Bucs Game Grades

October 6 - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers escaped Atlanta with a 20-6 win over the Falcons on Sunday. They've won four straight games and are tied for first place with New Orleans in the NFC South Division. Which players fared well? Which players didn't? PewterReport.com has distributed grades based on the Buccaneers' performance against the Falcons on Sunday.

INACTIVES:

QB Shaun King, FB Darian Barnes, CB Tim Wansley, RB Travis Stephens, T Kenyatta Walker, WR Charles Lee, WR Reggie Barlow, DT Buck Gurley

QUARTERBACKS
Tampa Bay QB Brad Johnson was fairly accurate throughout the first half against Atlanta. He completed some key third-down passes, but he made two crucial mistakes in the first half that gave away at least six points. Johnson was sacked on the second play of Tampa Bay's first offensive drive, which caused him to fumble. Atlanta recovered and later kicked a field goal. Toward the end of the first half, Tampa Bay was in field goal range and on third-and-10, Johnson was blitzed and threw the ball down the sideline. It was intended for WR Keyshawn Johnson, but he was tripled covered, which resulted in an interception. Some of Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's play calling didn't particularly suit Johnson's strengths. He rolled out of the pocket by design on a couple of plays, but they simply didn't work. It appeared at times that Gruden was calling plays for the quarterback he wished was in the game instead of Brad Johnson. But Johnson and Tampa Bay's offense began to gel in the second half. Atlanta continued to play Tampa Bay in man coverage, which allowed Johnson to hit his receivers on slant patterns. Johnson's biggest throw came in the third quarter when he hit WR Keyshawn Johnson down the sideline for a 76-yard touchdown. Johnson completed 17-of-31 (54.4 percent) passes for 261 yards and threw one touchdown and one interception.

*Tampa Bay was 4-of-13 on third downs.

GRADE: B-


RUNNING BACKS
Bucs RB Michael Pittman didn't have a great outing in the first half. He dropped two passes. He did, however, demonstrate great spin ability and power to pick up a first down in the first half on a third-and-1 play. The second half was a little better for Pittman, possibly because he was seeing the field better after he switched helmets and sported a black visor. Pittman did a good job of picking up a couple of blitzes in the backfield. Pittman rushed 19 times for 62 yards (3.3 avg.). His longest run of the game was for 11 yards. Pittman also caught two passes for nine yards.

Bucs fullback Mike Alstott did a nice job picking up blitzes in the backfield, too. But he didn't fare well in the running game. Alstott rushed four times for nine yards (2.3 avg.). He caught one pass for six yards.

Bucs FB Jameel Cook was active for the first time in two games. He caught one pass for 13 yards, which picked up a first down.

*Tampa Bay rushed for 74 yards and averaged 2.8 yards per carry against Atlanta.

GRADE: C


WIDE RECEIVERS:
Tampa Bay wide receiver Keenan McCardell hauled in a 30-yard reception on a slant in the first quarter. He also made some clutch catches throughout the game. McCardell continued to take advantage of Atlanta's man-to-man coverage by catching passes on slant patterns. McCardell caught six passes for 83 yards.

Bucs WR Keyshawn Johnson had a huge day. He had several big catches, but his biggest catch came in the third quarter when he hauled in a pass down the sideline for a 76-yard touchdown score. Johnson did a nice job of defeating the defender and he was aided by having no safety in the secondary. Johnson caught six passes for 131 yards and one touchdown.

Tampa Bay WR Joe Jurevicius took advantage of man coverage by hauling in a pass for a first down in the on a slant pattern, which picked up 19 yards and a first down.

*Tampa Bay's wide receivers caught a total 13 passes against Atlanta.

GRADE: A


TIGHT ENDS:
Tampa Bay's tight ends didn't catch any passes against Atlanta, but they did do a nice job protecting QB Brad Johnson. Bucs TE Rickey Dudley dropped the only pass thrown to him on Sunday. It could've given Tampa Bay a first down.

GRADE: C+


OFFENSIVE LINE:
Tampa Bay's offensive line struggled a bit in their efforts to protect QB Brad Johnson in the first half, but their pass protection and the holes they opened up in the running game improved in the second half.

