2008 Bucs' Schedule: PNG

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bucs/Giants - 1PM Sunday

The NFL has announced the playoff schedule, and the Bucs will host the Giants on Sunday at 1PM. Let's hope we get our starters back healthy, and that the Giants don't. This will be a tough game, but if the Bucs can hold off the pass rush, and force Manning to beat them through the air, then they'll likely win the game.

Oh, I almost forgot, the Bucs lost that meaningless game to the Panthers. We had our chances to win it, but just couldn't quite make enough plays. Luke continues to look good in spots, but will still make that big mistake here and there. At least we know we can still score with him in there, unlike someone else I can think of. The only thing about this game that really ticked me off was the call to punt the ball away when we had a short 4th and less than 1 and our defense had been having trouble all day getting the Panthers off the field. Gruden elected to punt, and the Panthers scored on the next drive. Needless to say, I was a little pissed at the call. They needed to go for it, and try to get another 20 yards or so for a good field goal try to take a lead. Instead, they found themselves down by 8 and unable to score the needed TD to try and tie the game.

They did manage to drive 98 yards for a TD, the longest in franchise history, with McCown's huge scramble being a big part of it. Luke also came out of that game with a 108.6 rating (2 TD's and the one pick), while completing 75% of his passes (21 of 28). So it's not like he's playing really bad out there...hardly. The reality is that the back-ups on defense aren't quite as good as the back-ups on offense. The off-season FA period and draft should be able to fill those last few holes.

For now, we look forward to Sunday's game against the Giants.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Talking Plank - Week 16

The Talking Plank -

Panthers At Bucs:

Yeah, yeah, been too busy to update on last week's dominate loss (what the...not another Detroit game!). Needless to say, it gets kind of hard to predict games when you start playing them like a preseason contest, and this game is likely to be the same thing. With Galloway out, and with Graham, Hilliard, and White likely to rest, not too mention Stovall out for the year, the Bucs are likely to have one of those "interesting" games that you just aren't sure how things will turn out for them. Needless to say, I'm sure the Bucs would prefer to win going in, and this is definitely a team they are capable of beating, even with a slightly lesser cast of players available.

On Offense, the Bucs come in ranked 18th in total yards (328.4/g), 18th in points scored (20.7/g) , 16th in passing yards (210.7/g), and 11th in rushing yardage (117.7/g). They will face the Panthers' 16th ranked defense in yards allowed (326.3/g), 17th in points allowed (21.6/g), 15th against the pass (215.3y/g), and 18th against the run (110.9y/g). Overall, the Bucs offense has an edge against a performance enhancement free defensive line that has barely racked up sacks this season. In fact the entire defense only has 19 total sacks and failed to get one against the Bucs the last time out. The Bucs offensive line is coming off one of it's poorest performances this season, and likely will be out to reclaim what they lost last week. Graham is not likely to play, but if he does, it will likely be limited, which means that Bennett will likely see a lot of action, and the Bucs will want to repeat their 189 yard rushing performance from the week 4 match-up. With Davis and Diggs looking very beatable on the edges, and a rookie in the middle, the Bucs should be able to re-establish the running game, especially on the edges where Bennett excels. They should also be able to exploit match-up issues when they put their TE's in to patterns on the LB's. With Galloway out, Clayton will become the primary receiver (he more often plays Galloway's position when Joey is out, than Hilliard does), and either Hilliard, or someone else, will compliment him. Hilliard may or may not rest this game. Spurlock will probably get some more looks at receiver, and Lucas and Clark may also get some shots, but don't be shocked if the Bucs are running Stevens at one wide out spot on occasion, as well as Smith and Bennett. All three can cause some interesting match-up problems depending on the play. How long Garcia plays, if he even does, is hard to say. McCown will undoubtedly play the majority of the game, and should be able to exploit a Harris-free secondary. With Harris likely out (listed as doubtful), the Panthers will really be hurting on defense as they have already lost Peppers to IR. The Panthers are big in the middle, but they aren't likely to get much of a pass rush without bringing the LB's (who have 5.5 of their D's 19 sacks) in on blitzes. With Harris unable to come up to support the run, the Panthers will be hard pressed to find a way to defend the targets we still have available to throw at them. They will likely try to stop the run by over committing. Luke will have to take advantage of the secondary to open it back up. If the Panthers fail to get pressure, and Luke can find and hit the open receiver, the Bucs should be able to move the ball pretty well most of the game. I look for Clayton to have a big game, and pull in around 7-10 balls as he will likely be the best receiver out there. The Bucs may not be able to rack up big yards on the ground, but it should be enough, with a possible home run hit or two by Bennett, to keep the Panthers on defense and score some points, though not likely a lot.

On Defense, the Bucs come in ranked 2nd overall in yards allowed (273.7/g), 1st in points allowed (15.9/g), 2nd against the pass (170.6y/g), and 13th against the run (103.1y/g). The Panthers come in with the 30th ranked offense in yards (280.7/g), 29th in points scored (15.7/g), 29th in passing yards (171.1/g), and 17th rushing (109.6y/g). The Bucs could be without White which could impact their pass rush. The Panthers have given up 32 sacks this year, which is decent, but the Bucs should be able to find a way to get after Moore by first stopping the run, then getting after the rookie QB. If the Bucs stop the run, it could turn into a turn-over fest, as Moore will have to pass against one of the best defenses in the league. Smith and Colbert can be weapons, but the Bucs found a way to shut them down last time, and probably will make it just as difficult this time around. The Bucs will likely contain Foster and Williams and make it that much tougher on Moore, especially with the Bucs' penchant for disguising their cover 2 and cover 3 looks, making it a tough read for even veteran QB's. The Panthers' best hope is to see a lot of the back-ups early. That might give them an edge, but, then again, it might not. The Panthers' offense just hasn't been all that good this year, and there's no reason to believe that it's going to change in the last game of the season. Look for the Panthers' offense to have a long day.

