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  • Fumbled Away -Buc Press

    Fumbled Away

    By ROY CUMMINGS [email protected]
    Published: Oct 19, 2004
    ST. LOUIS - They had you believing, didn't they? For nearly four full quarters Monday night they had you believing the way baseball fans in Houston and Boston are believing today.



    That's what the Bucs did Monday night. They instilled belief in their legions of followers. For nearly four full quarters, they had you believing that this once lost season would not only live on, but also live on with a purpose.

    Now, there's no telling where the Bucs will go. Or who will lead them there.

    Before Tim Brown's fumble with 26 seconds left brought an end to what proved to be a 28-21 Rams victory at the Edward Jones Center, Brian Griese looked like he had pushed Chris Simms back down the depth chart.

    He had resurrected an offense that has struggled all season long to find the end zone, putting on a dazzling show of his own in a building that houses what has become known as the Greatest Show on Turf.

    It was an offensive high wire act in which rookie receiver Michael Clayton ran up more than 100 yards in receptions for the first time in his career but still couldn't outshine Rams receiver Torry Holt.

    Holt proved to be the hero in this one, catching two touchdown passes including the game-winner, a 36-yard catch that came after he slipped behind Bucs nickelback Mario Edwards near the end zone.

    ``I want to tip my hat to Tampa,'' Holt said afterward. ``It's fun playing these guys; they challenge you on every single play.''

    The Bucs challenged the Rams, but in the end it was mistakes that once again cost the Bucs, who turned the ball over four times in dropping to 1-5.

    There was Brown's fumble at the end of a 21-yard pass play that put them within easy striking distance of the goal line.

    There was center John Wade's fumble of a snap to Griese at the Bucs 5 that the Rams quickly turned into a touchdown.

    There was Jerametrius Butler's interception of a Griese pass on the next-to-last offensive drive of the night for Tampa Bay.

    There was Adam Archuleta's 93-yard return for a touchdown of a Michael Pittman fumble midway through the fourth quarter.

    And there was kicker Martin Gramatica's misses of field goal tries of 35 and 48 yards in the first half.

    ``We missed two field goals and fumbled in the red zone twice,'' Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. ``I'm fully responsible for this mess, with all these turnovers; we might be the best 1-5 team in history. We did it to ourselves.''

    The mistakes rendered meaningless not only another solid effort by Griese, who completed 27 of 40 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns, but also one of the best efforts of the season by the Bucs defensive front four.

    That unit got four sacks, including two by Greg Spires and one each from Anthony McFarland and Simeon Rice, and consistently put pressure on Rams quarterback Marc Bulger.

    And they rendered meaningless Clayton's best game yet as a pro. He caught eight passes for 142 yards, but with his team's hopes for the season fading, he couldn't revel in it.

    ``There were a couple more catches I could've made and maybe we would've won,'' Clayton said.

    Gruden is not so sure that Clayton didn't do all he could. He said the rookie out of LSU ``ignited'' the Bucs on Monday.

    If Clayton ignited the Bucs, Griese kept the fire burning. He connected on each of his first nine throws and found the end zone twice in the first 20 minutes. But that fire eventually died out.

    ``We didn't win the game,'' Griese said. ``It's tough. I felt we did some things to keep us in the game, but we turned it over too many times.''

    You got the idea from listening to the pregame hype for this one that the Bucs and Rams might be engaging in a track meet and not a football game.

    The talk prior to Monday was all about the Rams' speed on offense and the Bucs' speed on defense. And almost immediately after the opening kickoff, those two factors came into play.

    On just the fifth play of the game, Holt hauled in a Bulger pass and ran past two Bucs defenders en route to a 52-yard score that gave the Rams a 7-0 lead.

    With the score coming just 2:20 into the game, it was a torrid pace the Rams set. The Bucs quickly proved they could keep up with it, though, as they scored themselves just 3:26 later.

    Mike Alstott completed the drive, which lasted just six plays, by rumbling over the goal line from a yard out. But it was mostly the work of Griese that got the Bucs into the end zone.

    After Torrie Cox set up the drive by bringing kicker Jeff Wilkins' kick back 59 yards to the Rams 43, Griese completed each of his four passes to account for 37 of the yards that the Bucs offense traversed.

    Griese didn't stop there, either. He went on to complete each of his first nine passes, including one of 44 yards to Clayton, whose long catch of the quarter set up a 5-yard scoring strike to Pittman at the 13:02 mark.

    That score gave the Bucs a 14-7 lead and with the Bucs defense getting the better of the Rams offense - they sacked Bulger twice in the first half - the Bucs were in position to pull away.

    As the first half wound down, though, a bad snap by Wade on third-and-7 play at the Bucs 7 changed all that and gave the Rams a chance to tie the game, which they did in quick fashion.

