Bucs Game Grades

November 26 – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers saved their season by defeating the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football, 24-17. Tampa Bay's defense stole the show by intercepting Rams QB Kurt Warner twice and recovering 3-of-4 St. Louis fumbles. The Pewter Pirates special teams contributed by blocking a punt and the offense made enough plays to leave St. Louis victorious. Buccaneer Magazine dishes out game grades based on the Bucs' gutsy performance against the Rams on Monday night.

QUARTERBACKS

QB BRAD JOHNSON: Completed 21-of-34 passes for 185 yards and threw one interception. Johnson played an excellent game until the second-to-last offensive drive of the game, where he overthrew a wide open TE Todd Yoder and then threw a critical interception to Brian Young on a pass intended for TE Dave Moore. Now that the negatives are out of the way, Johnson helped the offense convert 7-of-15 third downs, and engineered a huge 11-play, 68 yard touchdown drive to start the third quarter. On that drive, Johnson completed passes on three third downs to keep the drive alive. Johnson picked up a big first down late in the fourth quarter on a fourth down and 1 situation deep in Rams territory, but was intercepted by Young a few plays later. Johnson didn't receive much help from his wide receivers on Monday night. They dropped several passes, which would have kept drives going. Johnson also benefited from being provided a substantial amount of time to throw against the St. Louis defense.

GRADE: B

RUNNING BACKS:

FB MIKE ALSTOTT: The A-Train rushed 11 times for 34 yards(3.1 avg.). Alstott ran for touchdowns of 7 and 8 yards. Alstott's 7-yard touchdown run came with 1:41 left in the second quarter and gave the Bucs a 7-3 lead. It capped a 54 yard drive that was set up by DT Warren Sapp's fumble recovery. Alstott's 8-yard touchdown run capped an 11 play 88 yard drive and gave Tampa Bay a 17-9 lead in the beginning of the third quarter. Alstott also contributed in the passing game, where he hauled in five passes for 31 yards. One of Alstott's catches was on a third-and-6 and he gained enough for the first down.

RB WARRICK DUNN: Dunn rushed 14 times for 60 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. Dunn broke a run to the outside and sprinted down the sideline for a 21-yard touchdown. It proved to be the game-winner. Like Alstott, Dunn also contributed in the passing games by catching five passes for 46 yards, including a huge 29-yard reception in the fourth quarter on a third-and-5 play. Dunn beat Rams LB London Fletcher down the sideline and hauled in a perfect pass from B. Johnson.

*Tampa Bay gained 97 net yards rushing and rushed for three touchdowns against St. Louis' defense.

GRADE: B+

WIDE RECEIVERS:

WR KEYSHAWN JOHNSON: Johnson caught five passes for 57 yards. His longest reception of the game went for 19-yards. Johnson was well covered by Rams CB Aeneas Williams, but was still able to come up with two huge first downs. Johnson dropped a difficult reception near the end zone. He had to leap into the air and had the ball go off his fingertips and out of bounds.

WR REIDEL ANTHONY: Caught one pass for nine yards, but dropped a perfect strike down the sideline from B. Johnson on a third-and-6 play.

WR JACQUEZ GREEN: Caught one pass for 13-yards, but he too dropped an important third down pass, which would have given Tampa Bay a new set of downs.

GRADE: C+

TIGHT ENDS:

TE DAVE MOORE: Moore caught three passes for 29 yards. Two of Moore's three receptions came on third downs and were enough for first downs. Like all of the other Bucs receivers, Moore dropped a perfect pass from B. Johnson in the first quarter against the Rams. Moore did a good job of staying behind and helping the offensive line hold off St. Louis' pass attack.

GRADE: B-

OFFENSIVE LINE: Tampa Bay's offensive line had a pretty good game. After allowing B. Johnson to be sacked on the very first play of the game, he did not go down against until the fourth quarter. And even on those last two sacks, Johnson tripped while taking the snap from center. RT Jerry Wunsch was called for a false start on third-and-1, which then made it third-and-6, but he was bailed out when K. Johnson converted the third down into a first. In the fourth quarter, Wunsch was called for an illegal formation, which St. Louis declined. Wunsch did, however, make some nice blocks to help RB Warrick Dunn and FB Mike Alstott gain positive yardage against the Rams defense. LT Kenyatta Walker might have had his best game as a pro.

GRADE: B

DEFENSIVE LINE:

DT WARREN SAPP: Sapp looked like his old self against the Rams. He caused havoc early and often and finished the game with two sacks, a key forced fumble of QB Kurt Warner, a fumble recovery and a crushing body slam to Rams RB Marshall Faulk. Sapp fought through back spasms and double teams to annoy Warner and disrupt the Rams explosive passing attack all game long. Sapp had three tackles.

DE STEVE WHITE: White sacked Rams QB Kurt Warner in the second quarter and forced him to fumble. Bucs LB Shelton Quarles recovered it at the Rams 20-yard line, but the referees reviewed the play and somehow determined that Warner's arm was in a throwing motion, which allowed St. Louis to punt instead of Tampa Bay's offense taking over where the ball was fumbled. The overturned call was bogus. White shared playing time with Marcus Jones, who recorded just one tackle, but also recovered a fumble forced by Warren Sapp. White did not record a tackle.

