Bucs Game Grades

September 29 – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers downed the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, 35-7. The Bucs defense shutout the Bengals' offense and scored one touchdown of their own while Tampa Bay's offense got into the end zone four times. Which players fared well? Which players didn't? PewterReport.com has distributed grades based on the Buccaneers' performance against the Bengals on Sunday afternoon.

INACTIVES:

QB Shaun King, CB Tim Wansley, RB Travis Stephens, FB Jameel Cook, T Kenyatta Walker, WR Marquise Walker, WR Reggie Barlow, DT Buck Gurley


QUARTERBACKS
Tampa Bay QB Brad Johnson threw a costly interception to MLB Brian Simmons in the first quarter. Johnson was trying to hit WR Keyshawn Johnson on a slant, but Simmons jumped the route, intercepted the ball and returned the interception 45-yards for a touchdown, which put the Bengals up 7-0. Although he was under pressure often, Johnson rebounded from that mistake. He made a nice pump fake on the first play of the second quarter, which allowed TE Rickey Dudley to get wide open and haul in a 35-yard touchdown pass. That tied the game at 7-7. In the middle of the second quarter, Johnson was drilled when he threw a bomb down the left sideline, but the pass was perfect and landed right in WR Keenan McCardell's hands and he was able to stroll down the sideline and into the end zone for a 65-yard touchdown. It put the Bucs up 14-7. Johnson threw a perfect pass to TE Ken Dilger under pressure in the third quarter, which went for a 22-yard touchdown. Johnson was intercepted again late in the third quarter when his pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage. The Bengals' offense got the ball at Tampa Bay's 26-yard line.

Johnson was able to complete 19-of-30 passes for 277 yards and threw three touchdowns under tremendous pressure from Cincinnati's defense, which sent in several blitz packages throughout the game. Johnson, who threw two interceptions, wasn't perfect, but he did a great job of picking apart Cincinnati's secondary and making the defense pay for blitzing more often than not. All three of Johnson's touchdown passes were over 30 yards long.

Backup QB Rob Johnson replaced Brad Johnson with 7:00 remaining in the fourth quarter.

*Tampa Bay had 363 yards of total offense on Sunday and they were 4-of-11 on third downs.

GRADE: B+


RUNNING BACKS

Bucs running back Michael Pittman saw action as a lead blocker for RB Aaron Stecker on the team's first offensive drive of the game. He did a nice job on Stecker's carry, which went for 14 yards. But Pittman had a costly fumble on the opening drive, which was near Cincinnati's 30-yard line. Cincinnati recovered and stalled Tampa Bay's drive. Bucs QB Brad Johnson threw to Pittman out of the backfield often in the first half, but it wasn't very effective. Pittman hauled in a pass in the second quarter, which put Tampa Bay in field goal range. Pittman did a great job of pounding the ball late in the fourth quarter. He nearly broke a run for a touchdown, but was tripped up by the turf and couldn't keep his balance. That run gained 17 yards, which was his longest of the game. Pittman rushed 19 times for 54 yards (2.8 avg.). He also hauled in five passes for 27 yards, including a 17-yarder.

Stecker was flagged for a false start on Tampa Bay's third drive of the game. Stecker rushed one time for 14 yards against Cincinnati.

Tampa Bay fullback Mike Alstott dropped a pass on the sideline in the second half, which would have given the offense a first down. Instead, the Bucs had to punt. The "A-Train" had a terrific 14-yard run with 5:00 remaining in the fourth quarter, which put the offense on Cincinnati's 7-yard line. He fumbled the ball on the play, but it went out of bounds. Two plays later, Alstott nearly got the ball into the end zone, but fell just short on his run. But Alstott finally got into the end zone from 1-yard out on the next carry, which put the Bucs up, 35-7. Bucs fullback Darian Barnes did a nice job of lead blocking on that play. Alstott had seven carries for 29 yards (4.1 avg.). He also had one catch for six yards.

*Tampa Bay rushed for a total of 101 yards and averaged 3.6 yards per carry.

GRADE: B-


WIDE RECEIVERS:
Bucs wide receiver Keenan McCardell came up with a big first down catch on the team's first drive of the game. McCardell was flagged for offensive pass interference, which negated a 5-yard gain on first down on the team's second drive of the first quarter. McCardell did a nice job of shaking Artrell Hawkins in the second quarter, which allowed him to catch a pass down the sideline and score a touchdown. It was a 65-yard play, which is the longest play of the season for the Bucs. McCardell made a nice catch on third-and-long in the third quarter. It gained 16 yards and put the offense on Cincinnati's 22-yard line. McCardell caught four passes for 108 yards and scored one touchdown.

Tampa Bay WR Keyshawn Johnson hauled in a pass on the team's second drive of the game, which gained 15 yards. Johnson caught four passes in the first quarter. Johnson caught a pass across the middle of the field in the fourth quarter, which gave the offense a first down. Johnson was covered by three defenders on the play, but still managed to bring in the pass thrown by Brad Johnson. Johnson was called for unnecessary roughness in the fourth quarter. He also couldn't keep his feet in bounds on a good pass from Brad Johnson and dropped a pass thrown low to the ground on the next play. Both of those plays would've given the offense first downs. He caught five passes for 56 yards on Sunday.

Bucs WR Joe Jurevicius hauled in a first-down pass on the sideline on Tampa Bay's third drive of the game. He finished the game with one catch for 12 yards.

*Tampa Bay's wide receivers did a nice job of blocking downfield and coming up with clutch catches. They also did a good job of clearing out coverage for the tight ends.

