Bucs Game Grades

January 19 - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers upset the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, 27-10. The Bucs will play the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII next Sunday in San Diego, California. Which players fared well? Which didn't? PewterReport.com has distributed grades to the Bucs players based on their performance against Eagles.

QUARTERBACKS
Bucs QB Brad Johnson sported a glove on his throwing hand for the first time this season. The glove, along with the 20-degree temperatures, seemed to affect some of his passes at the beginning of the game. But Johnson delivered some key passes to help the Bucs offense keep moving the chains. Johnson completed 3-of-4 of his passes on Tampa Bay's first drive of the game. Although the Bucs only came away with a field goal, they answered Philly's touchdown. Johnson threw an interception on a play-action pass intended for WR Keyshawn Johnson with 7:14 remaining in the first quarter. Johnson's pass was underthrown. After the pick, the Eagles offense got the ball at Tampa Bay's 46-yard line. Johnson hit Bucs WR Joe Jurevicius in stride on a third-and-4 play. It allowed Jurevicius to sprint 70 yards upfield to set up the team's first touchdown in the first quarter. The most impressive part of that drive was the fact that it started on Tampa Bay's own 4-yard line. Johnson delivered a nice pass on a slant route ran perfectly by WR Keyshawn Johnson for a touchdown with 2:28 remaining in the first half. That score put the Bucs up 17-10. Tampa Bay's offensive line gave Johnson plenty of time to throw throughout the game. Johnson completed 20-of-33 passes for 259 yards and he threw one touchdown and one interception against the Eagles on Sunday.

*Tampa Bay converted 6-of-15 third downs against Philadelphia.

GRADE: B


RUNNING BACKS
Tampa Bay running back Michael Pittman suffered a concussion in the first quarter of Sunday's game, but he returned in the second quarter and helped the Bucs offense move the chains against Philly's defense. Pittman had a 9-yard gain on a delayed handoff in the first quarter. He hauled in a pass and sprinted 33 yards upfield to the 50-yard line in the first quarter. Pittman took a pitch from Johnson to the weakside of the field for a 9-yard gain with 5:04 remaining in the second quarter. Pittman's run picked up a first down on Philly's 19-yard line. Pittman rushed eight times for 17 yards (2.1 avg.). Pittman was more effective in the passing game, where he caught five passes for 53 yards.

Tampa Bay fullback Mike Alstott picked up several big first downs on running plays. The first downs came in short down-and-distance situations, which made the short runs very important. Alstott played a huge part in getting Tampa Bay's offense out of territory near its own goal line in the first half by picking up a key first down on two carries. Alstott scored a touchdown on a 5-yard run with :40 remaining in the first quarter. It was a huge score and it was Tampa Bay's first offensive touchdown in three contents in Philly. Alstott rushed 17 times for 25 yards (1.5 avg.). He didn't catch any passes.

Tampa Bay RB Aaron Stecker replaced Pittman after he left the game with the concussion. Stecker had a 9-yard run on his first carry of the game. Stecker hauled in a pass on the very next play to pick up the first down on a short gain.

* Tampa Bay rushed the ball 32 times for 49 yards (1.5 avg.).

GRADE: C


WIDE RECEIVERS:
Bucs WR Joe Jurevicius hauled in a pass on a crossing route in the first quarter and sprinted 71 yards upfield to put the Bucs offense on Philly's 5-yard line. Jurevicius dropped a pass that would have given the Bucs offense a first down with 7:28 remaining in the third quarter. The ball was thrown low, but Jurevicius still could've hauled it in. Jurevicius finished the game with one catch for 71 yards. His play was arguably the biggest play of the game and it gave the offense a huge confidence boost.

Bucs WR Keyshawn Johnson didn't catch a pass until the middle of the second quarter, but it was a big one. Johnson hauled in a 21-yard pass from Brad Johnson to put the offense on Philly's 29-yard line. Johnson hauled in a pass on a slant pattern for a 9-yard gain. That play put the Bucs offense on Philly's 9-yard line. Johnson hauled in a touchdown pass on another slant pattern on third-and-10 with 2:28 remaining in the second quarter. That score put the Bucs up 17-10. Johnson dropped a perfect pass from Brad Johnson on second-and-16 on the first offensive series of the second half. It was a critical drop and the Bucs had to punt two plays later. Johnson caught three passes for 40 yards.

