Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bolts Win Streak Ends at 3 - Offense/Shootout Woes Continue

By JC De La Torre

Well, it was nice while it lasted. The Tampa Bay Lightning's modest three game win streak was snapped when the offense failed to produce and the bugaboo of the shootout reared its ugly head in a 2-1 shoot out loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

It was a tough, competitive hockey game for the Lightning against a playoff caliber opponent, a good measuring stick to see how far away they are from being a contender. The answer? Not too far if the last four games are to be believed. Tampa Bay has scoring power with superstars like Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and young players like Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos. They just haven't been converting on their opportunities. Tampa Bay has scored three or less goals in thirty-four of their thirty-six games this season and in the new NHL, where scoring is a premium - that's just not going to get the job done.

Tampa Bay took the lead midway through the first on a power play goal by Vaclav Prospal. The 1-0 lead would hold until early in the third period, where 46 seconds into the period, Guillaume Latendresse tied the game on the rebound that hit Mike Smith and went into the net. Each team had chances to win in winding minutes of regulation, Tampa Bay's 6'5" behemoth Evgeny Artyukhin showed his strength and speed, bulling past the Montreal defense with 1:48 left in the period and slipped the puck through the five hole of Montreal goalie Carey Price but the odd angle saw the puck skid through the crease and safely wide of the net. Montreal's Andrei Kostitsyn's blast went off the goal post with six seconds left in regulation, sending the game to overtime.

In the extra session, Artyukhin again showed his skill, bulling past a defender, exuding patience as Price flopped to the ice, but he couldn't get the shot high enough to finish the play, a minute later, Montreal's Maxim Lapierre had Mike Smith down and dead to rights but Smith robbed him with an unbelievable glove save that had Lapierre looking up to the hockey gods.

In the shootout, Smith wasn't very good, allowing Montreal's Alexei Kovalev and Maxim Lapierre to score pretty easily. The Lightning got a nifty goal from Jussi Jokinen, but Vaclav Prospal and Vincent Lecavalier failed in their opportunities to give Montreal the victory.

Tampa Bay earned points for the fourth straight game, while Montreal improved to 5-0-1 in their last six. Montreal did lose Alex Tanguay in the first period after being checked hard into the boards by Artyukhin. He reportedly has an upper body injury and is expected to undergo an MRI exam on today.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bucs Collapse Not the Worst in NFL History, just the last 15 years...

By JC De La Torre

As it turns out, the Buccaneers four game collapse from 9-3 to 9-7 wasn't the worst in NFL history, its just the worst in over a decade. The 1993 Miami Dolphins started the season off at 9-2 before collapsing with a five game losing streak to finish 9-7 and out of the playoffs.

Some other notable late season collapses included -
1996 Washington Redskins - started 7-1 and finished 9-7, missing the playoffs.
2003 Minnesota Vikings - started 6-0 and finished 9-7, missing the playoffs.
2007 Detroit Lions - started 6-2 and finished 7-9, missing the playoffs
2008 New York Jets - started the season 8-3, finished 9-7, out of the playoffs
2008 Denver Broncos - were the first team in NFL history to be in or tied for 1st place in their division from Week 1-Week 16 and lose the division in Week 17.

Still, the Bucs choke job was the worst in the league since the 93 Dolphins and that is not something anyone can be proud of.

On the bright side, though, the Buccaneers are no longer the last team to go through an entire NFL season (that was not strike shortened) winless. Thank you Detroit Lions. If the Lions lose their first 10 games of 2009, Tampa Bay will no longer have the longest losing streak in NFL history (26 straight) either. Detroit made a good first step by promoting Tom Legwand to President and Martin Mayhew to general manager. Who gives out promotions after an 0-16 season? The Detroit Lions do.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cadillac's Injury Not As Severe As Originally Feared

By JC De La Torre

Finally, some good news out of the debacle against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Pewter Report is reporting that Carnell Williams' tear of the patella tendon in his left knee was not as severe as the one he sustained last season to his right knee that jeopardized his career.

“It is. It’s torn, but it’s not the severity of the last one,” Williams told Pewter Report, “It’s more of an off the bone tear, so this process should be much easier. If it is the way it was explained to me, it’s like the Mark Jones tear. After six or eight weeks he was rolling. I’m just hoping for the best and go in for surgery and look forward to rehab."

"That’s the encouraging word,” Gruden told PR, “It’s a patella injury that is the same type of injury that Mark Jones had. Mark Jones, obviously, has returned to full health. It will be another grueling process for him. I’m just excited to see him come back to life as a ballcarrier. I thought he caught the ball well. All indications are that he has a chance to be ready for training camp, but it will be a long road to recovery.”

The TBSB wish Cadillac the best in his recovery.

Bucs 2009 Opponents...YIKES....

