Tampa Bay Bucs
Don't blame all the Bucs problems on quarterback Chris Simms.
After averaging 142 yards rushing in their first six games, the Bucs have managed 44 yards per game on the ground with Simms under center.
Some of the ineffectiveness could be traced to the foot injury of rookie "Cadillac" Williams, who set an NFL record by rushing for 434 yards in his first three games. Williams has been held to 62 yards in 35 attempts in his last three games. He rushed 11 times for 29 yards against the Panthers.
"I'm not going to use (Williams) injury as an excuse for us having 50 yards rushing in a game," Gruden said. "We've got to block better, we've got to finish better and if we need to explode on somebody, run somebody over, make somebody miss to make yards, that's what we've got to do. We've all got to coach better. We've tried three tight ends, two tight ends and no tight ends to run the ball. We've got to find a couple of schemes that we can run and we've got to run the ball better."
However, Gruden admits that Williams likely won't be completely healthy the rest of the season. And he didn't rule out spreading more carries to Michael Pittman, Earnest Graham -- and yes -- even Mike Alstott.
"I think he's a good player right now," Gruden said of Williams. "We've obviously got to get him some looks at the hole clean. We've got eight games left. I talk to the trainer every day. I do have limited conversations with Carnell, that's the way he likes it. I can't stand up here and make excuses. The guy's going to be sore. He's probably not going to be 100 percent through the rest of the year. But who is? We've got to lean on him, and if we need to help him with Earnest (Graham) and Michael Pittman and Mike Alstott, by God we'll do that. We're going to find a way to get the running game going."
Alstott touched the ball just three times Sunday against the Panthers, but produced two first downs following pass receptions and a 1-yard touchdown run, the 51st of his career.
"He's having a great year at fullback and obviously you can see him catch the ball and do what he did yesterday after the catch, you realize he can still play at a high level," Alstott said. "If we need to get him more involved as a ball carrier, we will do that. But, we like what he's doing as a fullback and that's all I can say."
The Bucs did get some good news Monday. The injury to starting left tackle Anthony Davis is not as bad as once feared. Davis, who left the game in the second half Sunday, has a sprained medial collateral ligament and could play this week against the Washington Redskins.
"I thought it was worse than it really was," Davis said Monday. "The way I got hit, I felt a little something in there, but it was all right. I got treatment and everything's fine. I'm going to see what I can do this week in practice."
Gruden said the Bucs' young offensive line was overpowered by the Panthers defense, which ranks second in the NFL in rushing defense.
"We've had some good days, we've had some tough days," Gruden said. "And I see a lot of that on tape these days from every offensive line that I study. We took a step backwards yesterday in some areas. A lot of it had to do with the way Carolina played. They came in here and played a tremendous physical football game up front. You got a lot of pride in that room. Guys are working very hard and we're seeing some guys get better. But at the same time, we realize that we have a ways to go get it to where we want to be.
"We've got some situations that are hard to deal with. I'm not going to make excuses. We've got to rally around our young quarterback. We've got push some of these players to play a little bit better. We've got to coach harder. We've got to continue to work. We're 5-3. We're done with half the season and we've had some ugly moments. Ugly. We've also had some awesome things happen here. I do like this team. They practice hard, they prepare hard and they compete."
Quotes and Notes
--The Bucs are undisciplined under Jon Gruden. In their first 27 seasons, the Bucs were never penalized more than 905 yards. They exceeded that in 2003 and 2004, and are on a pace to set a franchise record with 1,230 yards.
--Anyone who believed Brian Griese wasn't the best quarterback for the Bucs, consider this: The Bucs were 9-7 in games Griese started in the past two seasons and 1-7 when someone else starts. The only victory was when Griese came off the bench in relief of Simms at New Orleans last season.
--Kenyatta Walker can't play against Julius Peppers. On Sunday, Walker jumped off-sides three times in five plays. Peppers finished with two sacks for minus-12 yards.
"This is probably my worst game against him," Walker said. "I'm very disappointed. This game is very humbling. But I'll see him again. I've played him plenty of times and I have to take my hat off to him. Sometimes you beat the bear, sometimes the bear beats you."
"I'm supposed to be the best player on the offensive line, and to play like that is disappointing," Walker noted.