Bucs WR Keenan McCardell hauled in a 10-yard pass from Brad Johnson for the offense's first down of the second half. McCardell hauled in five passes for 37 yards.

GRADE: B


TIGHT ENDS:
Tampa Bay tight end Ken Dilger took advantage of Philadelphia's defense by picking them apart in the flat. Dilger caught a pass in the flat to pick up the second first down of the game and keep the chains moving. Dilger's catch also moved the Bucs offense into Eagles territory. Dilger threw a key block on Jurevicius' 70-yard reception. Dilger came up huge again with 4:00 remaining in the third quarter on a third-and-4 play. Dilger hauled in the pass in the flat and rumbled up to Philly's 15-yard line. Dilger finished the game with three catches for 41 yards. He also had a solid outing in terms of blocking.

Bucs TE Rickey Dudley hauled in his first pass of the game late in the third quarter. Dudley caught the pass in the flat for a 7-yard gain. It was Dudley's only catch of the game.

GRADE: B+


OFFENSIVE LINE:
Tampa Bay's offensive line had a fantastic outing against Philadelphia in terms of providing pass protection. Bucs QB Brad Johnson wasn't sacked a single time and he was rarely forced to throw the ball away due to pressure. Bucs C Jeff Christy was called for false start, which negated a long run by Aaron Stecker when the Bucs' offense was pinned on its own 2-yard line. Bucs RG Cosey Coleman suffered a sprained knee and ankle at the beginning of the second quarter. Backup G Todd Washington filled in for Coleman. The knee sprain was caused by Mike Alstott's helmet. Once Coleman left the game, the Bucs offense seemed to run away from Washington (strongside) and toward the weakside much more, and with a lot of success. Bucs RT Kenyatta Walker was called for holding on the first play of the second half. It negated a 5-yard run by Pittman.

While Tampa Bay's ground attack didn't produce the most impressive statistics, the offensive was able to get some great blocks on short down-and-distance situations. The Bucs' O-line also gave Brad Johnson the time he needed to attack Philly's secondary via the passing game and keep the chains moving. This unit had been physically dominated by Philly's defense in the three previous contests, but it was the other way around on Sunday.

*Bucs QB Brad Johnson was not sacked once against the Eagles on Sunday.

GRADE: B+


DEFENSIVE LINE:
Tampa Bay's defensive line wasn't able to sustain much of a pass rush on Sunday, but the secondary managed deliver a terrific game in terms of coverage. The defensive line did, however, get enough pressure on Eagles QB Donovan McNabb to rattle him and Philly's offense.

Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp seemed like he moved in slow motion in his pursuit of Eagles running back Duce Staley on a 20-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Sapp had a shot, but seemed to hesitate instead of accelerating. Sapp was poked in the eye at the beginning of the second quarter, which caused his eye to pretty much swell shut by the end of the first half. Sapp sported a shield on his helmet in the second half and although he didn't get much pressure on McNabb, he did a nice job against Philly's ground game after Staley's 20-yard run. Sapp notched two tackles on Sunday.

Bucs right defensive end Simeon Rice made a key third down stop on a run by Eagles RB Dorsey Levens. Rice was able to make the stop by lining up on the left side of the defensive line instead of the right. With :30 remaining in the first half and Philadelphia deep in Tampa Bay territory, Rice penetrated Philly's offensive line and hit QB Donovan McNabb's arm to cause a fumble. Rice also recovered the fumble, which allowed the Bucs to take a 17-10 lead into halftime. Rice recorded one tackle against the Eagles.

Bucs DE Greg Spires made a nice open-field tackle on its own 10-yard line. That play helped the Bucs defense hold Philly's offense to a field goal late in the second quarter. Spires recovered a fumble caused by CB Ronde Barber in the third quarter. Spires deflected a pass on a second-and-15 play in the third quarter. Philly's offense tested the strongside of Tampa Bay's defense often, but Spires was solid. He recorded four tackles.

*Tampa Bay's defense held Philadelphia's offense to 80 yards on 21 carries (3.8 avg.).

GRADE: B


LINEBACKERS:
Tampa Bay's linebackers were all over the field on Sunday. This unit's speed came in handy, as always, against Philadelphia. Bucs MLB Shelton Quarles did a nice job of breaking up a pass on a third-and-long play in the first quarter. The play forced the Eagles to punt. Quarles was excellent against the run and the pass. He notched six tackles. Bucs WLB Derrick Brooks made a nice tackle on a screen-play on third down, which prevented a first down and led to a punt. Brooks did a nice job against the run. He recorded a team-high seven tackles.