DE SIMEON RICE: Rice had two tackles and batted a Warner pass attempt in the air for a interception opportunity for the Bucs, but the ball fell to the ground before Tampa Bay's secondary could get underneath it.

*Tampa Bay's defensive front four held Rams RB Marshall Faulk to 55 yards on 12 carries (4.6 avg.) and consistently pressured Rams QB Kurt Warner on Monday night. St. Louis only managed 76 net yards rushing at a team.

GRADE: A-

LINEBACKERS:

ROLB DERRICK BROOKS: Brooks led the Bucs in tackles with 10 (nine solo). Brooks had his most impressive game of the season in terms of tackling and pass coverage. Brooks' biggest play of the game came on first down with 2:20 left in the game. Warner and Co. were trailing the Bucs 24-17 and had plenty of time to muster a comeback, but Brooks got his fingertips on Warner's first pass attempt of the drive, which was just enough to deflect the ball directly into SS John Lynch's hands for the interception. This play secured Tampa Bay's win over St. Louis.

MLB JAMIE DUNCAN: Duncan sacked Warner on St. Louis' opening drive of the game. Duncan made a great play in pass coverage in the first quarter, but it was a play he wishes he wouldn't have made. Duncan defended a Warner pass that he really should have intercepted, but if he had not touched the ball, LB Derrick Brooks was there to make the interception himself. The Rams later settled for a field goal. Duncan had six tackles.

LOLB SHELTON QUARLES: Quarles had four tackles against the Rams. Quarles' biggest play of the game came when he forced Rams WR Isaac Bruce to fumble at midfield in the first quarter, which allowed the Bucs to recover and stall the St. Louis drive.

*Tampa Bay forced four St. Louis fumbles on Monday night. The Bucs recovered three of them. They also did an excellent job of containing Rams RB Marshall Faulk in the passing game. Faulk had just two catches for 11 yards.

GRADE: B+

SECONDARY:

CB DONNIE ABRAHAM: He didn't record a tackle as the team's nickel back, but he did come up with a huge interception in the fourth quarter. On a fourth-and-4 play in Tampa Bay territory, Abraham made an aggressive move past the Rams receiver to intercept Kurt Warner and stall St. Louis' drive. Earlier in the game, Abraham committed two penalties. The first was an illegal contact penalty, which erased a holding penalty on St. Louis. Abraham later committed an illegal block in the back, but this play took place on a punt return.

CB RONDE BARBER: Barber recorded one tackle, but he missed a golden opportunity in the first quarter when Warner threw a pass right into his hands for what should have been an interception.

CB BRIAN KELLY: Kelly recorded five tackles against the Rams. For the most part, Kelly did pretty well in terms of tackling.

SS JOHN LYNCH: Lynch fought off a calf bruise that he sustained earlier and went on to a have a great game. Lynch recorded three tackles, but more importantly came up with the game-ending interception in the fourth quarter. Brooks tipped a Warner pass and Lynch was there to pick it off. The play was ironic, seeing as Lynch secured a Bucs win last season in Week 16 against St. Louis when he intercepted Warner. Earlier in the game, Lynch came up with a couple of gutsy pass breakups and tackles. Lynch was, however, responsible for allowing the Rams to convert a huge third down play with under 1:00 left in the first half. Lynch was late coming over on the sideline and the Rams would end up kicking a field goal. But the Bucs still went into halftime with a 10-9 lead.

FS DEXTER JACKSON: Jackson recorded six tackles. Jackson was called for a questionable late hit penalty on RB Marshall Faulk when his momentum forced him to take down Faulk out of bounds, which moved the Rams half the distance to the goal line. St. Louis would go on to score a touchdown on that drive. Jackson also dropped Warner pass on third-and-10 in the fourth quarter. The ball fell right into Jackson's hands, but he couldn't hold on for the pick.

*Tampa Bay's secondary allowed Rams QB Kurt Warner to completed just 19-of-39 passes (48.7 percent) for 291 yards and one touchdown. The Bucs defense intercepted Warner twice.

GRADE: B

SPECIAL TEAMS:

K MARTIN GRAMATICA: Made 1-of-2 field goal attempts. Gramatica blew a chip shot field goal attempt after Tampa Bay recovered St. Louis' first fumble of the night. But Gramatica later drilled a 36-yard field goal in the second quarter to give Tampa Bay a 10-6 lead.

CB DWIGHT SMITH: Smith had a fantastic outing on special teams against the Rams. Smith forced Az-Zahir Hakim to fumble on a punt return, which was recovered by LB Jeff Gooch. Smith late made a nice open field tackle on a Gramatica kickoff.

CB RONDE BARBER and RB RABIH ABDULLAH Both players came up with a huge punt block late in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay's offense would not be able to get any points from this, but they were certainly able to run more time off of the clock. Abdullah was actually the one that blocked the punt, but Barber forced Rams P John Baker into him.

P MARK ROYALS: Royals punted five times and averaged 45 yards per punt.

KR FRANK MURPHY: Murphy averaged 22.5 yards per return and had four opportunities. Murphy's best return, a 35-yarder, was called back because an unidentified Bucs player held. The penalty moved the return back from the 35-yard line all the way to the 10-yard line.

GRADE: B


Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com

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