On Special Teams, the Bucs are averaging 24.3 and 6.5 yards per kick and punt return. One is very good, while the other is piss poor. They are allowing 19.2 and 7.2 yards per kick and punt return, both of which are solid numbers. Their opponent is getting 18.7 and 8.3 yards per kick and punt return (respectable on punts, pathetic on kicks), while allowing 24.6 and 10.4 yards per kick and punt. Their coverage teams aren't very good, and the Bucs may be able to exploit this area to set up some shorter fields. Spurlock should be able to rip off a big return on any kick offs that are made. The punt return game is an entirely different issue, and one that could hurt the Bucs if they don't find someone who can get it done (could we try sticking with Spurlock and leave Buchannon on defense!!). Both teams have solid punters and kickers.

Overall, I see this as one of those toss-up games that could get down-right ugly. The Panthers are actually 4-3 on the road, and could possibly steal this meaningless contest. However, I think the Bucs have every intent on just burying the Panthers and going into the playoffs with a win, and I think we have enough depth to get it done, especially if we can jump out to an early lead.

Bucs 17 Panthers 10

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Talking Plank - Week 15

The Talking Plank -

Bucs At 49ers:

With the Bucs having wrapped up the NFC South, they now have the opportunity of fighting for the third seed. To do that, they'll likely have to win out and hope for Seattle to lose a game. The 49ers, on the other hand, are playing out the season. The Bucs will have a good chance at finally winning at San Francisco if they go out there and take care of business.

On Offense, the Bucs come in ranked 19th overall in yardage (320.9/g), 18th in points (20.9/g), 19th in passing yards (199.6/g), and 10th rushing (121.3/g). They will face a 49ers defense that comes in ranked 23rd in yards allowed (339.1/g), 22nd in points allowed (23.2/g), 20th against the pass (220.1y/g), and 23rd against the run (119y/g). The 49ers run a 3-4 defense, which, historically, has been a defense that Gruden's offense can usually exploit, but something they had trouble against last season. The reason is usually the lack of immediate pressure in the passing game. Teams that have very fast 3-4's, and blitz a ton, can get that pressure, but the 49ers aren't one of those teams. In fact, 15 of the 49ers 26 sacks came in the 4 games versus the Rams and Cardinals, with 10 of their sacks coming against the Rams, including all but 1 of Young's 6.5 sacks. When you look at the game logs of the 49ers' defensive players, they are remarkable absent of sacks outside of those 4 games. That should allow our talented offensive line to be able to hold up and keep Garcia relatively stain free in this game. The real issue won't be in passing the ball, as the Bucs should be able to easily exploit the secondary of the 49ers, it will be running the ball. The 49ers are giving up just 3.8 yards per carry, so, while teams are sticking with it and getting yards, they are getting the yards slowly. It will be interesting to see how Graham, Pittman, and Bennett get used, and how effective they are. I think we will see a decent running game, but nothing spectacular, and I think the Bucs will have to get it going through the air first. Galloway, Hilliard, and Clayton should all be able to exploit this secondary during the game, and I can see Garcia having his best game of the year against the 49ers, the team that gave him his shot, but then let him go because of the T.O. rift. The Bucs offense should be able to do what a lot of teams have, which is put up the points.

On Defense, the Bucs come in ranked 3rd overall in yards (278/g), 1st in points allowed (15.6/g), 2nd against the pass (174.5y/g), and 14th against the run (103.5y/g). The 49ers offense comes in ranked 32nd overall in yards (242.8/g), 31st in points scored (13.6/g), 32nd passing (152.2y/g), and 27th rushing (90.6y/g). The 49ers also come into this game -13 in turnovers (the Bucs are +14), and having allowed a whopping 48 sacks. Needless to say, this match-up appears to be very bad for the 49ers. While Shaun Hill has given them a boost at the QB spot (sorry Bucs fans, Dilfer is out with a concussion - there goes at least one easy pick6), he's done it against two of there worst passing defenses in the league, the Vikings and Bengals. Needless to say, there's a world of difference between those two pass defenses and the Bucs' pass defense, and Monte now has two weeks worth of film on the guy. The Bucs defensive line will start the ball rolling by using there superior speed against a big, but very nonathletic, offensive line. They will seek to get a lot of penetration to disrupt running plays to Gore, whom they must slow down, and then move on to the QB once that is accomplished. I expect to see the Bucs come out of this game with 4-6 sacks, and expect Adams and White to lead the party again. The 49ers aren't very explosive in the passing game, and our secondary should have no problems containing their receivers with just one safety deep, allowing Philips or Jackson to step up close and support against the run and cut of the tight ends. Vernon Davis is a good tight end that the Bucs will need to shutdown, or the 49ers could exploit that area of the field. The real key for the Bucs is to slow the run down and get after the passer. If they can do that, and throw in a little confusion with mixed coverages, such as disguising between Cover 3 and Cover 2, then they'll make it very difficult on an already bad 49ers' offense. I just don't see the 49ers doing too much in this game.