--OT Anthony Davis has a sprained left MCL but believes he has a chance to play Sunday against the Washington Redskins.
--QB Chris Simms will make his third straight start Sunday against the Washington Redskins. But coach Jon Gruden said the Bucs will try to give backups Luke McCown and Tim Rattay more snaps in practice this week.
--OT Todd Steussie would start in place of Anthony Davis Sunday if Davis is unable to play due to a sprained left MCL. Stuessie replaced Davis in the second half against Carolina Sunday and gave up a sack that caused a fumble.
--DE Simeon Rice, in his first game back since being deactivated against the 49ers, had no tackles, assists or sacks against the Panthers.
--FB Mike Alstott, who scored his 51st career TD Sunday, could see more touches, according to Jon Gruden. Alstott produced two first down receptions and a 1-yard TD run Sunday against Carolina.
Report Card vs. Carolina
PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Chris Simms had a nearly flawless first half, completing 10-of-13 passes, including a 50-yard TD pass to Joey Galloway. But he was sacked five times, lost a fumble and had an interception returned by Chris Gamble for a TD.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The Bucs rushed for 44 yards on 18 carries and did not have a run of more than 7 yards. Rookie "Cadillac" Williams was held to 29 yards on 11 carries. Tampa Bay's offensive line was out-muscled by the Panthers.
PASSING DEFENSE: C-minus --Panthers QB Jake Delhomme was efficient, passing for 216 yards and two touchdowns -- including a 62-yard strike to Ricky Proehl that set up another score. The Bucs got no heat on Delhomme, sacking him just once.
RUSHING DEFENSE: B -- Tampa Bay still ranks No. 1 in the NFL against the run and limited RB Stephen Davis to 48 yards on 12 carries. The Panthers rushed 32 times for 77 yards, but Davis scored a pair of touchdowns.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus -- P Josh Bidwell is the Bucs biggest weapon on special teams and had another good day with a 48.2-yard average. K Matt Bryant attempted no field goals. The Bucs did a little better in kickoff returns, averaging 22.1.
COACHING: D -- Gruden hasn't found the right buttons to push in the running game, and it's going to continue to put more pressure on his young QB.
Whether it's karma, bad luck or something more insidious, the Oakland Raiders can't seem to put themselves on the good side of an official's whistle.
Particularly when the opponent is the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Raiders played the victim again Sunday.
It was second-and-3 at the Kansas City 47-yard line with 34 seconds to play. Oakland led 23-20. Defensive end Tommy Kelly recorded his third sack of the game against Trent Green, pushing the Chiefs back to the 40 where they faced a third-and-10.
Also in on the play was defensive tackle Ed Jasper, who was grappling with Chiefs guard Will Shields. Green wound up being forced over Jasper's legs, a flag flew, and the Raiders were called for tripping.
Instead of third-and-10 at their own 40, the Chiefs had first-and-10 at the 50 with the clock stopping with 27 seconds remaining.
Green hit a 13-yard out pattern to Eddie Kennison, found Larry Johnson sneaking behind a Raiders 5-man rush for a 36-yard gain to the 1, and then finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown dive.
Chiefs 27, Raiders 23. Game over.
All the Raiders can do is file the paperwork with the league office, which they have already done.
"That's something that's transpired, we send it in, we hear from the league and it's all between the league and the team and there's no comments made about it," coach Norv Turner said.
Not by the coaches and front office, anyway.
"Judgement call, huh," Jasper said. "All I know is this happens us a lot."
If anything, Jasper believed, the flag should have gone the other way.
"I bull-rushed the dude, he held me, he threw me down over the top of him and I got a tripping call," Jasper said. "When I got up, the ref threw the flag late, so I'm thinking they called holding. He did tackle me. I didn't even see the quarterback. How am I going to trip him? I was too busy being yanked to the ground."
There were similar beefs echoing through the locker room, with one assistant coaching yelling, "How can they call tripping when the quarterback is being sacked?"
Linebacker Danny Clark, like Jasper, thought for sure a holding call was coming.
"Tripping? I was shocked the way it ended up," Clark said.
Turner, who at first said he didn't get a close enough look, disputed the call as delicately as possible at his Monday press conference.