GRADE: B


TIGHT ENDS:
Tampa Bay tight end Ken Dilger made a terrific block late in the first quarter, which allowed RB Michael Pittman to sprint up field for a big gain. Dilger got involved in the passing game in the second quarter when he hauled in a pass from Johnson in the flat and got a first down. Dilger caught a 22-yard pass from Johnson in the third quarter and did a great job of shedding tackles on his way into the end zone for a touchdown. That score put the Bucs up 28-7.

Bucs tight end Rickey Dudley's only catch of the game was a big one, which went 35 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Dudley did a nice job of breaking a couple of tackles on that play. He also made some great blocks in both the passing and running game, especially on Alsott's 14-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Tampa Bay had 17 first downs on Sunday, 11 of which were produced through the air.

GRADE: B


OFFENSIVE LINE:
Bucs left guard Kerry Jenkins started despite suffering a cracked fibula last Monday. He and Tampa Bay's offensive line did a good job of providing QB Brad Johnson with time to throw.

The Bengals' defense relentlessly blitzed the Bucs' offense, which put Brad Johnson under tremendous pressure throughout the game. Tampa Bay's offense didn't do a great job of picking those blitzes up, but they provided Johnson with enough time to throw for 262 yards and three touchdowns. The blitzes also made it tough for the offensive line to open up holes in the running game.

Bucs QB Brad Johnson was sacked twice, but hurried several times on Sunday.

GRADE: C+


DEFENSIVE LINE:
Bucs left defensive end Greg Spires was injured on Cincinnati's first drive of the game. Ellis Wyms replaced him. Wyms recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter, which was caused when Bucs DT Warren Sapp sacked QB Akili Smith. Wyms recorded one tackle against the Bengals.

Bucs DE Simeon Rice recorded a sack in the second quarter. Rice nearly intercepted a pass from QB Akili Smith in the second quarter. Rice recorded three solo tackles on Sunday.

Tampa Bay DE Anthony McFarland was called for being offside in the second quarter. But McFarland did a good job of penetrating Cincinnati's offensive line. He recorded three tackles.

Bucs DT Warren Sapp sacked QB Akili Smith in the second quarter. It was one play after McFarland's penalty. Sapp made a fantastic tackle on the next play, which stopped RB Corey Dillon at the line of scrimmage. Sapp recorded his second sack of the game in the middle of the fourth quarter. Not only did he bring Smith down, but he knocked the ball loose, which allowed Wyms to recover and give the Bucs the ball. Sapp had four tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble on Sunday.

*Tampa Bay's defense held Cincinnati's offense to 48 yards of total offense in the first half. They held RB Corey Dillon to 59 yards rushing on 21 carries (2.8 avg.). Dillon's longest run of the game went for 9 yards. The Bucs also sacked QB Akili Smith three times.

GRADE: A


LINEBACKERS:
Tampa Bay middle linebacker Shelton Quarles sacked QB Akili Smith on Cincinnati's opening drive. Smith was penalized for intentional grounding, which negated the sack, but the play still knocked the Bengals out of field goal range. Quarles came up with a huge interception with 1:00 remaining in the first half. Smith threw the ball right to Quarles and Tampa Bay's starting middle linebacker returned it 25 yards for a touchdown. That play put the Bucs up , 21-7. Quarles was outstanding against the run and recorded six tackles.

Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks recorded a sack late in the third quarter, which helped Tampa Bay's defense stall Cincinnati's drive inside Tampa Bay's 20-yard line. The Bengals eventually missed a field goal attempt. Brooks, who suffered throughout the week with a hamstring pull, recorded five tackles.

Bucs strongside linebacker Al Singleton recorded four tackles against the Bengals.

*At one point, Tampa Bay's defense forced Cincinnati's offense to go three-and-out six consecutive times. The Bengals were just 2-of-17 third downs on Sunday.

GRADE: A


SECONDARY:
Tampa Bay strong safety John Lynch did a great job of playing run defense on Sunday. He also came close to sacking Smith on a safety blitz in the fourth quarter. Lynch recorded three tackles.

Bucs CB Brian Kelly made a nice pass breakup in the first quarter. He also had a chance to intercept a pass at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but he couldn't hold onto it. Kelly recorded two tackles on Sunday.

Bucs CB Ronde Barber quietly recorded six tackles against the Bengals.

Tampa Bay FS Dexter Jackson recorded two tackles.

Bucs CB Dwight Smith nearly intercepted a pass in the second half, but it flew too high over his head. He recorded one tackle.

Tampa Bay's defense only allowed QB Akili Smith to complete 12-of-33 passes (36.4 percent) of his passes for 117 yards. Cincinnati had a total of 168 yards of offense on Sunday. The Buccaneers' defense posted its second shutout of the season, but the scoreboard doesn't show that because of the touchdown they scored on Brad Johnson's interception.

GRADE: A


SPECIAL TEAMS:
Tampa Bay punter Tom Tupa had a horrible punt on his first attempt in the first quarter. The punt set Cincinnati's offense up in Tampa Bay territory. Tupa's second punt was better. It went 51 yards and placed Cincinnati at its own 20-yard line. Tupa booted a 34-yarder with just under 4:00 remaining in the first half, but the punt was perfect. It pinned the Bengals on their own 2-yard line. Bucs CB Dwight Smith downed the punt. Smith was penalized in the third quarter for a personal foul when he tried punching a Bengals player during a punt. Tupa got off a 64-yard punt in the fourth quarter, which pinned Cincinnati's offense on its own 9-yard line.

Tampa Bay LB Ryan Nece was called for an illegal block in the back with 2:00 remaining in the first half, which negated PR Karl Williams' punt return into Cincinnati territory. Williams had a 37-yard punt return at the start of the third quarter. Williams' punt return set Tampa Bay up on Cincinnati's 37-yard line.

Bucs FB Darian Barnes made a nice tackle on Bucs kicker Martin Gramatica's kickoff late in the fourth quarter.

GRADE: A-


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