* Tampa Bay's defense held Philly QB Donovan McNabb to just 17 yards rushing on three carries.

GRADE: A


SECONDARY:
Bucs free safety Dexter Jackson had a rough start to Sunday's game. He missed a tackle on RB Duce Staley on second offensive play of the game, which resulted in a touchdown. Jackson missed another tackle on a running play by Staley. Jackson made a nice pass defensed at the beginning of the second quarter, which prevented a first down. Jackson allowed WR Antonio Freeman to haul in a pass on Tampa Bay's 26-yard line with under 2:00 remaining in the first half. Eagles QB Donovan McNabb made the play possible when he scrambled out of the pocket. Jackson did a great job getting off of a block on a screen-play in the third quarter. He made the tackle and the play only went for a 2-yard gain. Jackson was able to settle down after the shaky start. He notched three tackles on Sunday.

Bucs CB Brian Kelly was called for holding on a bomb thrown by QB Donovan McNabb in the end zone. Kelly thought he was beat so he grabbed WR James Thrash. The ball was overthrown and landed out of bounds. The penalty gave Philly's offense the ball at Tampa Bay's 22-yard line. That penalty allowed Philly to later kick a field goal to tie the game at 10 all. Kelly held his own, though, and recorded seven tackles on Sunday.

Bucs SS John Lynch broke up a pass intended for TE Chad Lewis late in the second quarter. It was a nicely timed play. Lynch recorded six tackles and did a nice job of playing against the run and the pass.

Bucs CB Ronde Barber had a phenomenal game on Sunday. Barber came in from the weakside on a corner blitz and knocked the football out of McNabb's hands, which caused a fumble. That play gave Tampa Bay the ball at Philly's 48-yard line. Barber had a couple of key pass breakups in the second half. Barber made another great play on a third-and-10 play to breakup a pass. Barber made a nice open-field tackle on RB Duce Staley late in the fourth quarter. That play prevented a big run and kept the clock running late in the game. But Barber's biggest play came late in the fourth quarter when he hauled in a pass thrown by McNabb and raced 92 yards up the field and into the end zone for a touchdown. That play stalled Philly's drive deep in Tampa Bay territory and put the Bucs up 27-10.

* Tampa Bay only allowed Philly QB Donovan McNabb to complete 26-of-49 passes for 243 yards and he didn't throw any touchdowns.

GRADE: A


SPECIAL TEAMS:
Tampa Bay's special teams unit had a very shaky outing. The Bucs allowed Eagles return man Brian Mitchell to return the opening kickoff 71 yards, which led to a touchdown two plays later. Mitchell had another long return on his second attempt and the Bucs wisely stopped kicking the ball to Mitchell after that.

Bucs K Martin Gramatica drilled a 48-yard field goal after Tampa Bay's first offensive drive of the game stalled in Eagles territory. Gramatica drilled a 27-yard field goal with 1:02 remaining in the third quarter. That huge kick gave the Bucs a 20-10 lead.

Bucs P Tom Tupa got off a 36-yard punt from his own end zone in the second quarter. That gave Philadelphia the ball at Tampa Bay's 38-yard line. Tupa had a 6-yard punt with 10:08 remaining in the fourth quarter, so instead of pinning Philly deep in their own territory, it gave the Eagles the ball at the their own 36-yard line. Tupa got off a 35-yard punt late in the fourth quarter and pinned the Eagles on their own 15-yard line thanks to the tackle made on Mitchell by Corey Ivy, who had missed a tackle on Mitchell earlier in the game.

GRADE: C-

COACHING:
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden simply outcoached Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid in this one. Gruden was the difference in this game. His play-calling was brilliant and he managed to keep a very good Eagles defense off balance throughout the game. Gruden did a great job of creating mismatches by motioning the tight ends and receivers. Gruden played this game to win and it showed in his aggressive play-calling. Gruden's play-calling allowed his tight ends, running backs and receivers to haul in passes in the flat, especially on play-action rollouts. The Bucs were wise to stop kicking to Brian Mitchell after his two big returns on special teams.

GRADE: A


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