By JC De La Torre

The Pewter Report has given us the 2009 opponents after Tampa Bay's 3rd place finish and historic late season choke job. Its not pretty Bucs fans - Tampa Bay will only face three teams with losing records going into next season and have 8 games against 2008 playoff teams.

Atlanta (11-5)
Carolina (12-4)
New Orleans (8-8)
Dallas (9-7)
New York Giants (11-5)
New York Jets (9-7)
New England (11-6)
Green Bay (6-10)

Atlanta (11-5)
Carolina (12-4)
New Orleans (8-8)
Philadelphia (9-6-1)
Washington (9-7)
Buffalo (7-9)
Miami (11-5)
Seattle (4-12)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Historic Collapse By the Buccaneers, Caddy's Career May Be Over

By JC De La Torre

It was one of the greatest late season collapse in NFL history. Since 1993, every team that has started a season 9-3 has made the playoffs....until now. It will rank up there with the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies blowing a 6 1/2 game lead with 12 to play to the St. Louis Cardinals, losing their last 10 games or the 1958 Brooklyn Dodgers, who led by 13 games in August but blew the lead to the New York Baseball Giants. Its worse than the 1996 Washington Redskins starting 7-1 and missing the playoffs. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers blew a ten point fourth quarter lead with 11:27 left in the game and lost to the woeful Oakland Raiders 31-24, completing an epic collapse that could cost Jon Gruden his job.

Its only rumor and speculation now but when you go from 9-3 to 9-7 and in the process lose to two west coast teams with losing records at home while giving up 72 points, your job security can expected to be questioned. Remember, the Buccaneers owners, the Glazer family, is the same group that fired Tony Dungy after a playoff loss. At least none of Dungy's teams never fell apart like this. What's worse for the Buccaneers is the fact that had they won, all they would have needed would have been a Dallas Cowboys loss to Philadelphia. The Eagles beat Dallas 44-6. We will never know if Philadelphia would have given the same effort if the Bucs could have eliminated them by proxy.

Also in this one, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who inspired everyone with his remarkable comeback from a career threatening torn patella tendon in his right knee suffered a similar devastating injury, this time to his left knee midway through the fourth quarter and his NFL career could be over.

The horrible horizontal offense engineered by offensive genius Jon Gruden stalled through the first 15 minutes of the ball game, failing to secure a first down against an Oakland defense that came into the league ranked 27th in the NFL until 0:43 was left in the first quarter.

Seven seconds into the 2nd quarter, Johnnie Lee Higgins 31 yd punt return put Oakland at the Tampa Bay 40 yd line. After three straight runs secured a first down, Oakland Quarterback JaMarcus Russell found Higgins for a 17 yd completion to the Buccaneer 12. Oakland pounded beefy back Michael Bush at the Bucs undersized front four three consecutive times, the third time being the charm as Bush slipped into the end zone for 4 yd score to give Oakland a 7-0 with 10:44 left in the first half.

The Buccaneers offense finally rumbled to life, driving 80 yds on 12 plays, including big passes to Michael Clayton for 29 yds and Antonio Bryant for 15 to set up Carnell Williams 9 yd dart and score to tie the game at 7 with 5:45 left in the first half. After the teams exchanged punts, Oakland took the ball over at their own 39 with 1:45 left in the half. Jamarcus Russell connected with tight end Chaz Schilens 19 yds and tight end Zac Miller for 26 yds putting the Raiders at the Tampa Bay 8 yd line. After a couple runs, Russell avoided a strong rush and tossed it to a wide open Schilens in the endzone with only 0:35 left in the half to give Oakland a stunning 14-7 halftime lead.

The Bucs would tie the game at the 10:14 mark of the third quarter when Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia scrambled and found a wide open Michael Clayton streaking down the sideline, Clayton hauled in the pass and raced the rest of way for a 58 yd touchdown, Clayton's first score since October 15th, 2006. After forcing the Raiders to punt, the Bucs began at their own 13 yd line and drove 76 yds in 13 plays before settling for a 29 yd Matt Bryant field goal to give the Bucs a 17-14 lead with 14:51 left in the game.

Russell would find the suddenly potent Schillens for 24 yds to the Buccaneers 45 yd line, then two runs by Michael Bush would set up 3rd and 6. On third down, Russell was rushed by Gaines Adams and threw an interception to former Raider Phillip Buchanon but unfortunately during the rush, Adams grabbed Russell's face mask and nullified the pick, giving the Raiders a first down at the Tampa Bay 26. Russell dropped back to pass again and tried for a deep pass to tight end Zac Miller but was picked off by Bucs Safety Sabby Piscitelli. Piscitelli tight roped the sideline then crossed the field for a spectacular 84 yd return before being bulldogged down by Russell at the Oakland 11. From there, Cadillac Williams would take it in from 8 yds out and with 11:35 left in the game, Tampa Bay led 24-14.

