stand out was a screen pass that he recognized immediately and broke free from the Tackle to pursue, but he tripped up forcing a linebacker to make the actual tackle. Adams is clearly reading plays well, but needs to get the moves down and some more upper body strength to get past Tackles more consistently. The defense is really starting to look very good, and you wonder what will happen if the pass rush comes together.

On Special Teams, the coverage units continued to do a very good job only allowing one decent kick return, by Williams, and otherwise stuffing Goings for less than 20 yards a return. The punt returns against were non-existent. The kick and punt return teams did pretty well, though not great. Jones continues to give solid returns, especially in the punting game where he averaged over 14 yards per punt return. Clayton started the unit off with a nice return to the 29 yard line. The punting and kicking were solid again. Overall, another strong performance in all phases.

Coaching continues to have this team well prepared and playing exceptionally well. The Bucs only had one penalty, a delay of game that they took on purpose to give Bidwell 5 more yards of kicking room. Gruden's offense continues to exploit the opposing defense early and then he switches over to "eat clock" mode making it tough for the opposing offense to get back on the field and challenge the defense. Gruden looked pretty happy at the end of the game and could be seen congratulating the defensive players as they came off the field. Monte had another stellar effort from his defense. The secondary is being coached very well, and playing unbelievable. The whole unit is tackling well and hitting hard. They are also ganging up on ball carriers, making it tough for teams to rip off big gains. Special Teams coaching continues to be solid across the board. This team is not only playing great, but it's playing like a team, and a very close knit one at that. From the coaches to the players, you can see the team mentality. It starts at the top and trickles down to the 53rd player. How far this team will go is hard to say, but they look pretty good right now, even after losing Luke and Caddy.