On Special Teams, the Bucs come in averaging 7.1 per punt return, and 24.1 per kick return, while the 49ers are allowing 5.9 and 21.4 per respective returns. The 49ers' coverage units are pretty solid, but I can see Spurlock ripping off another long kick return, especially with the "no TD return" monkey off this team's back. The 49ers are averaging 9.3 per punt return and 23.6 per kick return and will go against a Bucs' coverage unit allowing 7 yards per punt and just 19.3 yards per kick return. So it's hard to tell which team will get the edge in field position, though I think the Bucs are starting to get back to playing Special Teams like they had earlier in the year. The 49ers do have one of the best kickers and one of the best punters in the league, so they have a slight edge in those departments. Special teams could be critical in this game, and, while I think they could potentially hurt the Bucs, I think the Bucs will come out to play in this area and try to keep getting back to the dominate play we saw from them during the first few weeks before key injuries took some good players.

Overall, while this could be a trap game, I think the Bucs' young guys earned a bit of a lesson after the Texans' game. They learned that you can't let an emotional game put you up on a pedestal going into the next game. If you do, you will lose in this league, and I think that lesson was well learned. I see the Bucs going out there and doing what they have done pretty much all year long, which is put the inferior teams on their backs, and put you foot on their throats and dig. I see the Bucs getting up early and pouring it on until the 49ers quit.

Bucs 28 49ers 10

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bucs Snubbed From Pro-Bowl

In other news, the Bucs were snubbed by the voters. Barber, Brooks, Ruud, Jackson, Garcia, and Galloway were all snubbed, despite the fact that they all could have been in it. Brooks probably had the least case, as the splash plays haven't been there, even though he's been racking up tackles left and right. Ruud, who was the league's leading tackler for most of the season, just didn't get the love, despite the fact that he's forced several fumbles, defensed 3 passes and picked off two. Ruud should have been in. Barber should always get the nod, but didn't. Jackson is a rookie so I can understand him not getting the nod, but he has defensed 13 passes with 2 picks. Garcia's been the heart and soul of the offense, but it was apparently not enough to convince voters. And Galloway keeps getting passed over, though the field is pretty deep with some big time receivers in the NFC.

Oh well. Maybe Barber will have some things to say on the field going forward like when he got snubbed in 2002. His infamous "Pro-Bowl my ass! I'm going to the Super Bowl!" quote would be great to hear again.

Bucs Historic In 37-3 Blow Out!

With all the crap going on with my house construction winding down, it's a miracle I've found the time to sit down and write this. But dang it...it's about frickin' time because that win was historic on a number of fronts. Several historic notes include Graham getting a TD in 6 straight games, setting the franchise mark; Gruden getting the Bucs to their third Division title in 6 years (3 in the prior 26 years); Barber getting his 33rd interception, and for a TD; the Bucs going 5-0 in the Division, setting up a chance to go undefeated in their Division for the first time ever; the defense stopping an opponent from converting any third downs for the first time; and something about some kick return for a TD, or something along those lines.

On Offense, the Bucs were up 14-3 before the Bucs offense had even started their second series. Then went up 17-3. Garcia, who apparently was still suffering from a cold or flu, had a pedestrian day as the Bucs ran the ball 48 times versus 25 pass attempts. The Bucs racked up 190 yards rushing, which meant that Garcia didn't have to pass that often, which is good, because Galloway had some drops, and Garcia got picked off once with a lazy intermediate throw toward Galloway on the sideline. Garcia finished 15 of 25 for 109 yards a TD and an INT. Graham finished with 119 total yards, 79 on the ground at 3.6 per rush. He didn't break off the customary long run that could have put him over 100 yards again, but he was effective. Pittman and Bennett came in and both looked fresh and explosive, though Pittman continues to plow into his blockers. Pittman finished with 50 yards on 13 carries (3.8ypc) while Bennett finished with 63 yards on 9 carries (7.0ypc). Bennett made some nice explosive runs that left no doubt that he can run the ball consistently. If he can get his blitz pick-up and pass blocking down, he may see the field more often the next two weeks as the Bucs want to take some of the load of Graham to let him rest a little. The offense finished the day scoring 23 points, which, in and of itself, was enough to blow out the Falcons. The offensive line played very well, with both sacks being more coverage sacks than mistakes by the line. A solid day overall for all, though they still need to work on the redzone offense.

On Defense, the Bucs managed to have a stellar day shutting the Falcons down. It started when Redman's third down pass attempt got picked off by Ronde and taken back for 6 points. That got the Bucs up early, and they would never look back. Though they allowed the Falcons to take the next possession down the field for a field goal, the Falcons would never threaten again. The Bucs managed to keep the Falcons from converting any third downs (0-9), a first, which helped them hold the Falcons to a grand total of just 133 yards. That included 106 on the ground, and just 27 through the air. The Bucs had some issues with Norwood early, but tightened up on him later in the game. He finished with 73 yards on 9 carries. Dunn was held in check again to just 32 yards rushing. The Bucs managed to get a sack in the game with Adams forcing a fumble. Later Phillips would pick off a pass, and White would force Dunn to fumble. Ruud also forced a fumble, but Atlanta recovered that one. The Bucs managed to keep getting Atlanta off the field and kept them to only 17 minutes of possession time.

