Monday Game Recap
Updated 9/9 by Joe Bryant - Exclusive to Footballguys.com
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Fantasy owners hoping for a running back to emerge in Tampa Bay will have to wait another week. Both Michael Pittman and Thomas Jones were given opportunities throughout the game. Aaron Stecker appears to be the odd man out (only 1 carry). Mike Alstott's rushing attempts were inflated due to game situations. Half of his carries occurred in the fourth quarter as Tampa Bay was attempting to wind down the clock. However, Alstott was the ball carrier on all of Tampa Bay's short yardage situations.
Brad Johnson recovered from a slow start and completed 13 of 14 attempts in the second half including two touchdowns to Joe Jurevicius. He managed two textbook west coast offense drives in the second half that ate up a combined 16 minutes.
The Tampa Bay defense lived up to its unanimous preseason #1 ranking. Rice, Sapp, McFarland, and Spire consistently stuffed the Philadelphia running backs and held them to a combined 19 yards on 10 carries.
Each of the three Philadelphia running backs (Staley, Buckhalter, and Westbrook) had a carry and a receiving target to start the game, but then it was all Duce Staley. Staley was the only Philadelphia tailback that had a carry or a receiving target after the first quarter.
Donovan McNabb was hurried and hit all night. He was unable to get the ball down field and looked much more comfortable dumping the ball off to Staley. Also, McNabb didn't make plays with his legs until the game was starting to become out of reach.
The Philadelphia defense did a great job of stopping the run, but seemed to be on the field the entire second half (20+ minutes). When S Brian Dawkins and CB Bobby Taylor both left the game with injuries Brad Johnson had a much easier time moving the ball.
WHAT YOU OUGHT TO KNOW
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB: Brad Johnson (27-36-238 2 TD, 1 INT) Brad Johnson was hassled and hurried early in the game, but he didn't let the pressure rattle him into making mistakes. His one interception was off a deflected ball. Johnson settled down in the second half and executed Gruden's version of the west coast offense with deadly precision. Johnson's longest completion in the second half was only 16 yards while marching the Buccaneers down the field.
RB: Michael Pittman (8-35 rushing, 4-6 receiving, 9 targets) Pittman was the most effective Tampa Bay running back and was targeted more than any other player in the passing game. He also had a receiving target inside the 5-yard line.
Mike Alstott (12-23 rushing, 5-36 receiving, 5 targets) Alstott saw several garbage carries late in the game as Tampa Bay was attempting to run out the clock. Philadelphia stuffed Alstott on many plays, but Alstott converted both of his third and short carries into first downs. Also, Alstott had a carry on 2nd and goal from the 5-yard line.
Thomas Jones (10-30 rushing, 2-10 receiving, 2 targets) Jones was given nearly as many carries as Pittman, but received far less targets in the passing game. Jones continued to show the quickness and acceleration that he displayed in the preseason. Jones owners can be assured that Tampa Bay will continue to give him opportunities to shine.
Aaron Stecker (1-2 rushing, 0-0 receiving, 2 targets) Stecker appears to be the odd man out in the Tampa Bay running back rotation. He will continue to return kickoffs and probably won't be seeing many carries unless either Pittman or Jones is injured.
WR: Keyshawn Johnson (6-83 receiving, 8 targets) Keyshawn Johnson made the bulk of his catches on slants and crossing patterns across the middle. The Philadelphia safeties put some serious hits on him, but Johnson's superior size and strength made fans wonder who took the worst of it. Johnson wasn't targeted at all in the red zone, but Brad Johnson was leaning on Keyshawn Johnson to move the sticks during their long drives.
Keenan McCardell (3-41 receiving, 3 targets) All three of McCardell's catches came earlier in the game before half time.
Joe Jurevicius (4-39 receiving 2 TD, 6 targets) Both touchdowns receptions by Jurevicius were highlight reel worthy. One was deep in the corner of the end zone where he used his height over the top of the corner back barely keeping his toes in bounds, and the other was a ball that he tipped in the air to keep it from being picked off, then stayed with the ball for his second score. Also, Jurevicius was targeted on Brad Johnson's only deep ball in the game.