    Four plays after Leonard Little recovered Wade's fumble, Marshall Faulk reached across the goal line and touched the ball down to give the Rams a 14-14 tie that stood in large part because of the play of Gramatica.

    Gramatica struggle all of last year and all through the preseason this year with kicks between 40 and 49 yards out and he struggled from that range again Monday, missing a kick of 48 yards near the end of the half.

    Coupled with an earlier miss of 35 yards, Gramatica's second miss left six points on the field in a first-half effort that Gruden expressed plenty of disappointment with.

    ``You've got to make your field goals,'' Gruden said. ``We're disappointed in that.''

    Gruden was equally disappointed in two fumbles, the one by Wade, which led directly to the Rams' second score, and a third-quarter fumble by Pittman that Archuleta ran back 93 yards for a score. It was the longest fumble recovery against the Bucs in franchise history and it gave the Rams a 21-14 lead.eason this year with kicks between 40 and 49 yards out and he struggled from that range again Monday, missing a kick of 48 yards near the end of the half.



    Coupled with an earlier miss of 35 yards, Gramatica's second miss left six points on the field in a first-half effort that Gruden expressed plenty of disappointment with.

    ``You've got to make your field goals,'' Gruden said. ``We're disappointed in that.''

    Gruden was equally disappointed in two fumbles, the one by Wade, which led directly to the Rams' second score, and a third-quarter fumble by Pittman that Archuleta ran back 93 yards for a score. It was the longest fumble recovery against the Bucs in franchise history and it gave the Rams a 21-14 lead.

    __________________________________________________________
    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • RamWraith
    Bucs offense falls just short in loss to Rams
    by RamWraith
    By Jeremy Rutherford
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Oct. 19 2004

    It wasn't Steve Young and Jerry Rice out there Monday night, but the Tampa Bay
    duo of Brian Griese (No. 8) and Michael Clayton (No. 80) looked pretty sharp in
    the Bucs' 28-21 loss to the Rams.

    Griese, making his first start at quarterback for the Buccaneers, completed 27
    of 40 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Clayton, the Bucs' heralded
    rookie receiver, hauled in eight catches for 142 yards.

    That anemic Tampa Bay offense that Buccaneers fans have watched all season
    played its most productive game. The 21 points and three offensive touchdowns
    were the most in six games for the Bucs (1-5).

    "We're not chopped liver," Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said. "We're going to be
    better. I think the last three weeks we've played better offensively. It's just
    too bad that we don't get more out of our drives."

    Tampa Bay, which came into the game with the No. 25-ranked offense in the NFL,
    totaled 332 yards against the Rams.

    But the Bucs' undoing was two missed field goals by Martin Gramatica - from 35
    and 48 yards - and a costly fumble by Michael Pittman that resulted in the
    Rams' go-ahead touchdown.

    Adam Archuleta returned it 93 yards for a 21-14 Rams' lead.

    "We can't turn the ball over like that," said Griese, who completed his first
    nine passes Monday. "I thought we had a chance even at the end of the game."

    Griese threw an ill-advised interception in the end zone with 5 minutes 42
    seconds left in the game with the Rams leading by the final margin.

    Otherwise, the Bucs were a lot more effective than anyone anticipated.

    Griese played in relief of Chris Simms (shoulder) last week. He completed 16 of
    19 passes in a 20-17 win over New Orleans. His nine-for-nine start Monday gave
    him a stretch of 25 completions on 28 attempts.

    "He runs around, he makes plays, he made some great audibles, threw some timely
    beautiful passes on third down," Gruden said. "I don't know what I don't like
    (about Griese), that's a better question."

    And what's not to like about Clayton, who caught four of Griese's first nine
    balls, one for 44 yards. That set up a 5-yard touchdown pass to Pittman, giving
    the Bucs' a 14-7 lead.

    Clayton is "going to be a great player in this league," Gruden said. "He
    ignited us and made some big plays and was special."

    The Bucs thought they had made another big play at the end of the game. A long
    pass to receiver Tim Brown that set up the offense deep in Rams territory was
    ruled a fumble by...
    -10-19-2004, 01:13 PM
  • RamDez
    Don't blame the defense for loss - Buc press
    by RamDez
    Don't blame the defense for loss
    Four turnovers and two missed field goals by Gramatica lead to Bucs' downfall.

    By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
    Published October 19, 2004


    ST. LOUIS - On a surface where the feet seem to move an extra five miles per hour, against a team that seems to enjoy making the explosive plays, simple miscues can hurt.

    Really, really hurt.

    And in a 28-21 loss to the Rams Monday night, the Bucs can point to a few crucial regretable moments as an explanation for the outcome.

    Statistics will show that the Rams scored tons of points and looked very much like the well-oiled machine that once was known as the Greatest Show on Turf. But the truth is, at least two of those touchdowns can't be hung on the Bucs defense.