On Special Teams, something very special happened. For the first time in Bucs history, a kick was returned for a TD. Michael Spurlock will be forever memorized alongside Vernon Turner who returned the first punt for a TD back in 1994 against the Lions. The instant he broke past the main line of tacklers, I hoped right out of my seat and started yelling, which turned into unbridled, totally ecstatic happiness. It was an unbelievable moment, and it was the loudest I had ever heard the crowd at Ray Jay. That moment managed to put us up 14-3 and the Falcons were pretty much done at that point. The rest of the Special Teams play, which was stellar for the most part, including Bryant's 3 FG's, is all a blurry "who cares?" type of thing. I mean...really...they returned a kick for a TD!! That alone is worth a ton of goodwill!

Coaching was very strong in this game. The offense, worked just enough early on to run the score up at the start of the second quarter. Once that happened, seeing the Falcons were already defeated, Gruden just pounded them with the running game, mixing in an occasional pass attempt to throw them off. The offense took advantage of field position and put up 23 points, none of which they even really needed. Monte's defense was spectacular, and just shut down the Falcons' offense. They had some success with some nice runs, but that was it. The Falcons could barely muster a threat, and were forced to punt often, or had the ball taken away. Bisaccia may have gotten himself an extension after that miraculous display of TD production from the kick return unit. That kick is a moment that few people, if any, will ever forget. Overall, the Bucs came into this game ready to play and well coached to deal with an inferior Falcons team. They beat the snot out of them, and managed to draw anger from the Falcons prompting the crowd to yell "losers!" after a little scuffle near the endzone. The Bucs also wrapped up their Division and a playoff spot. Outstanding work boys!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Talking Plank - Week 14

The Talking Plank -

Falcons At Bucs:

After a disappointing loss in Houston, the Bucs come home to face their Division rivals, the Atlanta Falcons. The Bucs still need to win a game, or have the Saints lose one, in order to clinch the Division. If they hope to do so, they really need to take care of business this week by sealing the deal against the Falcons. The Bucs weren't, as a team, very happy with last week's flat performance, and will likely come out fired up in this game. The Falcons, on the other hand, will be coming in without their head coach, and on their third QB, Chris Redman, who wasn't even in football the last 4 years. The Falcons' players may be looking to show what they are worth, but the reality is, if they get behind, they'll fold like a cheap tent. It's important that the Bucs come out flying on defense and strike early on offense. If the Bucs can get two scores up early in this game, it will make the Falcons want to curl up into the fetal position. If they are allowed to hang around for a while, then they may be able to do something, and even steal the game.

On Offense, the Bucs will be getting Garica back and will come into this contest ranked 19th overall in total yards (323.6/g), 19th in points (19.6/g), 17th in passing yards (207.6/g), and 10th in rushing yards (116/g). The Falcons' defense is 24th in yards allowed (343.5/g), 22nd in points allowed (23.5/g), 19th against the pass (219.8y/g), and 27th against the run (123.7y/g). With Garcia back at the helm, look for the Bucs to try and get up early on the Falcons, then start to grind it out with Graham. The Falcons have had problems all year against the run, allowing Graham to run for 6 yards a pop the last time these met as the Bucs put up 149 yards rushing. Garcia hit Galloway on a nice double move for a 44 yard bomb, and will probably look for the right moment to catch Hall being too aggressive again. Garcia was sacked just once in the last game, but was hurried a few times. With Penn having gotten some experience against Abraham, he should be able to hold up well again. With Coleman and Lewis both being placed on IR after the last game between these two teams, the Bucs will have a lot less to worry about from Atlanta's front four. One question mark for the Bucs is Ike Hilliard who looked like he might be out for this game, but then came in and was able to practice fully this week. Even though he may be able to go, Gruden may choose to try and get Clayton more reps, as he started last week and managed to haul in 4 passes for 39 yards and appears ready to continue what he was starting to do before he injured his ankle. The Bucs could really benefit big time if Clayton was able to really come on during the next three games and re-establish himself, and I think Gruden may be thinking the same thing while hoping he can limit Ike's role so that he can get healthy for the playoffs. To be honest, while I expect the Falcons' defense to fly around early, with the injuries up front, and the overall atmosphere in Atlanta, the Bucs should be able to really move the ball all game long and put up some impressive point totals.

