Gramatica Leads Bucs to Early Lead

For the seventh time in seven games, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't show much on offense, but the defense showed up and this time, it paid off with a 19-7 win over a Chicago Bears team that showed about 11 degrees of ineptitude on offense.

Bucs quarterback Brian Griese had his third straight solid game, cementing his jobs as the Bucs quarterback for the remainder of the season. He threw for 15-of-23 for 163 yards and a touchdown, and didn't make any mistakes as the Bucs defense sat back and let the Bears offense do absolutely nothing. Michael Pittman ran for 109 yards, but the Bucs' running game took a major hit when fullback Mike Alstott went down with a knee injury that has him sidelined for at least the next four games.

While the Bucs didn't look great on offense, a win is a win, but coach Jon Gruden chose to dwell on the bright spots.

"I'm really proud of our team,'' Gruden said. "The running game was pretty good…It's a credit to Mike Pittman who didn't look good from the beginning, coming back and helping us to victory. We're proud of our line.''

The offensive line had a solid game, but couldn't prevent the Bears defense from nailing Alstott on a short run in the second quarter.

"I'm not going to fear anything,'' Gruden said. "It is obviously very disappointing, and we just hope it isn't a sever injury.''

The Bucs were prepared for the worst, but news came on Tuesday that Alstott would only miss four games.

Tampa Bay used a minimal amount of offense, but capped off two 93-yard drives in the first half to take a 10-0 lead and coasted from there. Martin Gramatica nailed a pair of chip shot field goals and rookie Michael Clayton caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Griese. Clayton continued his quest for Rookie of the Year honors with six catches for 62 yards.

Griese also made his mark. He started the season as the clipbook-carrying No. 3 quarterback behind Brad Johnson and Chris Simms, but an injury to Simms and Johnson's struggles left Griese as the Bucs' only alternative. In three starts, the Bucs are 2-1 and, amazingly at 2-5, are still in the playoff hunt.

"We are elated,'' Griese said. "It was our first home win and a big game for us. We needed to have this win to go into the bye week with some momentum.''

Despite the 0-4 start, at 2-5 the Bucs still have a legitimate playoff opportunity in the weak NFC South. They are two games behind 5-2 Atlanta, but the Falcons fell apart in a 56-10 debacle of a loss at Kansas City on Sunday. The Bucs are 1-0 in divisional play and, after a home game against the Chiefs on Nov. 7, nearly all games are inside the division.


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