Bucs Game Grades

September 23 - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the St. Louis Rams, 26-14, in Raymond James Stadium on Monday night. The Bucs' defense dominated and its offense did enough to secure a win. Which players fared well? Which players didn't? PewterReport.com has distributed grades based on the Buccaneers' performance against the Rams on Monday night.

QUARTERBACKS
Tampa Bay QB Brad Johnson moved the chains against St. Louis and remained interceptionless this season. Johnson completed 5-of-5 passes to start the game, but his first incompletion stalled a drive in Rams territory and the Bucs had to settle for a field goal. But Johnson led the team to scores on three of its first four drives. He was given plenty of time to throw, especially in the first half. Johnson was accurate and made good decisions in terms of distributing the ball. The only knock on Johnson would be the fact that he didn't throw any balls downfield to some open receivers, especially in the red zone. Johnson completed 23-of-32 passes for 199 yards and threw one touchdown.

*Tampa Bay completed just 3-of-11 third downs (27 percent).

GRADE: B


RUNNING BACKS
Bucs RB Mike Pittman carried the ball 11 times for 53 yards (4.8 avg.). Pittman ran the ball hard and effectively. He was on pace for a 100-yard game, but he only received 11 carries because Brad Johnson threw the ball 32 times. Pittman bailed Tampa Bay's offense out near its own goal line and he picked up a couple of key first downs. Pittman also caught six passes for 28 yards.

Tampa Bay FB Mike Alstott played more as a lead blocker than he did as a carrier or receiver while Jameel Cook was inactive. The "A-Train" got his first carry on the first play of the fourth quarter. Alstott picked up a first down on the carry. Alstott muscled his way into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The touchdown was setup by cornerback Brian Kelly after he intercepted QB Kurt Warner two plays earlier. Alstott also hauled in a pass for a 10-yard gain. He didn't get the ball until late, but he certainly made the best of the opportunities he did receive.

*Tampa Bay had 63 yards net rushing against St. Louis. The running backs did a nice job of picking up blitzes.

GRADE: B


WIDE RECEIVERS:
Bucs WR Keenan McCardell caught two passes on the opening drive, including a 17-yarder. McCardell hauled in a pass in the third quarter, but had it pulled out of his arms by CB Aeneas Williams, which gave the Rams offense possession on Tampa Bay's 39-yard line. McCardell had three catches for 17 yards.

Tampa Bay WR Keyshawn Johnson made a nice 21-yard grab down the sideline on the second drive of the first quarter. He did a great job of keeping his feet in bounds after going up high for the throw. Johnson hauled in a nice catch for a first down on a third-down play after running a slant on the same drive. Johnson's third catch of the game picked up seven yards and setup Gramtica's second field goal of the game. Johnson was called for a false start on Tampa Bay's third drive of the game. Johnson made a tremendous catch on third-and-14 in the second quarter with 2:00 remaining. He slid and grabbed the ball with his fingertips and hauled in the pass before sliding out of bounds. Johnson caught four passes for 59 yards. He and Jon Gruden got into another sideline argument in the second half, but this one was much more heated.

GRADE: B


TIGHT ENDS:
Tampa Bay TE Ken Dilger had a fantastic game against St. Louis. He hauled in a pass on the opening play for a 9-yard gain. Dilger caught another pass on the first drive for an 8-yard gain. Dilger caught another pass for a first down in Rams territory. He caught five passes for 38 yards and also did a good job of blocking for the running game.

Bucs tight end Rickey Dudley, who signed with the team earlier in the week, hauled in a 9-yard touchdown pass with under 1:00 remaining in the first half. The touchdown was made possible by DE Simeon Rice's interception. Dudley caught his second pass of the game on a screenplay in the third quarter, which gained six yards. Dudley caught two passes for 15 yards. Marco Battalgia did not play while Todd Yoder saw most of his action special teams.