"Jasper gets held. He gets a great rush, he gets grabbed by a shoulder pad, gets pulled, and when he gets pulled, he whips and rolls and Trent's trying to run up inside," Turner said. "You'd like to see the hold called on the offensive player, the guard who held Jasper... and if you see the whole thing, I don't think the call is made."
What galls the Raiders even more is that in Week 2, the Raiders lost 23-17 in a game that saw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss nullified by a phantom offensive interference penalty, and a 56-yard run by LaMont Jordan erased by a hold away from the run.
"That's why, every other week, the Raiders get something in the mail from the league saying, "Sorry, it was a bad call," Jasper said. "It happens to us a lot. More than any team I've ever been on."
The Chiefs were actually penalized more than the Raiders, getting whistled for 11 penalties for 87 yards and the Raiders nine for 84.
On Oakland's first scoring drive of the second half, the Chiefs were hit with three penalties for 37 yards -- including a debatable roughing the passer call on Jared Allen against Kerry Collins.
Quotes and Notes
--Randy Moss hasn't spoken to the media since the season opener, but quarterback Kerry Collins went out of his way to say how much he admired the way Moss has battled through injuries and kept his focus on the team.
Collins used the Terrell Owens saga as a point of comparison.
"You look at T.O. and what he's done, the things he's said," Collins said. "I'm sure Randy is frustrated. I'm sure he was frustrated today, but he remained positive the whole time. The communication has always been good. I told him after the game I appreciated his attitude and outlook."
--Tight end Courtney Anderson caught five passes for 100 yards against Philadelphia in Week 3, then gradually fell into disuse. He went 11 quarters without a catch before two receptions for 26 yards in the fourth quarter helped get the Raiders offense going against Kansas City.
"They probably didn't expect them to throw it to me after the previous couple of weeks," Anderson said. "I just try and make plays when they call my number."
--The Raiders were one second away from back-to-back road wins for the first time their AFC championship season in 2002, when they won three straight on the road.
That season, the Raiders won in Denver 34-10 on Nov. 11, in Arizona 41-24 on Nov. 24 and in San Diego 27-7 on Dec. 8.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--DE Bobby Hamilton, who suffered an ankle injury and was questionable all week but maintained he would play, was inactive. DE Derrick Burgess started in his place.
--DT Terdell Sands was active for the first time this year.
--S Reggie Tongue, signed during the week, played on special teams and briefly in the secondary.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. CHIEFS
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- Quarterback Kerry Collins (18-for-40, 175 yards, 2 TDs, 1 interception) had to really work to get the stats he had. Considering the opposition, this was his worst game of the season. Randy Moss was a rumor until his 7-yard touchdown reception and he clearly is not 100 percent in terms of jumping and running. The Raiders got a second consecutive good game from Jerry Porter (7 receptions, 68 yards, 1 TD).
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus -- LaMont Jordan (19 carries, 93 yards) had an above-average game, and did more than enough to set up what should have been a dominant passing game. He was the whole show. Zack Crockett had 5 carries and just 3 yards and Doug Gabriel went 5 yards with a reverse.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- After a strong first half, Chiefs quarterback Trent Green was 13-of-17 for 148 yards and a touchdown in the second half. Some solid play by rookie CB Fabian Washington and CB Nnamdi Asomugha, although Asomugha dropped an easy interception. Strong game by nickel back Renaldo Hill.
RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Didn't have Priest Holmes to deal, with but gave up 107 yards on 22 carries to Larry Johnson, including a 15-yard touchdown run that included a missed tackle by Stuart Schweigert. Gave up 4.8 yards per attempt overall, too much for a team giving up 3.9 coming in and playing against an offensive line missing Willie Roaf.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Terrific coverage on punts and kickoffs against Chiefs return specialist Dante Hall, who did no damage. Raiders kickoff return specialist Chris Carr averaged 38.2 yards on kickoff returns with a long of 62, but lost 6 yards on two punt returns. Place kicker Sebastian Janikowski was 3-for-3, hitting two low liners that whistled through from 49 and 48 yards.
COACHING: D-minus -- Without special teams strategies for directional kicking against Hall, it's a failing grade. Faced with a second-and-25 early, Raiders ran twice into the line. They didn't adjust to Kansas City blitzing until it was too late. The defensive decision to rush five men -- allowing Johnson to catch a 36-yard dump-off to the 1 -- set up the Chiefs game-winning score.