The Bucs did plenty of good things in Sunday's victory. I'm going to focus on an interception, a catch to set up an touchdown and a touchdown run.
The Cardinals started the second quarter facing 2nd-and-9 at their own 4. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald were split to either side. Edgerrin James was the deep back in an off-set I formation and tight end Leonard Pope was in motion to the right. He was the intended receiver. The Bucs had a four-man rush. Linebacker Cato June was in coverage on Pope, who stopped in motion in the right slot.
At the snap, Pope ran a seam route. June gave him the inside. The Bucs had tight coverage on the two wide receivers. June released Pope to Tanard Jackson for deep coverage.
Jackson, from the start, had inside coverage of Pope. Warner led Pope too far with the pass, and Jackson cut Pope off and picked off the pass for his second interception of the season. It looked like Pope did not finish off his route, which allowed Jackson easy access to the pass.
Early in the third quarter, Tampa Bay faced 3rd-and-5 at the Cardinals 45. Tampa Bay sought to add to its 10-3 lead. In the shotgun, quarterback Jeff Garcia had Earnest Graham to his left and three wide receivers. Joey Galloway, in the left slot, was the intended receiver.
At the snap, Galloway ran about seven yards downfield and cut inside. Garcia picked him up immediately and threw it perfectly in stride to Galloway. He turned it into a 28-yard gain.
Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson was on a delayed safety blitz and nearly timed it perfectly. But Garcia got the pass away in time. And in blitzing, Wilson left an open space for Galloway to run his route. It was a simple drag route where Galloway took advantage of the safety blitz, shed a tackler and turned it into a big gain.
Four plays later, the Buccaneers scored. On 2nd-and-goal from the Cardinals 2, the Bucs ran an overload I-formation play, with Graham as the deep back. In this formation, the Bucs had Ike Hilliard split wide left and a pair of tight ends set up as blockers on the right side.
On the snap, left guard Arron Sears pulled to the right. Right guard Davin Joseph and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood moved the left interior of the Cardinals defensive line to the right, while Sears came in behind them and sealed off a linebacker. From that, a crease opened up for Graham to dive into the end zone for the touchdown. This may be an example of the growing chemistry up front, which took a hit after the season-ending injury to Luke Petitgout.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK
Defensively the Buccaneers were near-perfect in their play on Sunday. But they made a few mistakes, including a long catch in the fourth quarter that propelled the Cardinals to their only touchdown.
The Cardinals faced 1st-and-10 from the Buccaneers 41 with 10:11 left in the game. The Cardinals were in a twins set, with running back J.J. Arrington to quarterback Kurt Warner's right. Anquan Boldin was the intended receiver and was set up in the slot. The Bucs sent four men to rush.
Boldin came out of the slot and Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber picked him up. Barber gave him token coverage, expecting safety Jermaine Phillips to come up sooner. He didn't. In doing so, Boldin was able to find the soft spot in the middle between Barber and Phillips and make the catch. It's the classic route to exploit the deep middle in the Cover 2. Edgerrin James cashed in the drive for the Cardinals several plays later to make it 17-10.
Late in the game, the Cardinals sacked Garcia for the third time, this time on 2nd-and-19 deep in Bucs territory.
Garcia was in the shotgun with a receiver to his right and two to his left. Earnest Graham was to his left and the Bucs had six to block. Cardinals tackle Darnell Dockett was inside, shaded between center John Wade and right guard Davin Joseph.
On the snap, Dockett broke for Joseph's right shoulder and was able to quickly move inside and gain position on Joseph. Garcia realized quickly that Joseph was about to be beat and began moving up in the pocket. But it didn't matter, because Dockett already had Joseph beat. He quickly ran behind Garcia and dragged him down for a 3-yard loss. Joseph is a quick, agile blocker but sometimes even he isn't able to fend off a player like Dockett in a single-blocking formation.
-- On Larry Fitzgerald's 47-yard reception in the first quarter, Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber got caught playing the run, allowing Fitzgerald to get behind him for the easy reception. The Bucs were lucky he stepped out of bound.
-- Thanks to his strained left elbow, Warner had to hand off with the top of his right hand facing the ball carrier for handoffs on the opposite side of his body. He's lucky there was never a fumble.
-- Early in the first quarter, when Garcia took that timeout? He did so because the Cardinals were in a 3-2-6 alignment and it confused him. The play coming out of the timeout resulted in a 2-yard loss.
-- I've watched it twice now and I still don't know how Garcia slipped that 37-yard touchdown pass into Galloway in tight coverage. Cornerback Roderick Hood should have at least tipped it away.
-- I don't think Warner is the same quarterback he used to be. In the second quarter he threw an absolutely awful pass that Gaines Adams nearly picked off. There were three Cardinals bunched up at the first down marker and six Bucs surrounding them. Every receiver was covered. It was a terrible decision, and part of the reason why he averages two interceptions a game this season.
-- How the Buccaneers did not score on that 19-play, 12-minute drive in the third and fourth quarters is beyond me. But it's an illustration of just how close, but yet how far away, this team is from being a legitimate NFC title contender. Great teams finish those drives. Good teams don't. Jon Gruden all but said that on Sunday and Monday. It has to frustrate him.
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Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and his coverage of the Buccaneers has won numerous state and national awards.