Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson had an outstanding outing against Atlanta on Sunday. Johnson completed 16-of-19 passes for 128 yards and he tossed three touchdowns in the first half against Atlanta. Johnson took advantage of some one-on-one match-ups in the secondary, especially with WR Joe Jurevicius, who he connected with twice in the end zone for touchdowns. Johnson also did a nice job of engineering a 2:00 drive at the end of the first half, which allowed Johnson to connect with McCardell on a slant pass for his third touchdown of the game, which gave Tampa Bay a 21-3 lead at halftime.
Johnson had McCardell open in the end zone for what would have been a touchdown in the third quarter, but he overthrew him. The Bucs had to settle for a field goal after that play. Johnson connected with McCardell in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Johnson pump-faked on the play and then delivered a perfect strike to a wide-open McCardell. Johnson completed 23-of-31 passes for 231 yards and he threw four touchdowns. He was replaced by QB Shaun King with 6:00 remaining in fourth quarter.
*Tampa Bay converted 7-of-14 (50 percent) third downs against Atlanta.
Bucs FB Mike Alstott took his first carry of the game 27 yards toward the weakside of the field to Atlanta's 5-yard line. Alstott carried three Falcons defenders on his back on his way to gaining 32 yards on a run in the fourth quarter. Alstott carried the ball 13 times for 95 yards (7.3 avg.). He made a strong case for why he should be the main ball carrier in Gruden's offense, but he was a bit peeved that Bucs head coach Jon Gruden didn't give him a few more carries to allow him to gain over 100 yards rushing on the day.
Tampa Bay RB Michael Pittman came up huge with 1:30 remaining in the second quarter when he hauled in a pass in the middle of the field in one-on-one coverage and raced 42 yards up the field to Atlanta's 28-yard line. Pittman caught four passes for 50 yards. But Pittman wasn't so successful in the ground game, where he carried the ball nine times for 25 yards (2.8 avg.). His longest run was a 15-yarder, which came in the second half.
Bucs RB Aaron Stecker took a carry 20 yards upfield in the first quarter for a first down. Stecker finished the game with four carries for 30 yards (7.5 avg.).
*Tampa Bay rushed for 150 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per attempt against Atlanta.
Bucs wide receiver Keenan McCardell caught two passes in the first quarter. McCardell caught a 14-yard touchdown pass on a slant in man-to-man coverage with :34 remaining in the second quarter, which put the Bucs up 21-3. McCardell ran open into the end zone in the third quarter, but Brad Johnson overthrew him. But Johnson later connected with McCardell in the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter on the same route. McCardell's score was a 27-yarder and it was aided by a pump-fake by Brad Johnson, which allowed him simply run by CB Ashley Ambrose and into the end zone for the score. McCardell caught four passes for 49 yards and he scored two touchdowns.
Bucs WR Joe Jurevicius had his best game as a Buc against the Falcons. Jurevicius and Brad Johnson were definitely on the same page throughout the game. Jurevecius was receiving one-on-one coverage throughout the game, which allowed him to get open in Atlanta's secondary all game long. Jurevicius caught a 14-yard pass from Johnson to give the Bucs a first down at the end of the first quarter. Jurevicius caught a 10-yard touchdown pass, even after being interfered with by Falcons LB Keith Brooking, in the second quarter, which put the Bucs up 7-0. Jurevicius made a nice grab in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown reception with 7:45 remaining in the second quarter. Jurevicius hauled in the pass over his shoulder and brought it into his body over CB Ray Buchanan. Jurevicius continued to make plays in the second half. Jurevicius caught eight passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns against Atlanta.
Tampa Bay WR Keyshawn Johnson made a nice 15-yard sideline grab at the beginning of the second quarter, which gave the Bucs a first down on Atlanta's 40-yard line. Johnson had a quiet outing, catching two passes for 25 yards, but he was double-covered quite often. Johnson also dropped a pass against Atlanta.
Bucs tight end Ken Dilger caught a pass in the first quarter, and with some extra effort, he was able to pull a few defenders with him for a first down. Dilger caught three passes for 18 yards.
Tampa Bay tight end Rickey Dudley caught a pass down the seam of the field for a 31-yard gain. Dudley was drilled after he caught the ball, but he did a great job of holding onto it. The play put the Bucs' offense on Atlanta's 5-yard line in the third quarter. It was Dudley's only catch of the game.
Tampa Bay's offensive line might have had its best game of the season. There weren't any major breakdowns or penalties by individual players and the offensive line only allowed quarterback Brad Johnson to get sacked one time, which was kind of a fluke play since Johnson tripped over his own man at the line of scrimmage. The excellent protection allowed Johnson to pick apart Atlanta's defense throughout the game. The Bucs' offense also rushed for 150 yards thanks to some of the holes it opened up for its running backs. Bucs RT Kenyatta Walker was called for illegal hands to the face, but the penalty was declined in the second quarter. Walker did an excellent job of blocking left end Patrick Kerney, who leads the Falcons in tackles.
Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice knocked one of Vick's passes down in the first quarter. Rice was held while pressuring Vick in the middle of the second quarter, but a holding penalty by CB Brian Kelly offset both penalties. Rice put a tremendous amount of pressure on Vick throughout the game and recorded two tackles and no sacks, but he came close to getting Vick down on several occasions.
Bucs DT Warren Sapp was held on a third-down play. He would have sacked Vick, but the penalty was called and the Falcons were forced to punt. Sapp recorded one sack and was very disruptive in the trenches.
Tampa Bay left defensive end Greg Spires sacked Vick for a 6-yard loss in the third quarter. Spires missed Vick on another sack opportunity late in the third quarter. He whiffed on the sack attempt and Vick drilled his receiver downfield for a big gain. Spires jumped offsides in the beginning of the fourth quarter, which negated Derrick Brooks' interception for touchdown. Spires recorded three tackles and one sack.