    Ahead 14-7 late in the second quarter, the Bucs botched a punt return and started a drive on their own 4. But center John Wade's bad snap never got past his body and fell to the carpet and was swooped up by defensive end Leonard Little at the Bucs 5.

    "You can't turn the ball over like that," said Wade. "We turned it over a couple of times when the defense gave us opportunities."

    The Bucs defense did its best to hold off the Rams, who needed four tries to get the ball in for a 1-yard Marshall Faulk touchdown run.

    With the scores tied at 14, Bucs linebacker Ian Gold picked off Rams quarterback Marc Bulger and returned it 31 yards to give the Bucs a first down at the Rams 15.

    But another gigantic miscue was looming. On the next play, running back Michael Pittman broke for an eight yard run off the left side but fumbled at the Rams 7. Safety Adam Archuleta, who forced the fumble, scooped up the loose ball and sprinted down the field for a 93-yard return for a touchdown.

    That one couldn't be hung on the defense either, which kept coming up with turnovers.

    Down 21-14 in the third quarter, defensive end Greg Spires forced a fumble that was recovered by Anthony McFarland at the Rams 20. The Bucs took advantage of the turnover and scored seven plays later on a 1-yard touchdown catch by backup tight end Will Heller.

    But while the Bucs defense can't be blamed for either of those two scores, it'll shoulder full responsibility for the Rams first score, a 52-yard bomb from Bulger to Torry Holt in the first quarter, and a 46 yard connection between the same two Rams in the fourth quarter.

    Holt's long receptions were particularly devastating, considering the Bucs Cover 2 defensive scheme is specifically designed to prevent teams from completing deep passes.

    The timing didn't help either. Holt's second touchdown came only minutes after the Bucs drew even on Heller's touchdown reception.

    And then there's kicker Martin Gramatica.

    Gramatica, who struggled all last season, began this...
    -10-19-2004, 02:52 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Bucs] It's A Start
    by DJRamFan
    By ROY CUMMINGS [email protected]
    Published: Oct 11, 2004




    NEW ORLEANS - For the first time since December, a scoreboard clock wound down to zero with the Bucs holding a lead Sunday.
    You wouldn't have known it from walking through their locker room.

    The Bucs' 20-17 victory against the Saints produced the season's first collection of postgame smiles, but some frowns remained.

    ``It's hard to celebrate right now,'' linebacker Derrick Brooks said. ``There definitely are some heavy hearts in here.''

    The heaviest belonged to quarterback Chris Simms, who couldn't finish his first pro start after spraining his throwing shoulder on a first-quarter sack.

    As of late Sunday, no one was sure just when the left- handed Simms would be able to make his second pro start.

    Simms was saying he could return to face the Rams next Monday, but he still wasn't able to lift his left arm over his head when he said that.

    ``Do I think I'm going to be out a month? No, I don't think so,'' Simms said. ``With some heavy massage, I should be able to play next week.''

    Bucs coach Jon Gruden wasn't ready to rule Simms out of next week's game, either.

    ``He's day-to-day,'' Gruden said. ``That's really just about all I can say on the matter right now.''

    The good news is that X-rays came up negative. An MRI is scheduled for today to confirm the nature of the injury.

    The better news is that just about everything backup quarterback Brian Griese did after taking over for Simms was positive.

    In his first regular-season action as a Buc, Griese completed 16 of 19 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown and helped Tampa Bay (1-4) break a six-game losing streak. The Bucs won on the road for the first time since their last visit to New Orleans on Dec. 7.

    ``He did a heck of a job out there,'' Gruden said of Griese. ``He should be the story today.''

    He's certainly a big part of it. But so too is Jeff Gooch, the backup middle linebacker who did a credible job as a fill-in himself.

    Gooch replaced starter Shelton Quarles, who left the game in the first quarter with a quad strain, and led the defense with nine tackles.

    ``You really have to appreciate the work of guys like Brian Griese and Jeff Gooch,'' Brooks said. ``We had guys make some attitude plays today.''

    Cornerback Ronde Barber made one. He picked up a second-quarter Deuce McAllister fumble and carried it into the end zone for the Bucs' first touchdown.

    Fellow cornerback Brian Kelly, who picked off an Aaron Brooks pass to snuff out a late New Orleans drive, also had one of those plays. And so did running back Michael Pittman.

    On third-and-5 just before the two-minute warning, Pittman eluded three would-be...
    -10-11-2004, 01:09 PM
  • DJRamFan
    [Bucs] Barber takes career, season scoring lead
    by DJRamFan
    By DAVE SCHEIBER, ROGER MILLS
    Published October 11, 2004

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    NEW ORLEANS - Cornerback Ronde Barber traversed some familiar terrain Sunday, helping boost the Bucs to their first victory of the season and running into the record book.