GRADE: B


OFFENSIVE LINE:
Tampa Bay right tackle Kenyatta Walker was flagged for a false start on the Bucs' second offensive drive of the game. Walker was beat by Leonard Little in the third quarter, which allowed Little to sack Johnson and cause a fumble. But LT Roman Oben recovered on Tampa Bay's offensive line. Speaking of Oben, he had a terrific first half, but was inconsistent in the second half. Walker suffered a sprained ankle on the first play of the fourth quarter on Alstott's run. He did not return. Cornell Green filled in for Walker.

Bucs left guard Kerry Jenkins was called for a false start in the second quarter, which turned a third-and-1 into a third-and-6. Jenkins was flagged for tripping two plays later, which negated a first down pass from Johnson to McCardell. But Jenkins was bailed out by Keyshawn Johnson, who hauled in a catch for a first down after the penalties. Jenkins suffered a broken left fibula and missed the entire second half. Todd Washington took his place.

Tampa Bay right guard Cosey Coleman was flagged for a false start on Tampa Bay's drive with just under 4:00 remaining in the game. But he had a very good game in terms of blocking. So did center Jeff Christy.

*Tampa Bay's offensive line only allowed one sack and provided Brad Johnson with a good amount of time to throw. They also opened up some nice holes in the passing game and performed well considering they lost two starters to injuries.

GRADE: B+


DEFENSIVE LINE:
Bucs defensive tackle Anthony McFarland raised some serious havoc in the trenches against St. Louis. He made a great tackle on Marshall Faulk's first carry. McFarland took Faulk down in the backfield again on St. Louis' second drive of the game. McFarland caused the Rams to double cover him more and Warren Sapp less, which boded well for the Bucs' defense. McFarland recorded three tackles.

Tampa Bay defensive end Simeon Rice might have had the best game of all Tampa's defensive linemen. He made a huge play when he intercepted Warner's pass in the red zone, which halted a drive that could have resulted in a field goal or touchdown in the second quarter. Instead of rushing, the defensive play called for Rice to drop back into pass coverage, which allowed Rice to catch the ball. He also returned the interception to near mid-field. Tampa Bay's offense made the most of Rice' interception by scoring a touchdown just before the first half ended. Rice put a crushing blow on Warner on the last play of the second half when he beat LT Orlando Pace and crushed Warner as he launched the ball downfield. Rice's hit caused Warner's pass to fall short and FS Dexter Jackson was able to intercept to end the half. Rice, who is a starter at right end, saw action at left end as well and put tremendous pressure on Warner. He caused a fumble in the third quarter after being held, but the Rams recovered. Rice recorded two tackles and was practically unstoppable on Monday night.

Bucs DT Warren Sapp recorded a sack on St. Louis' first offensive series of the second half. It was an 11-yard sack. Sapp took advantage of the one-on-one matchup he received. He recorded two tackles and hurried Kurt Warner on several occasions. Sapp made a punishing block on Warner during LB Derrick Brooks' interception return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Tampa Bay DE Greg Spires sacked Warner on the last play of the game. Spires was quick coming off of the line and recorded two tackles. Ellis Wyms also recorded a sack.

*Tampa Bay sacked St. Louis QB Kurt Warner five times and hurried him on over 20 occasions. They also held the Rams to 89 yards net rushing.

GRADE: A-


LINEBACKERS:
Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks did a nice job of containing Rams RB Marshall Faulk. He made two open-field tackles on him, the second of which injured Faulk in the second quarter. Faulk did not return, which had a huge impact on the game. Brooks dropped an interception in the third quarter. He got one hand on it and it would've been a nice grab, but Brooks couldn't hold on. Brooks missed the fourth quarter with a hamstring pull. But he entered the game on St. Louis'last drive with 1:00 minute remaining and came up with what might have been the biggest play of the game when he intercepted Warner and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown, which put the Bucs up for good, 26-14. Brooks made a terrific read on the ball and hobbled into the end zone after Warren Sapp put a great block on Kurt Warner. Brooks ran into the tunnel after the score and didn't return. Brooks recorded six tackles.