On Defense, the Bucs come in ranked 3rd in yards allowed (289.2/g), 2nd in points allowed (16.5/g), 4th against the pass (185.8y/g), and 15th against the run (103.3y/g). The Falcons' offense comes in at 24th in total yards (301.1/g), 30th in points scored (14.2/g), 16th in passing yards (209.7/g), and 26th in rushing yards (91.4/g). With Chris Redman (think Brooks pick against the Ravens in 2002 for a TD) playing, even though he's been playing somewhat well, the Falcons are still not able to consistently move the ball. Dunn hasn't been able to consistently get good runs, and Norwood is still not doing enough on every down to warrant staying in, though his run average is considerably better than Dunn's. Roddy White is questionable with a knee injury, so even if he plays, he's not likely to be able to get the separation he has in the past. The Falcons will have Horn for this game, but he's been somewhat ineffective this season when he's played. If White is out, or ineffective, it will seriously hinder the Falcons' offense. The Bucs will start by trying to stop Dunn and Norwood. If they can do that, and force the Falcons to pass (which they did the last time), then the Bucs should be able to take advantage of the match-ups up front and get to Redman and force some problems. The Falcons have, after all, given up 42 sacks (league high), and gave up 4 sacks to the Bucs the last time around. I see Adams, White, and Haye having a strong game and getting 4-5 sacks between them. I also see Redman getting hurried a lot, and he has thrown a couple of picks in limited action. Look for the Bucs secondary to really clamp down on an out of his prime Horn, and a less than 100% White. Jenkins could still be a problem, and will likely still be the number 1 or 2 receiver, but the Bucs will try to limit him when they can. Crumpler will probably be forced to stay in and block a lot, but Cato June did a pretty decent job limiting the number of catches he had, though not necessarily the yardage. I suspect the Falcons will have a tough time getting yardage, much less points.

On Special Teams, the Bucs look to rebound after allowing a kick return for a TD. The Bucs had been one of the best teams in the league in keeping kick returners under control. The Bucs are still only allowing 19.1 yards per kick return and 7.2 per punt. The Bucs are getting 23.1 and 7.3 per kick and punt return themselves. The Falcons are allowing 22.4 per kick and 8.1 per punt, while getting 23.8 and 6.2 themselves. Both punters are good and the kickers are both good, though Bryant has more range. Andersen has missed 3 of 7 FG attempts beyond the 40 and inside the 50, and hasn't attempted a 50+ yet this season. Bryant has only missed one between the 40 and 50 yard range, on 6 attempts. He has missed all three 50+ yard attempts this season. The Bucs nearly got a kick return for a TD themselves when Spurlock broke off a big return to the Texans' 47 yard line. If he had cut it back inside and gotten past the kicker, he'd have been gone, but he ran toward the sideline, and got pulled down. Who knows? Maybe the Bucs can rip one off and get that monkey off their back. I think they might get a good shot at it in this game. In general, if the Bucs can win the field position battle, this won't be a game.

The Falcons only real hope in this game is staying close early and getting some turnovers. If that doesn't happen, which I don't think it will, then this game will turn into a blow out. I see the Bucs coming out pissed and ready to win the Division outright.

Bucs 35 Falcons 10.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Petrino Resigns From Falcons!

In a "Ha! Ha!" moment, the news came out that Bobby Petrino has resigned from the Falcons job to take over at Arkansas. While some think the Falcons may come out swinging, which they may, the reality is the Falcons will be in disarray, and they still suck. Nothing will change that. They may fight harder to "prove" it was Petrino, but the reality is the Falcons just don't have enough talent on the team to get it done consistently, and Petrino's brain farts were simply a contributor. In the NFL you win and lose more so on talent and team chemistry, than coaching, though coaching clearly has a significant role.

So the Bucs will be facing a team in turmoil looking to try to prove they have what it takes to win without the head coach. I think the Bucs will be coming back pissed off and wanting to tear the Falcons apart to prove that the Texans' game was just a let down on their parts, and that they want to win the Division outright. My, how that franchise has suddenly fallen apart. "Ha! Ha!" :p

Bucs Lose To Texans 14-28

Well, that game was a stinker. Took me a day to really let go of it and get back into football as the Bucs had opportunities in that game, despite coming out flat, and yet couldn't muster enough plays to get it done. I probably should have seen this game coming, considering the youngsters on the team and the emotional game they had won the prior week against the Saints. Sometimes teams just come out flat, and you can't expect to beat a quality team like the Texans by playing flat. Now the Bucs have to move on knowing they still didn't clinch the South because the Saints won last night. The Panthers, at least, are out of the running.

On Offense, the Bucs really struggled to find a groove early, but then responded with a nice long drive after a turnover to punch the ball in. They later responded to the second half TD kick return by driving the ball right down the field on a couple of big plays to score a TD in just over 2 minutes. There was one opportunity that the Bucs had to tie the game when Galloway got open deep, but Luke overthrew him by about 2 yards. Then the Texans got the ball, fumbled it to the Bucs, but then the Bucs gave it right back when Wade decided to snap the ball back to McCown when he wasn't looking for the ball. That led to the Texans going 17 yards for a TD which effectively ended the game. Graham had problems running to the left early, but then the Bucs started running to the right with very good success, then found some success going back against the left. Unfortunately, the Bucs got down by 2 TD's rather early, and it kept them from really running as much as they would have liked. The offensive line was alright in pass protection, but not great, and Luke didn't help by holding onto the ball way too often at times, and taking sacks needlessly. He almost looks like Rob Johnson at times, taking 4 sacks, 3 of which were avoidable. When Luke learns how to make quicker decisions and get rid of the ball, he'll be a starting caliber QB. Galloway was somewhat quite for most of the game which left others open underneath. Hilliard was having a solid game until he got hit awkwardly and fumbled the ball. That fumble led to a Texans TD, and Hilliard went out of the game. Clayton had a nice game getting 4 receptions for 39 yards, and he may be replacing Hilliard down the stretch if Ike can't go. Overall, the offense was good in spurts, but could never really sustain drives throughout the course of the game. That goes back to a combination of them being flat and being led by a young, inexperienced QB going up against a defense that has some good young talent that was having a good day.