    Barber's 18-yard return of a Deuce McAllister fumble in the second quarter not only gave Tampa Bay the momentum with a 13-7 lead, it marked the seventh time in the regular season (and eighth overall) No.20 has been seen racing into the end zone with a defensive touchdown.

    Barber also leads the Bucs this season with two touchdowns. Tim Brown , Bill Schroeder , Michael Clayton and Ken Dilger have one.

    Sunday's touchdown, triggered when end Greg Spires stripped the ball, also moved Barber one ahead of linebacker Derrick Brooks for the franchise record.

    "Me and Derrick have had a running competition for a couple of years now, and we keep saying to stay even with each other," Barber said. "But I told him I'm leaving him (behind) now."

    Across the locker room, Brooks wasn't buying it.

    "It's like that old rabbit and turtle," he said. "You jump out of there. And before you know it, you take a rest, and that turtle is going to catch you." But he added with a smile, "As long as we're scoring them, that's all that matters."

    Barber agrees.

    Last week, he talked about the lack of big plays by the defense. But that changed Sunday with pivotal plays such as Brian Kelly 's interception at the Bucs 17 that squelched a fourth-quarter drive with Tampa Bay guarding a 20-14 lead.

    "Whatever it takes," said Barber, who returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown against New Orleans on Dec.23, 2001. "I'm just proud of how we all hung in and got a win."

    STEPPING UP: Linebacker Jeff Gooch was thrust into action when leading tackler Shelton Quarles left the game in the first quarter with a quadriceps strain. But Gooch picked up where Quarles left off, leading the Bucs with nine tackles.

    "We count on Shelton Quarles to do a lot in this defense," Gooch said. "And when I came in, I didn't want there to be a drop-off at all.

    "I wanted it to seem like Shelton was not even missed."

    Gooch is no stranger to the Bucs, having played for them from 1996-01 then spending the previous two seasons with Detroit.

    "It makes you feel good to be a big part of a big win," he said. "It feels really good especially because I was here before and part of building this team. Any time you get a chance to come back and help out again, that's huge."

    LONG DISTANCE: Martin Gramatica equaled his third-longest field goal...
    -10-11-2004, 01:25 PM
  • RamWraith
    Big plays spark Rams
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Oct. 19 2004

    Things started out oh so easy Monday for the Rams, with a fast and furious
    lightning bolt of a touchdown pass to Torry Holt less than three minutes into
    the game.

    But, hey, the opponent was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And Rams fans know what
    that means. It has been a slugfest and a struggle against the Bucs ever since
    the teams met in the 1999 season's NFC title game. That epic struggle went to
    the Rams 11-6.

    Since then, the Bucs have turned into Mike Martz's personnel Monday night
    nemesis. Tampa won Monday nighters against the Rams in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

    But not this time. With some long-distance dialing by Marc Bulger to Holt,
    Marshall Faulk's 100th NFL rushing touchdown and takeaways by the defense, the
    Rams finally have defeated the wicked witch of the Southeast.

    Holt's second touchdown catch of the day, a 36-yard reception with 10 minutes
    46 seconds to play, snapped a 21-21 tie. The 28-21 victory was the third in a
    row for St. Louis, boosted the Rams' record to 4-2 and moved them into sole
    possession of first place in the NFC West ahead of Seattle (3-2).

    "There was never any doubt - shoot," a drained Martz said. "What a great
    performance by the defense. They made plays when they had to make plays just
    like last week."

    The St. Louis defense spent much of the night helping Michael Clayton's rookie
    of the year candidacy at wide receiver for Tampa Bay. (Clayton finished with
    eight catches for 142 yards). And Rams linebackers and safeties couldn't cover
    a Buccaneers tight end to save their lives.

    But the Rams defense came up with four turnovers - it had only two all season
    entering the contest.

    A fumble recovery by Leonard Little at the Tampa 5 set up Faulk's 100th TD - a
    1-yard run on fourth and goal late in the second quarter.

    Safety Adam Archuleta, back in the starting lineup for the first time in three
    weeks, forced a Michael Pittman fumble. Archuleta picked the ball up and
    scooted down the sideline for a 93-yard TD midway through the third quarter. It
    was the third-longest return of a fumble recovery in Rams history and gave them
    a 21-14 lead.

    After Holt's second TD catch gave the Rams that 28-21 lead, cornerback
    Jerametrius Butler snuffed out a Bucs scoring drive with a leaping interception
    in the end zone with 5:42 to play. The pass was intended for - who else? -
    Clayton.

    Butler also recovered a fumble by Tim Brown at the St. Louis 12 with just 26
    seconds to play, with Rams safety Aeneas Williams forcing the fumble. A replay
    booth review of the play...
    -10-19-2004, 01:13 PM
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