Middle linebacker Shelton Quarles made a nice pass breakup in the end zone on St. Louis' third offensive drive of the game. The ball actually hit him in the helmet, but it prevented the Rams from scoring. Quarles sacked Warner on a delayed blitz in the third quarter. The sack went for an 8-yard loss. Quarles was called for a personal foul on the same drive for leading with the helmet on a tackle. He did a nice job against the run and recorded seven tackles.

Bucs LB Al Singleton recorded eight tackles. He had to leave the game after banging his head in the fourth quarter, which is why Brooks returned to action. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Bucs.

*Tampa Bay's defense only allowed St. Louis to convert 5-of-13 third downs.

GRADE: A


SECONDARY:
Tampa Bay's defense allowed St. Louis's offense to march 91 yards downfield for a touchdown on its opening-drive. But after that, they practically dominated the game. Of course, the absence of Marshall Faulk helped, too.

Bucs CB Ronde Barber came oh-so-close to intercepting a pass thrown by Warner in the second quarter, but he couldn't hold onto the ball. If Barber could have held onto it, he probably would have returned it over 50 yards for a touchdown. Barber had a great game and quietly led the team in tackles with 11.

Bucs CB Brian Kelly was called for holding on St. Louis' third drive of the game, which gave the Rams a first down inside Tampa Bay territory. But Kelly, who is not known for creating turnovers, came up with a huge interception in the fourth quarter. He read Warner and jumped the pass intended for RB Trung Canidate. Kelly grabbed the pass and took off for the end zone. He brought the ball back 31 yards to St. Louis' 1-yard line. It only took Tampa Bay's offense two plays to get the ball into the end zone for a touchdown. The score put Tampa Bay up, 19-7. Kelly positioned himself nicely in the end zone later in the fourth quarter to prevent WR Isaac Bruce from hauling in a pass for a touchdown. Kelly recorded six tackles.

Bucs free safety Dexter Jackson intercepted Warner's last pass of the first half after DE Simeon Rice crushed Warner and caused his pass to fall short. Jackson was flagged for taking his helmet off in the third quarter after Shelton Quarles was penalized for a personal foul. The Rams accepted Quarles' penalty and negated Jackson's. Tampa Bay's entire defense failed to stop RB Lamar Gordon on fourth-and inches late in the fourth quarter, but Jackson missed a tackle on Gordon, which allowed him to race 20 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Jackson recorded seven tackles.

Bucs SS John Lynch dropped an interception in the third quarter. He made a couple of nice tackles and recorded five tackles. Lynch also played fairly well against the run, but didn't play the run as often as he usually does because Kurt Warner threw 45 times.

Rams QB Kurt Warner completed 30-of-45 passes for 301 yards, but he didn't throw any touchdown passes and threw four interceptions, including two by the secondary.

GRADE: B+


SPECIAL TEAMS:
Bucs kicker Martin Gramatica made a 38-yard field goal in the first quarter after Tampa Bay's opening drive stalled. Gramatica attempted his second field goal of the game after the Bucs' second offensive drive stalled. It was a 47-yarder and he drilled it to cut the Rams lead to 7-6. Gramatica was 2-of-2 on field goal attempts on Monday night.

Tampa Bay safety David Gibson made an awesome tackle on the kickoff after Gramatica drilled a 38-yard field goal in the first quarter. Todd Yoder made a nice tackle on the second kickoff of the game after Gramatica's 47-yard field. Dwight Smith made a nice tackle on the opening kickoff in the second half.

Tampa Bay RB Aaron Stecker and LB Al Singleton were both called for holding on Tampa Bay's first punt return of the second half, which pinned the offense back on its own 3-yard line. Stecker averaged just over 25 yards per kickoff return.

Bucs punter Tom Tupa pinned St. Louis' offense inside its own 5-yard line with just over 2:00 minutes remaining in the gam, which was big.

GRADE: A-


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