On Defense, the Bucs only gave up two drives of any length, and only allowed 257 yards. They held the Texans to just 2.6 yards per carry as well. Unfortunately, they had a tough time actually getting the Texans to fail to convert on third down, as they ripped off 10 of 17 conversions (59%). That meant some drives chewed up clock, even if they didn't go far. The Texans also benefited with two short TD drives (23 and 17 yards) and a kick returned for a TD. The Bucs' defense otherwise held the Texans' offense in check. Without the two turnovers and the kick return, the Texans may have been lucky to even score 10 points. The one disturbing thing was a lack of hurries. While the Bucs had 3 sacks, including a White/Adams QB sandwhich that resulted in a fumble, they otherwise gave Rosenfels way too much time for much of the game. White seemed to be able to generate the most consistent pass rush (wait until next year when he doesn't have over 10 games from the AFL heading into the NFL season!). Adams had a couple of key plays, but wasn't has good in the pass rush as he had been the last two weeks. The linebackers got beat on a couple of mis-matches, but were solid otherwise. Ruud has, however, seemingly hit a wall the last couple of weeks. He needs a nice wake up call to get back to that Pro-Bowl level he played at for most of the season. The secondary played a little too lose for my taste, and should have been a little more aggressive and jumped some routes that were being used a lot. Overall, with the exception of too many 3rd down conversions, which led to some drives that took a lot of time, the defense played well.

On Special Teams, the unit needs to relearn geometry, as some bad angles were taken on that returned kick. If the Bucs had stopped the Texans from scoring like that, the Bucs might have been able to come back in this game, but that one play put them in a big hole that they could never recover from. Spurlock nearly returned the favor getting to mid-field on a long return. Overall, with the one expection, the coverage units did well, and the return units did OK. There weren't any field goal attempts, so there is nothing to comment on there. This unit did alright, but that one costly mistake did us in.

Coaching was alright, but couldn't get the team out of the funk it was in. Gruden started off with a decent game plan, but it kind of degraded into the "drop back" show. Gruden was a little quick to abandon the run, but, with the team getting behind early, it was almost a necessity. Monte had his troops ready to stop the Texans, which they did on all but one lengthy drive. A little more blitzing may have helped though. Special Teams coaching was fine this week, though that one mistake is a big blemish on the unit.

Time to regroup and take the Falcons down.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Talking Plank - Week 13

The Talking Plank -

Bucs At Texans:

With the defeat of the Saints last week, the Bucs can wrap up the division by winning this game. Furthermore, with Green Bay having QB health concerns, the Bucs can stay on pace to try and catch up to the Packers, and possibly unseat them for the 2nd seed. A win against the Texans, and a loss by the Packers, would put the Bucs just one game behind them. Of course, the Packers have the Raiders this week and the Rams next, but you never know. The Texans are pretty much sliding out of contention in the AFC and would be on life support with a loss this week (sound familiar?). So who can prevail in this game? Let's look.

On Offense, the Bucs are currently 19th in yards per game (325.2/g), 19th in points scored (20.1/g), 17th in passing (205.4y/g), and 11th rushing (119.8y/g). They will face the Texans' defense, which is 21st overall in yards allowed (337.9/g), 26th in points allowed (24.2/g), 16th against the pass (215.8y/g), and 25th against the run (122.2y/g). What first strikes me is the size of the line and the lack of a great set of linebackers behind it. That leads to the high number of yards allowed rushing, as well as the 4.5 yards per carry allowed. This is despite the fact that they haven't played a lot of great running teams this season. The Texans have also only managed to get 19 sacks this season, with Mario Williams (last year's Gaines Adams) getting 8.5 of them. Amobi Okoye has 5 sacks as well, but none since the Bye week. Look for the Bucs to pound it right at the Texans small defensive line. They should be able to move them completely off the ball and get to the Texans' average linebackers. One of the interesting things about this game will be who ends up actually quarterbacking the offense. Garcia will be a game time decision, but I have a feeling that McCown might end up going again, with maybe Garcia being the back-up to come in if Luke struggles. McCown tore up the Texans in preseason, and I can't really think of any reason why he couldn't do it again, as he's seen live play in the regular season, and has enough years of study to recognize most defensive fronts. Whoever goes, they should be able to take advantage of some match-ups in the secondary. The Texans' defense hasn't managed a lot of interceptions (4 less than the Bucs), and I can see Galloway getting free at least a couple of times in the game. This would be a good game for Clayton to get a lot of work in to see if he can start to get it going again, as he would have a nice size advantage on everyone out there. Look for the Bucs to rack up well over 100 yards rushing and do some nice things through the air while putting up some points.

