The Bucs have entered a stretch where they are catching some teams at the right time. Furthermore, they should be taking advantage of some bad quarterback situations.
In Week 7, the Bucs blasted a Seattle team that was without starter Matt Hasselbeck. On Sunday, they lost 13-9 to the Cowboys without Tony Romo. This week, the Bucs could face obscure second-year quarterback Tyler Thigpen in Kansas City. Following a bye week, the Bucs get Vikings veteran quarterback Gus Frerotte followed by Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky.
Tampa Bay is 5-3 and one game behind Carolina in the NFC South. Despite losing winnable games at Denver and at Dallas, coach Jon Gruden says he's happy where his team sits at the halfway point.
"I'm not that frustrated. OK? I'm proud of our team," Gruden said. "What we're overcoming and what we did today and what we did the first half of the season excites me. I'm excited about our team. Disappointed as hell that we lost. Very disappointed. At the same time, we've had eight solid outings and that gives me the reason to believe we could have eight solid outings to finish the season."
The Bucs might be getting healthy at the right time. Receiver Joey Galloway, who missed five games with a right foot sprain, returned to the lineup against the Cowboys. Running back Cadillac Williams might be available from the physically unable to perform list in a couple weeks.
The Bucs did potentially suffer a blow on defense Sunday when safety Jermaine Phillips injured his left arm. He could be lost for several weeks or the season.
What the Bucs have to do in the second half is finish drives with touchdowns. On Sunday at Dallas, the Bucs had six drives end in Dallas territory without a touchdown.
Gruden was criticized for not taking a shot in the end zone late in the game. At times, his play-calling hasn't been very aggressive.
"Yeah, we had some plays called that were shots," Gruden said. "But just because we have a shot play called doesn't mean the shot is open. So I defend that with that.
"That was our plan, but when you see that style of coverage, we're going to continue to use our clock and use our timeouts and try to get near the goal line where the shots become optimum. You know, you just don't throw it against a soft, four across secondary like that. But we moved the ball into position. Unfortunately, their pass rush was pretty good there at the end of the game."
S Jermaine Phillips suffered a left arm injury against Dallas and did not return to the game. The injury could threaten to end his season.
WR Joey Galloway returned to the lineup for the first time after missing five games with a foot sprain. He had three catches for 38 yards.
K Matt Bryant is now 2-for-9 in FG tries of 50 yards or more.
RB Warrick Dunn played despite a pinched nerve in his back but was not very effective. He had one carry for 6 yards.
RB Clifton Smith made his NFL debut returning punts and kickoffs for the Bucs. But he fumbled the second-half kickoff.