Observation Deck: Bucs-Redskins review

Observation Deck is the home for opinion and analsyis on Bucsblitz.com. Today it's my weekly game review, with game balls, disappointments, the results of key matchups and my prediction scorecard. It's a premium service from Bucsblitz.com.

How do you do dominance and hanging on for dear life at the same time?

Did you watch Sunday's game?

The dominance? The Bucs forced six turnovers and turned them into 19 points.

The hanging on for dear life? The Bucs offense left the defense on the field for 25 minutes in the second half, plus failed to score more than one touchdown in four possessions that started in Redskins territory to keep the Skins in it. Then, the Redskins wore down a Bucs defense that did just enough to hang on to the victory.

Whew! The Bucs needed the graybeard like Ronde Barber, Brian Kelly and Derrick Brooks to come through and they did.

"It's great to have Derrick Brooks at this stage of his career playing and leading at the level he's playing at," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said.

You could easily insert Barber or Kelly into that quote and it would be prescient.

But enough about the great work on defense. Let's talk quickly about the sorry work on offense.

If you think Bruce Gradkowski is the answer to anything other than "mediocre," you're crazy. Gruden talked earlier this season about the progress Gradkowski had made in the offseason, but I saw none of it on Sunday. He still made the same mistakes. He still showed the same inability to hit Joey Galloway deep. His deep pass to Galloway's right, when the wide receiver expected it on his left shoulder, was laughable.

That's probably why Gruden wouldn't commit on Monday to Gradkowski as his starter. Well, that, and he's praying that Jeff Garcia can recover from his lower back issue to play in a crucial game against New Orleans.

A win on Sunday means the Bucs will all but win the NFC South. A loss keeps the race in flux entering the season's final quarter.

Hence the importance of whatever therapy the Bucs put Garcia through to get him ready on Sunday.

For the Bucs' sake, they better hope he heals fast.

"We need him to win," Gruden said. "We clearly need Jeff Garcia."

HE ISN'T SLOWING DOWN: Along with his huge third-quarter stop of Clinton Portis and his team-leading 12 tackles, he also started his 200th career game on Sunday. Play as long as you want, Derrick.

FUMBLE FORCER: DE Greg White forced two fumbles on Sunday for the second straight week, making him the first player in team history to do so in back-to-back games. And this guy was stocking shelves at Best Buy in Orlando at this time last year? Crazy.

TAKE CARE OF HOME FIELD: One key to any successful season is success at home. With Sunday's win, the Bucs are 5-1 at Raymond James Stadium. When they won the division title in 2005 they were 6-2.

GAME BALLS

P Josh Bidwell : Don't minimize his importance on Sunday. His second-half punts were 51, 56, 61 and 52 yards. They all forced the Redskins to work from a long field to try and rally from 16 points down. Field position was an important facet of Tampa Bay's win and Bidwell was a huge part of that.

CB Ronde Barber : His interception broke the team's career mark for interceptions.

CB Brian Kelly : His first interception in more than a year sealed the Bucs' victory.

LB Derrick Brooks: His stop of Clinton Portis on 4th-and-1 from the Bucs 4-yard line changed the complexion of the game for both teams.

DE Greg White: Two more forced fumbles, plus a recovery. He's turning in a gem at defensive end and he's making everyone wonder why it took him so long to break through.

WR Maurice Stovall: Another great day on special teams. The Redskins triple-teamed him on Bidwell's final punt and he still nearly made a play.

DE Kevin Carter: Notched his 100th career sack on Sunday — and he was pretty happy about it.

THE DISAPPOINTMENTS

QB Bruce Gradkowski : He showed no progress from last year. He's still making the same mistakes. Maybe a week of reps would help, but the Bucs need to consider that he's not an answer in any way to the position.

Third-down offense : The Bucs were 1-of-12 on third down on Sunday. How long before their inability to convert key third downs becomes a liability?

Drives that start inside the opponents' 50: The Bucs started four drives inside the Redskins 45. The net point total? 16 points. Three drives started in the Redskins red zone, and two ended in field goals. That's a terrible percentage.

