Bucs Game Grades

December 15 – Tampa Bay defeated Detroit, 23-20, on Sunday at Ford Field. Which players fared well? Which players didn't? PewterReport.com has distributed grades to the Pewter Pirates based on their performance against the Lions.

QUARTERBACKS
Although he wasn't sacked, Tampa Bay starting quarterback Brad Johnson was under a tremendous amount of pressure throughout the game, which led to him launching some shaky throws. Johnson forced a couple of dangerous passes because of the pressure, which was causing him to throw off of his back foot often. Still, Johnson managed to help Tampa Bay's offense move the chains through the air. He completed 24-of-41 passes for 253 yards and he didn't throw any touchdowns or interceptions. His most impressive outing came on the team's second drive of the game, where Johnson led the Bucs' offense down the field on a 96-yard drive. Johnson delivered a couple of big passes on that drive, which helped the team get out of its own end zone and into Detroit's for a touchdown.

*Tampa Bay's offense converted 6-of-14 third downs against Detroit's defense.

GRADE: B


RUNNING BACKS
Tampa Bay's running attack was effective for the second consecutive week, which is encouraging. The Buccaneers rushed for a total of 122 yards on 28 carries (4.4 avg.).

Tampa Bay fullback Mike Alstott rushed 11 times for 47 yards (4.7 avg.) and he scored one touchdown. His longest run on the afternoon was a 23-yarder. Alstott was also effective in the passing game early on. Johnson dumped the ball off to him three times for 23 yards, including an 11-yarder. Alstott's touchdown came in the second quarter, when he received a terrific block near the goal line from defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who checked into the game as an eligible offensive player. Bucs fullback Darian Barnes had an excellent outing as the team's primary lead blocker for Alstott. Barnes had a nice block on Alstott's 23-yard run on third-and-1 in the second quarter.

Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman had quite an afternoon. He rushed 11 times for 46 yards (4.6 avg.), including a 9-yarder. Pittman finally scored his first touchdown as a Buc on a well-designed draw play in the fourth quarter. Pittman was actually more effective in the passing game, where he hauled in five passes for 47 yards, including a 15-yarder on a shovel pass that worked when Tampa Bay's offense caught Detroit's defense in a blitz.

Bucs RB Aaron Stecker only carried the ball four times, but he gained 28 yards (7.0 avg.). Stecker made a couple of big plays when the Bucs' offense was in bad down-and-distance situations. Stecker picked up a big first down when Tampa Bay was near its own goal line in at the end of the first quarter.

*Tampa Bay won the time of possession on Sunday, 37:06 to 22:54.

GRADE: B+


WIDE RECEIVERS:
Tampa Bay wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson had a costly drop on third down early on, but he made up for that mistake by coming up with some clutch catches throughout the rest of the game. Johnson caught six passes for 90 yards, including a 30-yarder. Johnson, who showed some toughness on Sunday, did most of his damage on drag routes.

Bucs wide receiver Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius had quiet afternoons. McCardell caught two passes for 25 yards. Most of that yardage came on a 19-yard catch he had on the sideline in the first quarter on a play-action pass. Jurevicius didn't catch a pass on Sunday.

GRADE: B-


TIGHT ENDS:
Tampa Bay tight ends Ken Dilger and Rickey Dudley were both involved in the passing attack on Sunday. Dilger caught three passes for 35 yards, including a big 23-yard catch on the team's game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Dudley caught three passes for 29 yards, including a long of 16 yards. The tight ends, especially Dilger, had a good day blocking on the line of scrimmage, but they didn't spend as much time there as usual as they were running more passing routes than usual on Sunday.

GRADE: B


OFFENSIVE LINE:
Tampa Bay's offensive line was awful on Sunday, but what else is new? This unit just can't put together back-to-back solid performances. While the Lions failed to sack Bucs QB Brad Johnson, they could have easily recorded at least a handful if it weren't for the fact that Johnson does such a good job of getting rid of the ball under pressure. Not only were Tampa Bay's offensive linemen out-powered by Detroit's bigger defensive linemen, but the Bucs' offensive linemen made too many mental mistakes. Bucs right guard Cosey Coleman committed three penalties (2 false starts and 1 tripping) before Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Muir put him on the bench and replaced him with Todd Washington. Tampa Bay right tackle Kenyatta Walker had a tough time containing Detroit left end Robert Porcher. Walker was also called for a false start. Tampa Bay left tackle Roman Oben was flagged for holding on a running play, but he did a nice job blocking on Pittman's touchdown run.

While Tampa Bay's offensive line didn't fare well in pass protection, this unit did do a good job of opening up holes in the running game.