*The Bucs offensive line allowed QB Brad Johnson to get sacked twice and didn't open up many holes in the running game, but the 3-4 defense isn't easy to run against. Jon Gruden provided Johnson with time by calling three-and-five-step drops so he could hit his receivers on slants.

GRADE: C+


DEFENSIVE LINE:
Tampa Bay's defensive line terrorized QB Michael Vick and knocked him out of the game in the third quarter after sacking him. Bucs defensive tackles Warren Sapp and Anthony McFarland were excellent on Sunday. Sapp came up huge in the fourth quarter when he intercepted QB Doug Johnson and lateraled the ball to LB Derrick Brooks, which allowed Brooks to race into the end zone for a touchdown, which basically put the game away. Sapp recorded three tackles. McFarland recorded three tackles and one sack and missed part of the game with a sprained ankle. Bucs DE Simeon Rice also did well and he knocked Vick out of the game after sacking him in the third quarter. Rice recorded five tackles. The Bucs struggled to stop rookie RB T.J. Duckett, who averaged 4.7 yards per carry, but he only had 11 carries. But they contained Vick and RB Warrick Dunn.

*Tampa Bay's defense held RB Warrick Dunn to 1.6 yards per carry and exposed him for the overpaid third-down back he is. They also held Vick to just one yard rushing and sacked Atlanta's quarterbacks four times.

GRADE: A


LINEBACKERS:
Tampa Bay weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks scored his third touchdown of the season against Atlanta after DT Warren Sapp intercepted a QB Doug Johnson pass and lateraled it to him in the fourth quarter. Brooks returned it 15 yards for the score. Brooks intercepted Johnson on his desperation pass on the last play of the game. Brooks led the team in tackles with seven. Bucs MLB Shelton Quarles played extremely well against the run as did SLB Al Singleton. Quarles recorded five tackles and Singleton recorded one.

*Tampa Bay's defense only allowed Atlanta's offense to convert 3-of-14 third downs and the Falcons rushed for just 70 yards.

GRADE: A-


SECONDARY:
Tampa Bay's secondary was outstanding against Atlanta. They only allowed Michael Vick to throw for 29 yards in the first half. Tampa Bay's corners did a great job of containing Atlanta's receivers. Bucs CB Ronde Barber recorded three tackles and CB Brian Kelly recorded four, including a sack on Doug Johnson. Nickel corner Dwight Smith intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter. Bucs SS John Lynch did a nice job of blitzing Vick in the first half, but he left the game in the second half with a sprained MCL. The severity of his injury has not yet been determined. Lynch recorded four tackles. Tampa Bay free safety Dexter Jackson recorded five tackles.

*Tampa Bay's defense only allowed Atlanta's quarterbacks to complete 17-of-38 passes for 173 yards and the Bucs intercepted QB Doug Johnson three times.

GRADE: A-


SPECIAL TEAMS:
Bucs K Martin Gramatica was 2-of-2 on field goal attempts on Sunday. He drilled a 23-yarder and a 22-yarder against Atlanta. Bucs P Tom Tupa did a nice job of holding for Gramatica and catching for his own punts on Sunday. New long snapper Morris Unutoa's snaps were high, but Tupa did a nice job of grabbing them. Tampa Bay's special teams kickoff return unit was caught napping by Atlanta when the Falcons tapped a kickoff 10 yards, which allowed the Dirty Birds to recover in the first half. Bucs free safety Dexter Jackson might have made the play of the game when Atlanta faked a punt in the fourth quarter. Falcons punter Chris Mohr threw a perfect pass to Bob Kozlowski, but Jackson railed him and caused the ball to pop out of his hands. The ball landed in CB Dwight Smith's hands for the interception, which in hindsight, wasn't the smartest play since Tampa Bay would've gotten the ball back in Atlanta territory, but it's hard to criticize a cornerback for making an interception.

*Atlanta KR Allen Rossum averaged 27.8 yards per kickoff return on Sunday.

GRADE: B+


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