THE GRUDEN HEAT-O-METER

Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden entered this season on the hot seat. Each week I'll take the temperature under that seat.

Last week: 1; Now: 1

While the Bucs won, the game exposed the team's issues at backup quarterback, and that's Gruden's bread and butter. Whoever it is, they have to be prepared for New Orleans and that will go on Gruden's shoulders. A win on Sunday against New Orleans and we can pretty much retired the Heat-O-Meter.

THE MATCHUPS IN REVIEW

I highlighted six key matchups entering Sunday's game. How did they turn out? Check it out in this quick review:

BUCS RB EARNEST GRAHAM VS. REDSKINS MLB LONDON FLETCHER: Graham had 75 hard-fought rushing yards. Fletcher had four tackles. Call it a draw.

BUCS WR JOEY GALLOWAY VS. WHATEVER REDSKIN IS COVERING HIM: Galloway caught two passes for 21 yards. The Redskins defense forced the Bucs into awful situations and Bruce Gradkowski couldn't get the ball to Galloway deep.

BUCS HC JON GRUDEN VS. REDSKINS DEF. COORD. GREGG WILLIAMS: Gruden was handcuffed after losing Garcia. Williams did a good job of stacking the box with eight men and daring the Bucs to pass with Gradkowski. The Washington offense just sabotaged the Redskins' fine play. Williams won this matchup.

REDSKINS TE CHRIS COOLEY VS. BUCS MLB BARRETT RUUD: Cooley scored a TD when Cato June and Phillip Buchanon failed to communicate on a deep seam route. Cooley had 6 receptions for 96 yards and a TD. There were times the Bucs had to know Cooley was getting the ball and still couldn't stop him. Cooley wins.

REDSKINS LG PETE KENDALL VS. BUCS DT JOVAN HAYE: Haye had six tackles and a quarterback hurry. Kendall did a solid job inside against both the run and pass. Call it a draw.

REDSKINS WR KEENAN MCCARDELL VS. BUCS CBS RONDE BARBER AND PHILLIP BUCHANON: I was right about McCardell, who caught a team-high six passes. Barber had an interception and Buchanon forced a fumble. B&B had more impact in the grand scheme.

THE SCORECARD

I made 10 predictions before the game. How did I do? Let's check, shall we?

OFFENSIVE PREDICTIONS

1. Earnest Graham will have less than 70 yards rushing. Almost. He had 75 yards, but had a big first quarter. He had to fight for the rest. It was just enough.

2. Jeff Garcia will throw at least two touchdown passes. You can't throw a TD pass if you can't play. I still say that if he had been healthy he would have thrown two.

3. Donald Penn will take care of Andre Carter. Carter had a sack and two hurries. I was wrong about this one.

4. Michael Clayton will go without a catch again. We'll see if he's simmering on Wednesday.

5. Maurice Stovall will catch one of Garcia's two TD passes. Nope, but did you see his day on special teams? He was triple-teamed at one point. That's respect.

DEFENSIVE PREDICTIONS

1. Keenan McCardell will have a solid day. I said six catches and nearly 100 yards. He caught six passes for 60 yards. He handled the underneath stuff capably all day.

2. Clinton Portis will rush for 60 yards or less. Almost. He rushed for 68 yards, most of which came late after the Bucs defense was loosened up by being on the field for 25 of the second half's 30 minutes.

3. Chris Cooley will hurt the Bucs for a touchdown. Oh, he did. That 39-yarder set the tone for the whole half. The Bucs were on their heels the rest of the game.

4. Jason Campbell will hurt the Redskins twice. I said he would throw a pick and lose a fumble. He threw two picks and lost a fumble. He tried to force passes late to claim a victory, leading to both picks. Can't really blame him for that.

5. Cato June will bring it. Not so much. Five tackles. But the Cooley TD pass wasn't on him.

PREDICTION

I picked the Bucs to win, 23-20. I improved to 6-4 in picking the winner, and improved to 5-2 when I pick the Bucs.

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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.


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