[Bucs] Bucs Report Card
Each week after the Bucs game, fans can compare their grades to those of Tribune Bucs beat writer Roy Cummings. Here's Roy's grades for the Bucs' 20-17 win against the New Orleans Saints:
UNIT Roy's Grades
Running Backs C
Offensive Line C
Defensive Line C
Special Teams C
Quarterbacks: Before his blindside protection broke down, Chris Simms was giving the Bucs the best QB play they've had all season. Then Brian Griese took over and outplayed him. Griese completed nine of his first 10 throws and was virtually flawless, hitting on big plays, finding the end zone and making few mistakes.
Running Backs: Mike Alstott got some work at tailback early and was somewhat effective until the Bucs gave up on him. Michael Pittman, who ran 15 times and caught five passes for a total of 80 yards, has had better days, but his late run for a first down was big. FB Greg Comella caught a big pass that helped set up an early score.
Receivers: Charles Lee and Michael Clayton were outstanding. Lee made a lot of yards after the catch and for all his big receptions, Clayton's best plays may have come in the running game, where he gained 15 yards on one play and 9 on the other. Tight ends Ken Dilger and Will Heller were more involved, with Dilger catching three balls, one for a touchdown.
Offensive Line: Todd Steussie was beaten badly on the sack-fumble that forced Simms out of the game. Kenyatta Walker got beaten for a sack as well on a day when the pass protection was only adequate. The running backs had some holes to run through but this unit still has to play better.
Defensive Line: This unit gave up some big plays against the run and didn't get anywhere near enough pressure on Saints QB Aaron Brooks. Greg Spires knocked down an important pass late in the third quarter and led this group with two tackles. A better effort here and the Bucs blow the Saints out.
Linebackers: Jeff Gooch, whose team-leading nine tackles included two big goal-lines stops, did an outstanding job filling in for starter Shelton Quarles at MLB. Derrick Brooks had eight tackles and Ian Gold was effective coming off the edge against the run.
Secondary: This group suffered some costly breakdowns but Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly came up with two of the biggest plays of the game. Barber returned a fumble for a touchdown and Kelly helped preserve the victory by picking off a Brooks pass early in the fourth quarter.
Special Teams: Martin Gramatica made a 54-yard field goal but failed to seal the victory when he missed a 41-yard try. Tim Brown was a nonfactor as a punt returner and penalties became a real problem. They made a bad situation worse on a punt early in the second quarter and ruined an otherwise great effort in kick coverage a series later.
Coaching: Challenging Pittman's fumble was a good call; challenging Clayton's non-catch in the end zone wasn't. The staff has to know Clayton must come down with the ball in his hands there. The offensive play-calling was some of the best we've seen. That third-down end-around run by Clayton had everybody in the building fooled.