TE: Ken Dilger (1-3 receiving, 1 target) Dilger saw his only target and catch in the first quarter while the Philadelphia defense was keeping Tampa Bay in check. From the second quarter on Dilger often stayed behind to help deal with the blitz more than he went out in the pattern. To make things worse for Dilger, Warren Sapp lined up at tight end on a few plays and pirated a 14-yard pass in the fourth quarter. Coach Gruden was quoted after the game saying that we would be seeing more of Sapp in goal line and multiple tight end situations.
K: Martin Gramatica (1-1 FG (34yd), 2 XP) Gramatica hit his only field goal attempt.
Pass Defense: The Tampa Bay front four was able to put ample pressure on McNabb by themselves allowing more to drop into coverage. McNabb had nowhere to go with the ball. Also, the front four did a great job of keeping McNabb contained in the first half.
Rush Defense: Tampa stuffed the Philadelphia running backs all night. They gave up an early 47-yard reverse to Thrash and 55 yards from McNabb in the second half, but their ability to consistently dominate Philadelphia in the trenches dictated the result of the game.
QB: Donovan McNabb (19-36-148 1 INT passing, 5-55 rushing) McNabb started the game completing 1 of his first 6 passing attempts and never recovered. He was inaccurate and looked uncomfortable in the pocket. McNabb didn't escape the pocket until late in the game when it was obvious that desperation was starting to settle in.
RB: Duce Staley (7-14 rushing, 7-46 receiving, 9 targets) Staley's 14 touches in the game compared to a total of 4 by the rest of the backfield answered one of the largest fantasy questions entering the 2003 season. Buckhalter may have been named the starter before the game, but coach Reid quickly put the past in the past and leaned on Staley throughout the game.
Correll Buckhalter (1-0 rushing, 0-0 receiving, 1 target) Buckhalter had his carry and target to open the game, then never saw the field for the rest of the game.
Bryant Westbrook (2-5 rushing, 0-0 receiving, 1 target) Same as Buckhalter. Westbrook never saw the huddle outside of returning kickoffs after the first quarter.
Jon Ritchie (0-0 rushing, 1-12 receiving, 3 targets) Ritchie was targeted once at the goal line in the first quarter, but didn't appear to be the primary receiver on the play.
WR: Todd Pinkston (2-7receiving, 5 targets) Pinkston seemed to disappear as the game rolled along. On a bright note, Pinkston was targeted in the end zone and drew a pass interference flag on John Lynch that brought Philadelphia its best scoring opportunity.
James Thrash (1-47 rushing, 5-46 receiving, 9 targets) Thrash's long run on a reverse came in the first quarter. Three of his catches came in garbage time late when the game was decided.
Freddie Mitchell (1-15 receiving, 3 targets) Mitchell, much like Pinkston, seemed to be invisible during the game.
TE: Chad Lewis ( 3-22 receiving, 4 targets) Lewis was not much a factor in the game and lost out on red zone targets to LJ Smith.
LJ Smith ( 0-0 receiving, 2 targets) Smith was targeted in the end zone twice early in the game, but dropped a sure touchdown on a fake field goal.
K: David Akers (no attempts) Akers was robbed of what would have been his only field goal attempt when Philadelphia went with an unsuccessful fake field goal.
Pass Defense: Philadelphia wasn't able to put much pressure on Johnson and their one interception came on a deflected ball. Tampa Bay kept a running back or tight end in to deal with blitzing linebackers as Johnson began to pick them apart in the second half. Also, the injuries to Taylor and Dawkins gave the Tampa Bay Johnson connection some youth to pick on.
Rush Defense: 31 carries for 90 yards is getting it done on defense. During the first half Philadelphia was able to keep Tampa Bay in third and long situations forcing punts on 5 of Tampa Bay's first 7 possessions along with an interception.