"The Buccaneer players and Jon Gruden were hot to trot with the media after the game. They felt disrespected all week with all of the talk about how the Tampa Bay defense was going to stop Michael Vick. The real question, which Gruden said went unasked, was how Vick and the Falcons were going to move the ball and score points against the league's No. 1 ranked defense. Tampa Bay has Atlanta's number and the athletes on defense to stop Vick. Playing the Falcons again in the playoffs in Tampa would be an easy win and a great match-up for the Bucs."
"Hats off to backup strong safety John Howell who saw extensive action for the first time this season on defense when he replaced strong safety John Lynch in the first quarter. On Howell's first play, he sacked Michael Vick on a third-and-1 bootleg. He finished with five tackles, one of them coming after he was bowled over by running back T.J. Duckett. However, Howell, who is a cowboy from the state of Nebraska and has roped his share of steer, grabbed Duckett by the leg on the way down and dragged him to the ground, too."
"In my Buccaneer Blitz column in this week's Pewter Report, I published my Pro Bowl ballot, which I cast on-line Saturday night at NFL.com. I picked Brad Johnson over Michael Vick for the third quarterback spot in the NFC behind Green Bay's Brett Favre and New Orleans' Aaron Brooks. Johnson made me look good, and deserves to go ahead of Vick. Johnson has 22 touchdown passes this year, which set a new team record, and only six interceptions. Vick has 11 touchdown passes and eight scoring runs. Moreover, his ballclub has swept Vick's this year, and that alone should give him the nod over Vick. Vick is a good player, who will be a great one, but this talk about NFL MVP is nonsense. Are we forgetting about Favre and the year he's having, too?"
"After the game, Mike Alstott didn't seem too happy with Jon Gruden's running back by committee system. The A-Train rushed for 95 yards on 13 carries, but could have had a career day with 10-15 more carries and been even more potent. He also didn't get many chances to run the ball in for a touchdown near the goal line, nor did he get a chance to get his 100-yard day with two minutes left in the game. Gruden decided to have Michael Pittman carry the ball once and to have Shaun King rollout once. I'd be a bit ticked too. But the guy averaged 7.3 yards per carry. It's time to make him the feature back down the stretch and give him at least 20 carries per game."
"It's a shame that the Bucs couldn't clinch a playoff spot today. In fact, Atlanta losing and Tampa Bay winning were the only positives today as Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans and the New York Giants all won."
LEO HAGGERTY – Pewter Report Managing Editor:
"The Bucs finally started to see some productivity from the offense and it all starts with the guys up front in the trenches. The offensive line may have had its finest game of the season. The Bucs rushed for 150 yards on 29 attempts for a 5.2 yards per carry average. The hogs also only allowed one sack and that was more of a slip or a trip by quarterback Brad Johnson than a takedown by the Falcons defense. Number 14 was 23 for 31 and just cut the Atlanta secondary to shreds with the precision of a surgeon."
"In the last six seasons the Bucs have been great finishers in the last month of the season. They have an overall record in December of 18-9 and that was with the mild-mannered Tony Dungy at the helm. With the fiery Jon Gruden cracking the whip, look for the Buccaneers to really make a run down the home stretch. The only difference between this year and the past half dozen seasons is that the Pewter Pirates are out in front and hugging the rail with the finish line in sight. Look for a photo finish with the Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles with the Pewter Pirates knowing what they have to do nose out the Bird and the Cheeseheads before they even kick it off in Chicago on Sunday night."
"Two big streaks continued for the Bucs. The sack run moved on as the Buccaneers took down Michael Vick twice to move to 57 straight with a quarterback capture. Tampa Bay also had their 37th game with a takeaway and both are the best current runs in the NFL. Now wonder Kiffin's Corps is ranked No. 1 in the NFL. If you get to the quarterback and take him to the ground as well as recover fumbles or intercept passes, you're going to create big changes of momentum and field position. The Bucs have lived off this for the past six years and the seventh is no exception."
JIM FLYNN – Pewter Report Assistant Editor:
"Tampa Bay's defense played Atlanta with a gigantic chip on its shoulder due to all of the hype surrounding Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and the lack of respect given to the Buccaneers' No. 1 ranked defense. The Bucs' defense played a big part in Tampa Bay's 34-10 win on Sunday by completely shutting down Vick and Co.. Atlanta's mobile quarterback gained just 15 yards on five carries and he completed juts 12-of-25 passes for 125 yards. Vick might be one of the fastest players in the league, but Tampa Bay's defense is definitely the fastest and the most dominant defense in the NFL, hands down."
"Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks played a huge part in containing Vick. He set the tone of the game by crushing Vick on his first scramble in the first quarter. Brooks was all over the field on Sunday and recorded all 10 of his tackles in the first quarter. He even intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown in the second half, which would have broken an NFL record for touchdowns (5) returned on interceptions by one player in a season, but defensive end Greg Spires' offsides penalty negated Brooks' terrific play."
"I asked Bucs wide receiver Keenan McCardell last Wednesday if he thought Atlanta's defense would give the Bucs' offense a lot of man-to-man coverage in this contest like they did in Week 5, and after Sunday's game, I now know why McCardell smiled at me and told me he thought Atlanta would give them 'some' man-to-man. Well, Tampa Bay wide receivers Joe Jurevicius and Keenan McCardell ate Atlanta's secondary alive in man-to-man coverage Sunday. Jurevicius was the beneficiary of the double-coverage WR Keyshawn Johnson was drawing all game long. Jurevicius caught eight passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Why doesn't Brad Johnson just throw the ball up for this guy more often? He is, after all, 6-foot-5 and he's a very physical receiver, too. McCardell also took advantage of some one-on-one match-ups by hauling in four passes for 49 yards and he scored two touchdowns."
"You can't say enough about the job Tampa Bay's offensive line did against Atlanta on Sunday. As a unit, they had their best outing of the year. They only allowed QB Brad Johnson to get sacked one time, which was kind of a fluke, and they gave Johnson plenty of time to locate his receivers downfield. The offensive line also allowed Tampa Bay's offense to gain 150 yards on the ground. If the offensive line can play anywhere near as good as it did Sunday, the offense will continue to have outings like the one they had against Atlanta."
"Two quick parting shots: Has Bucs head coach Jon Gruden seen enough from fullback Mike Alstott to make him the feature back of his offense? All Alstott did Sunday was carry the ball 13 times for 95 yards (7.3 avg.). And Michael Pittman rushed nine times for just 25 yards (2.8 avg.). Even Aaron Stecker averaged 7.5 yards per carry on four attempts. If Gruden doesn't understand the fact that Alstott is the best back for his offense by now, he'll probably never get it, which could cost the team in the playoffs."
"All of the talk was about Atlanta's quarterback, but how about the job Bucs QB Brad Johnson did on Sunday? He completed 74 percent of his passes for 276 yards and threw four touchdowns. He's not flashy, but Johnson is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL when he has a running game and is provided some sort of protection by his offensive line."
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