December 01, 2008 at 11:51am by Scott • 5 Comments »
I said on Forecast Radio last week that Jeff Garcia was just good enough to get the Bucs to their first playoff game and lose it for them. After the New Orleans game, I’m sticking by that assessment. Garcia had some good moves, kept some plays alive with his feet and did not throw an interception. And his touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant was pretty sweet, if a little underthrown. But 9 of 23 for 119 yards and several missed opportunities can’t be good enough if the Bucs are going to go anywhere in the playoffs. You saw Michael Clayton wide open in the endzone, right? Clayton could have caught that ball if it wasn’t thrown so far behind him. That was a four-point throw he missed.
I realize the weather had something to do with his inaccuracy, but Drew Brees was over 53% Can we not have the accuracy and zero interceptions?
The good news is that the average yards per completion was 13.2, which is pretty high. Of course, that average might have been a little lower if more catches had been made, but I’m trying to see some sunny side here.
There’s also no doubt that Garcia was the most valuable rusher of the day. His ability to scramble really puts linebackers in a bind when they have to decide whether to play the run or the pass.
Speaking of runners, Cadillac Williams looked about ten times better yesterday than he did last week. His cuts were sharper and he hit the holes with more authority. His recovery couldn’t come at a better time, either. I expect to see him get a larger share of the load as the season continues on. Seriously, with Earnest Graham out, Williams could be the difference between a long playoff run and a one-and-done.
Warrick Dunn looked a little gunshy after he slipped the first couple times. He started taking his cuts a little slower and didn’t have the same burst he usually has. I’m chalking this game up to weather for him. His average was about the same as Pierre Thomas‘s yesterday.
Unless something happens to Antonio Bryant, I don’t see Joey Galloway playing a major part in the rest of the season. The pass to him was low, but certainly catchable. It hit him in the hands, for chrissakes. That was on a 2nd and 6 in a drive that ended in a punt with the game tied. That kind of shit infuriates Jon Gruden. He was the only receiver in on single-receiver sets and defenses are going to get the point real fast that he’s not getting the ball.
I was really surprised that Clayton allowed a pass to get ripped out of his hands. I never saw a clear angle on it and he may have been bobbling the ball, but Clayton’s biggest attribute is his physicality and strength. Jonathan Vilma must be a beast.
You want to know something funny? In a game where the Saints had four sacks, I think the Bucs offensive line had one of its better games. Only one of those sacks was really the fault of a lineman (Jeremy Trueblood) and the pass-protection and run-protection were both pretty solid — a rarity. Edge blocking was pretty good and it allowed the Bucs to continue to run the ball when it was obvious that Garcia wasn’t having his best game.
I’ll say it again: Jeff Faine is SO much better than any center the Bucs have had in years.
What happened to Jimmy Wilkerson and why did Ryan Sims get the most playing time after Jovan Haye was injured? Don’t get me wrong; Sims did a great job. But Wilkerson has been on fire for the last several weeks. He didn’t play very much at all yesterday, though.
Both Cato June and Derrick Brooks whiffed on tackles early on in the game, but then made up for them with big plays later. Still, Barrett Ruud is currently the best linebacker on the team.
Same with Ronde Barber. He was caught sleeping on a Marques Colston catch early in the game, but was excellent for the rest of the game. His deflection into June’s hands was a heads-up play that wasn’t easy to make.
And that illegal contact penalty on Barber was total bullshit. Barber got mugged and Jeremy Shockey should have been called for offensive pass interference.
I was saying how Sabby Piscitelli would probably take over as the starter after the season when Jermaine Phillips hits free agency. But now that Philliips is back and you see what he does for the team, it’s a hard position to defend. He absolutely drilled dudes in the first half and his interception in the second half set up the game-winner. How do you let that walk away?
Special teams coverage was just — just awesome. This week it was Elbert Mack and Brian Clark that stepped up and made Reggie Bush lose yardage on his returns. Each week it seems like someone new gets into the kick coverage mix.
Clifton Smith didn’t fumble! And he still had a fantastic return average. I don’t think the Bucs have ever had this explosive a return game.
Speaking of not fumbling, look at what else didn’t happen. Trueblood didn’t get penalized, Matt Bryant didn’t miss a kick in the rain, Garcia didn’t throw an interception, Gaines Adams didn’t go offsides. This was relatively mistake-free football. The Bucs didn’t beat themselves and, as a result, was able to squeak out a win by doing what they do — playing good defense and having the offense do enough to win. It’s a tricky formula because it really requires that they don’t screw up much. This is the kind of game that would have slipped away from them in earlier years, or even earlier this year. After getting through this game, I don’t see any reason why the Bucs can’t make it to 12-4.