Bucs nose tackle Anthony McFarland played, but didn't record a tackle on Sunday. McFarland had a fairly quiet afternoon.
*Tampa Bay's defense sacked Atlanta QB Michael Vick twice and pressured him all day long. The Bucs' defense only allowed Vick to rush five times for 15 yards 3.0 avg.).
Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks made two big stops on Atlanta's first offensive series, including a big hit on Falcons QB Michael Vick on a scramble. Brooks made another open-field tackle on Vick on the first play of Atlanta's second series of the game. Brooks batted a pass down in the second quarter, which was intended for Falcons WR Brian Finneran, who was open on a deep route. Brooks got pressure on Vick with 8:00 remaining in the second quarter, which forced Vick to throw into coverage and allowed FS Dexter Jackson to intercept the pass and return it to Atlanta's 10-yard line. Brooks intercepted Vick and returned it for a touchdown in the beginning of the fourth quarter, but DE Greg Spires was flagged for being offsides, which negated the interception and touchdown and it gave Atlanta a first down. Brooks recorded all 10 of his tackles in the first half.
Bucs MLB Shelton Quarles made a huge play on a deep ball thrown by Vick in the first quarter. The receiver was open in the end zone, but Quarles closed quickly and broke up the pass to cause an incompletion, which forced the Falcons to punt. Quarles left the game in the second half with some sort of injury and recorded three tackles.
Bucs MLB Nate Webster replaced Quarles in the second half and made a nice tackle in the running game at the line of scrimmage in the third quarter. Webster did a nice job of filling running gaps in Quarles' place. He recorded five tackles on Sunday.
Tampa Bay strongside LB Al Singleton was called for pass interference in the fourth quarter, which gave Atlanta the ball at Tampa Bay's 12-yard line and eventually led to a touchdown. Singleton recorded five tackles on Sunday.
* The Bucs' defense held Atlanta RB T.J. Duckett to 47 yards rushing on 13 carries (3.6 avg.) and the Falcons were only able to gain 68 yards on 22 carries (3.1 avg.) on Sunday.
Tampa Bay backup SS John Howell came into the game to replace John Lynch, who pinched a nerve in his neck, in the first quarter and made a great open-field tackle in the backfield on a bootleg by Vick. The tackle counted as a sack. Howell did a nice job of shedding a block on a running play to the strong side in the end of the second quarter. Howell did an outstanding job of filling in for Lynch and recorded five tackles and a sack on Sunday.
Bucs CB Ronde Barber made a nice pass breakup downfield in the third quarter. Barber recorded one tackle against the Falcons. He also defended two passes.
Bucs free safety Dexter Jackson had an interception off a tip and he returned it 21-yards. Bucs CB Ronde Barber tipped the pass and Derrick Brooks applied pressure on Vick on the play. Jackson recorded two tackles and intercepted one pass and defended one pass on Sunday.
Bucs CB Brian Kelly was flagged for holding in the middle of the second quarter, which offset a holding penalty on Atlanta. Kelly recorded just one tackle on Sunday.
Bucs nickel cornerback Dwight Smith recorded two tackles.
*Tampa Bay's defense only allowed Atlanta QB Michael Vick to complete 12-of-25 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown and one interception.
Bucs cornerback Dwight Smith and safety John Howell each had nice open-field tackles on punt coverage. Bucs fullback Darian Barnes also came up with a huge tackle on a kickoff near the end of the first half. Bucs S Jermaine Phillips made nice tackle on a reverse kickoff in the third quarter.
Tampa Bay's punt coverage unit allowed Atlanta PR Allen Rossum to return a Tom Tupa punt 42 yards to the Bucs' 48-yard line in the first quarter. Bucs CB Corey Ivy was near Rossum on the play, but he was blocked in the shoulder, which opened up a huge hole for Rossum. Ivy made a nice tackle on the kickoff after Jurevicius' first touchdown in the second quarter, which made Atlanta's offense start at its own 15-yard line.
Bucs K Martin Gramatica kicked the ball out of bounds on the kickoff after Jurevicius' second touchdown catch, which placed Atlanta's offense at its own 40-yard line. Gramatica drilled a 42-yard field goal with 10:00 remaining in the third quarter to give the Bucs a 24-3 lead. Gramatica drilled a 21-yard field goal in the third quarter for his second field goal of the game, which put Tampa Bay up 27-3.
Bucs SS John Howell was called for an illegal block in the back on Karl Williams' punt return. The penalty put the Bucs' offense back on its own 34-yard line instead of in Atlanta territory, where Williams returned the punt.
Bucs CB Ronde Barber ran into Falcons K Jay Feeley on a field goal attempt in the second quarter. But the penalty only gave the Falcons five-yards, which didn't give them a first down, so Atlanta took the field goal, which made the score 14-3.
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden called an excellent game. On the first two series of the game, it looked like Gruden was going to abandon the run before he even gave it a chance, but he came around soon after the game started and ended up calling 29 running plays on the day, which proved to be plenty. Gruden did a terrific job of calling plays that took advantage of the man-to-man coverage that Atlanta's defense was giving Tampa Bay's receivers. It was a bit disappointing to see Gruden not give the ball to Alstott more than 13 times, especially after he broke a 27-yarder in the first half. Alstott deserved to have a 100-yard game on the ground, but Gruden didn't give him carries at the end to allow him to do that. One has to also wonder why Gruden insists on calling WR Karl Williams' number on reverses and end-arounds. He's the slowest receiver on the team and it certainly showed on Sunday. Williams gained –2 yards on two carries against the Falcons. Overall, Tampa Bay's head coach did a fantastic job of allowing his players to easily record their 10th win of the season.
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