On Defense, the Bucs are currently 4th in yards allowed (291.8/g), 2nd in points allowed (15.6/g), 4th in pass defense (185.8y/g), and 16th against the run (106y/g). The Texans' offense is currently 9th in total yards (344.4y/g), 16th in points scored (21.9/g), 6th passing (251y/g), and just 23rd rushing (93.4y/g). The Texans will be without Ahman Green and Matt Schaub. The means it will be the Rosenfels and Dayne show. Dayne is a big back, but he's not very fast, and the Bucs have had a habit this season of coming up and whacking the bigger, slower backs. Look for Dayne to get hit hard a lot, and possibly drop the ball once or twice. Ruud could have a big game, along with Phillips, in run support. The Texans will surely try to test the run defense early, but won't be shy passing the ball either. They currently have 45 more pass attempts than the Bucs. The one big Achilles heel for the Texans' passing attack is the shear number of picks. Rosenfels, in spot duty, already has 7 picks to go with 8 TD's. The Bucs have been much more opportunistic the last few weeks, and that could be a big factor in this game. The Texans haven't been giving up many sacks this season, with only 18 allowed so far this season, but he Bucs' defensive line has started to catch fire, evidenced by 3 sacks against Brees last week, who had only been sacked 8 times all season before last week's game. The Texans don't have an overpowering offensive line and can be beat. I expect the continuing maturation of Adams to be a big factor in this game. If the Bucs can consistently pressure Rosenfels, they can make him throw some bad passes and take advantage of it. Even if he does complete passes regularly, the Bucs can rack up some big hits on the Texans' receivers and Tight Ends. There's 9 fumbles amongst the two groups, with Daniels, the TE, being the biggest single culprit with 4 fumbles. The backs also have 3 fumbles. Overall the Texans are -10 and have a league worst 31 turnovers. Expect the defense to come out hitting hard and trying to strip the ball out and step in front of passes. While the Texans will move the ball at times, I expect the surging defense to force some turnovers and stop the Texans enough to make their lives very difficult.

On Special Teams, the Bucs come in with one of the best kick coverage units in the league (17.6y/g) and one of the better punt coverage teams (7.6y/g). They will have to be playing well as the Texans have a solid special teams unit averaging 23.4 yards per kick and 9 yards per punt return. Conversely, the Bucs are averaging 22.6 yards per kick return and only 7.4 yards per punt. They should be able to find some room returning against the Texans, who are allowing 23.7 yards per kick 8.6 yards per punt return. Their punter, Turk, is a good punter, though, and may pin the Bucs back at times. Kris Brown is a very good field goal kicker as well, which will match up strongly against Bryant. Bidwell will need to make sure his punts are solid. The game could loom on starting field position, and the Bucs aren't likely to have too much of an edge in this game. It's crucial that the Bucs pin the Texans back as often as possible to force them to go the length of the field and increase the likelihood that they'll make a critical mistake. I think the Bucs might struggle with field position after punts, but after kicks should be fine, though I'm hoping we only return one kick.

Overall, the Bucs are the better team, and are playing with a team concept. This team is strongly committed to each other and the coaching staff, and I expect them to come out and really try to take it to the Texans early and try to hit them in the mouth and see if they recoil and drop a few balls. If the Bucs' defense comes out swinging hard, then this game won't be too much of a contest. If they take the Texans likely, then anything can happen. I expect the Bucs to play this game much like last week, and to take the Division crown home by sealing the deal.

Bucs 24 Texans 16

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Why The Saints Fumbled

While I think many can argue that the double reverse was a bad play-call for the Saints to run at that time, the play itself wasn't the reason for the fumble. Teams execute that play quite often, in fact. What really caused that fumble, which can be verified by watching that play closely, was Gaines Adams forcing the LT into the path of the receiver. Gaines shoved that LT back so fast, than Devery Henderson had to run a little wider than normal, and it forced Bush to slow up a little just before he tossed the ball back.

That one moment led to a fumble that the Bucs' defense was able to pounce on, giving the Bucs an opportunity to win the game, which they did. Adams had another stellar day against the Saints, getting a sack against the least sacked QB in the league. His ability to continually chase backs down from behind continues to impress me. Adams' other big play came when he beat the RT and quickly converged on Brees, who stepped up right into Barber's hands. Many thought Adams was a bust in process, but he's clearly coming on strong and starting to consistently make plays. We should see him rack up another 3 or 4 sacks in the remaining 4 games and continue to rack up tackles. As his numbers, and effort, will show at the end of the season, he's clearly not a bust. If he comes back next year and gets consistent pressure while maintaining his run responsibilities, he could be a great one next season and beyond.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Bucs Win 27-23!

What a game. So many highs and lows late that I think I might need some prozac now. In any case, the Bucs all but wrapped up the division with this win. The Bucs will have to lose all 4 of their remaining games for anyone else to even have a chance to beat us out. Just one more win, or a lose by the Saints and Panthers, and it's a wrap.

McCown, save a couple of bad plays, was outstanding for most of this game completing 78% of his passes for 313 yards and 2 TD's. The pick was more a miscommunication than a bad play on his part. Two of the sacks, including the one for the safety, were boneheaded plays that he needs to avoid by throwing the ball away. Beyond that, he had a great game, including a clutch throw late to win it, and some outstanding play-action fakes, including one for a TD that fooled the camera man and myself. Graham had another outstanding game, and went for over 100 yard yet again, including an excellent 25 yard TD run. The line was very good today as well, and Galloway just killed the Saints early, finishing with 159 yards on 7 catches.

The defense managed to hold the Saints offense down most of the game but had two bad plays that ended up being TD makers for the Saints. Those two bombs, one for a TD and another that setup a TD, nearly killed an otherwise stellar performance. Jackson needs to get his head on a swivel as that TD bomb should have been better defended. The Bucs held the Saints well under 300 yards of offense, and made Brees look rather pedestrian. The Saints had also only given up 8 sacks coming in. They now have 11 with 5 of those coming from us, as the Bucs defense racked up 3 sacks today. Adams was stellar, getting one sack and forcing Brees up into the arms of Barber, who got a sack. The line managed to harass Brees off and on, and it was just enough to keep him from getting going too often. The defense only allowed 14 points, again, to the explosive Saints offense.