*Tampa Bay rushed for 122 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns on Sunday.

GRADE: D+


DEFENSIVE LINE:
Despite the fact that Lions starting RB James Stewart did not play, Tampa Bay's defensive line had a tough time stopping Detroit's rushing attack.

Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp recorded two tackles and whiffed on a sack attempt. Sapp's best play of the game came on offense, where he delivered a great lead-block for Alstott on "The A-Train's" touchdown run. The Bucs lost nose tackle Anthony McFarland for the season when he broke his foot in the fourth quarter. McFarland recorded one tackle before getting hurt. His replacement, Chuck Darby, recorded two tackles and fared well against the run. Tampa Bay right defensive end Simeon Rice could've recorded at least one sack, but he was held on a couple of occasions. Rice recorded one tackle. Bucs left end Greg Spires led this unit in tackles with four. He was called for a fase-mask penalty in the first half, which gave the Lions' offense a first down on a third down play. The Lions only threw the ball 22 times, and this unit did a bad job of filling gaps. It also failed to record a sack due to the presence of Detroit's offensive linemen.

* Detroit rushed for 144 yards on 26 attempts (5.5 avg.) on Sunday.

GRADE: C-


LINEBACKERS:
Tampa Bay's linebackers certainly didn't help stop Detroit's running attack, either. Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks recorded five tackles. He was called for a pass interference penalty, too, which gave Detroit's offense a first down on a third down play late in the fourth quarter.

Bucs middle linebacker Shelton Quarles led the defense with six tackles and he came up huge when he intercepted Lions quarterback Mike McMahon in the fourth quarter. Quarles batted the ball at the line of scrimmage, which caused the ball to go up in the air and that allowed Quarles to field it for the pick. That turnover halted Detroit's drive in Tampa Bay territory.

Bucs backup MLB Nate Webster saw some significant playing time, but he didn't fare well against the run. Webster recorded three tackles, but missed several, which led to big runs. He left the game in the second half with a knee sprain.

Bucs strongside linebacker Al Singleton recorded two tackles on Sunday.

*Detroit converted 3-of-9 third downs against Tampa Bay's No. 1 ranked defense.

GRADE: C


SECONDARY:
Tampa Bay's secondary struggled at times in the beginning of the game, but they tightened up their coverage in the second half. Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly and safeties Dexter Jackson and John Howell had trouble containing Lions WR Bill Schroeder in the first half. He did most of his damage on one drive, but Schroeder caught four passes for 96 yards and one touchdown, including a 46-yarder. Kelly recorded four tackles and had an crushing hit on WR Germane Crowell, which caused an incompletion. Jackson recorded two tackles. Howell, who started in place of starting strong safety John Lynch, notched six tackles. Howell had a chance to intercept two passes, but he couldn't haul them in. Tampa Bay CB Ronde Barber recorded Tampa Bay's only sack of the game when Detroit QB Joey Harrington tripped over his own player on the first series of the game. Barber finished the game with two tackles. Bucs nickel corner Dwight Smith's only tackle of the game came on Tampa Bay's goal line, where Smith made a key tackle that stopped Detroit from scoring a touchdown in the third quarter.

* Detroit starting QB Joey Harrington left the game after the first series with an irregular heartbeat. He was taken to a local hospital for evaluation. Lions backup QB Mike McMahon came in for Harrington and completed 10-of-21 passes for 158 yards and he threw one touchdown and one interception.

GRADE: C


SPECIAL TEAMS:
Tampa Bay kicker Martin Gramatica drilled 3-of-3 field goals, including a 38-yarder late in the fourth quarter, which proved to be the game-winning score. Gramatica also made field goals from 28 and 20 yards out. He also made two huge tackles on kickoffs that might have prevented touchdowns.

The Bucs' kickoff coverage unit was horrible. They allowed the Lions to average just over 37 yards per kickoff return on Sunday. They had several missed tackles, which is why Lions' KR Eddie Drumond had five kickoff returns for 197 yards (39.4 avg.). Detroit's other KR, Larry Foster, returned a kickoff 26 yards.

Tampa Bay kick return man Aaron Stecker took the opening kickoff 66 yards and into Detroit territory, but the Bucs' offense could only get a field goal out of the great return. Stecker averaged 29.6 yards per return on five attempts.

Bucs punt returner Karl Williams had two returns for –2 yards. He returned a punt in the second half and tried to make something happen by running backwards, but he lost 6 yards on the play.

Bucs punter Tom Tupa had two punts over 50 yards and averaged 44 yards per punt on Sunday. He did, however, have a duck, which went just 27 yards in the second quarter.

GRADE: D


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