Special teams were excellent on punt and kick coverage, allowing no punt return yardage on two punts, and holding the Saints to just 14.7 yards per kick return. The return units weren't all that hot, but managed to do better on kick returns than punts. Bryant was solid, but missed a makeable 52 yard FG attempt.

Gruden has got to get big kudos for this game. His 4th and 1 call was gutsy, but it paid off. He kept the playbook open for this game, despite having McCown in there, and started the game off by using all types of short and intermediate quick passes to slow the Saints up and get McCown off to a hot start. This is probably one of the best coached games that I have seen Gruden coach. He had this team ready to kick butt, and it did. The defense and special teams did what they needed to do as well, though I think I would have liked to see Monte use a few more blitzes. All in all it was a fun game to watch, and the Bucs have now cemented their spot at the top of the Division. Now can they make a run for the first round Bye? They'll need to win out and hope Green Bay drops a couple of games.

The Talking Plank - Week 12

The Talking Plank -

Bucs at Saints:

This is it. By "it" I mean this is the game that can just about sew up the Division crown. If the Bucs win this game, then they only need one more win, or one loss by the Saints and Panthers, to win the Division. If the Bucs lose, the Saints will erase the current advantage, and make it a tight race going down the stretch. So let's look at this match-up.

On Offense, the Bucs are currently rated 19th overall (312.4y/g), 20th in points (19.5/g), 19th passing (197.4y/g), and 13th rushing (115y/g). They will face the Saints' 22nd ranked defense (341.3y/g), 21st in points allowed (22.9/g), 27th against the pass (245.5y/g), and 9th against the run (95.8y/g). The Bucs' offensive stats took a hit last week when Gradkowski came in and was horribly ineffective. This week the Bucs may be without Garcia from the start again. This time, however, they've had time to prepare their back-ups. McCown looks to be the guy to start in Garcia's place. If Garcia can continue to heal and actually play, the Bucs offense will exploit a pathetic New Orleans' secondary. The same one they exploited early in often in the first match-up, before switching to a running game late to maintain the lead. If McCown goes, a lot will depend on the protection. The Saints' pass rush hasn't been very effective and failed to get to Garcia in the first game. They had 19 sacks to date, which isn't going to scare a lot of teams. I expect the offensive line to give the QB enough time to take advantage of the Saints, even if they bring the blitz. If that's the case, and assuming Luke can get back to reading the play as quick as he did during the preseason, then he'll be very effective against this secondary, though picks are still a concern. I also look for Graham to have a pretty solid game and for Gruden to use Bennett to attack the edges and run right by the somewhat big and slow linebackers of the Saints. They are vulnerable on the edges. Barring a return by Gradkowski, or an awful effort by the line, the Bucs' offense will put up some points against the Saints' defense.

On Defense, the Bucs have slipped slightly down in some stats, but come in 6th in yards allowed (296.0/g), 2nd in points (14.9/g), 5th against the pass (188y/g), and 17th against the run (108y/g). The Saints offense, which is playing better now, is ranked 8th overall (353.8y/g), 15th in points (22.1/g), 5th passing (266.6y/g), and 28th rushing (86.2y/g). The Bucs' first order of business will be to stuff Bush, then, as he's used, Stecker. The Bucs shouldn't have much of a problem doing this. From there, they will have to stop Brees in the passing game. He's only been sacked 8 times this season, but 2 came from the Bucs in week 2. The Bucs' defensive line has been getting better the last few weeks, and should continue to get pressure on Brees, though they may not get the sack. Brees has thrown 15 picks versus 18 TD's this season, and the Bucs are starting to really rack up the turnovers. With Barber having gotten off the snide, it may start raining for him. I expect the Bucs to take it away from the Saints on a couple of occasions to end good drives. It will be tough to stop them all game long, however, so the Bucs must come to play. Look for some hard hitting on playes like Colston, to make sure that the arms are a little shorter and a little less likely to grab the catch. If the Bucs can hold the Saints' offense down, which I think they will, then that could be enough to get the Saints to press on both sides of the ball and take some dumb chances. If the Bucs keep their cool, they could end up virtually knocking the Saints out of contention.

On Special Teams, the Bucs continue to cover punts extremely well which they will need to do against the Saints. Currently the Bucs are allowing 7.6 yards per punt return and 18 yards per kick return. The Saints are getting 9.1 per punt, and just 22.1 per kick, so the Bucs should be able to keep the kick returns in check. Who wins the punt coverage/return battle is hard too say. The Bucs are returning kicks and punt at an average of 8 yards per punt, and 22.6 yards per kick, while the Saints are allowing 10 and 22.7 respectively. If the Bucs can win the field position battle, it will help them tremendously in this game. Both punters are excellent, but the Bucs have the clear advantage in the field goal department as Mare is going downhill.

Overall, I think the Bucs will find a way to score points, and the Bucs' renewed defense will find a way to make life real difficult for Brees, much like Campbell last week. I see the Bucs pulling this out and taking a commanding lead in the Division.

Bucs 27 Saints 17