Back came Oakland, a short run by Michael Bush and a short pass to Johnnie Lee Higgins achieved a first down, then Russell pitched to Bush, who fired a pass deep down field intended for little used wide receiver Todd Watkins. Bucs safety Will Allen, playing for the winded Sabby Piscitelli, scrambled to get back in coverage and ended up interfering with Watkins, setting Oakland up at point blank range at the Tampa Bay 12. From there, Russell hit Higgins in the end zone for a touchdown, closing the gap to 24-21.

The Bucs tried to strike back, beginning their drive on the 33 yd line. Cadillac had his best run of the season, making a wicked cut in the hole and busting out for a 28 yd run before being pushed out of bounds by Raiders DB Chris Johnson. As he went out, Cadillac reached down to his left knee and buckled in was a left knee injury, similar to the one he miraculously recovered from last season. The Bucs players surrounded, knelt and prayed for Williams who fought back tears and cursed, knowing that this injury could mean the end of his career. Cadillac had a solid game, rushing for 78 yds on 12 carries and 2 touchdowns. He also caught 5 passes for 37 yds. Tampa Bay had the ball at the Raider 39. Warrick Dunn gained 6 yds off tackle, then was held to no gain. On 3rd and 4, QB Jeff Garcia went deep for tight end Alex Smith, who made the catch but had one foot out of bounds at the one yard line. On 4th and 4, the Bucs decided against going for the field goal and went for a first down. Garcia tried to hit Michael Clayton on the sideline but Clayton was unable to hold on to the ball, giving the ball to the Raiders. Oakland wasted little time, as Michael Bush busted off right end through a gaping hole and raced 67 devastating yards for a decisive touchdown, giving Oakland a 28-24 lead with 7:16 left.

On the Bucs ensuing possession, Jeff Garcia attempted to go deep to Antonio Bryant, but Oakland safety Rashad Baker set under the fluttering pass and picked it off. Oakland would go 51 yds in 10 plays, bleeding 5:31 off of the clock and driving all the way to the Bucs 2 yd line to set up a 25 yd Sebastian Janikowski field goal with 1:13 left in the game, giving Oakland a 31-24 lead.

The Bucs would drive the ball all the way to the Oakland 45 with Tampa Bay facing 3rd and 5 and only 0:13 left in the game. Garcia scrambled but would be sacked by Oakland defensive end Greyson Gunheim to end the game and by result the Tampa Bay season.

In the aftermath of the greatest late season collapse in NFL history, it will be interesting to see what occurs at One Buccaneer Palace over the next week. If Jon Gruden remains head coach of the team, one would have to expect changes in the coaching staff will be made. If Gruden is fired, will general manager Bruce Allen go with him? Will Jeff Garcia, Joey Galloway, Antonio Bryant, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, Luke McCown and Kevin Carter return for 2009? Will the Bucs actually spend their massive surplus of salary cap space or will they sit on it as they did this off-season, bringing questions on whether the Glazers are devoting their monetary resources to the Manchester United soccer club instead of the Bucs. Interesting times, indeed.

Three of a Kind - Tampa Bay wins their 3rd straight

By JC De La Torre

The Tampa Bay Lightning's stars aligned for a 6-4 smashing of cross state rivals, the Florida Panthers in a game that was not as close as the score indicated. The Lightning's Vincent Lecavalier nabbed two goals and an assist while Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone scored four points each as Tampa Bay won their third straight game for the first time in the Rick Tocchet era.

Steven Stamkos opened up the scoring at the 7:06 mark of the first, then, midway through the period, Evgeny Artyukhin on a rare power play chance powered home a goal on a 5-on-3 opportunity to give the Lightning a 2-0 going into first intermission. Tampa Bay outshot the Panthers a remarkable 21-3 in the first and it was the play of Panther goalie Tomas Vokoun that kept this one from being ugly early.

The second period got a little dicey for Tampa Bay. Usually their strongest period, it was the Panthers who showed some fire coming out of the dressing room as David Booth sliced the Bolts lead to 2-1 at the 3:09 mark of the 2nd. A little over a minute later, Vincent Lecavalier would net his first of the night to restore the Lightning's two goal cushion. They say the two goal lead is the most uncomfortable in hockey and Tampa Bay found out why. With Tampa Bay defensemen Matt Smaby and Paul Ranger off for interference and tripping respectively, the Panthers took advantage of their 5-on-3 advantage, getting a goal Nathan Horton at the 16:27 mark of the second period. Seconds later, the Panthers would strike again on the second half of the two man advantage, this time it was David Booth getting his second of the period and Tampa Bay's commanding lead suddenly evaporated. Vincent Lecavalier found a gift in the closing seconds of the period as he gloved a flying puck, dropped it quickly to the ice and blasted it past Vokoun with only five second left in the period to give Tampa Bay the lead going into intermission.

The Bolts reestablished their dominance (boy, its been a long time since I typed that) in the third getting a beautiful spin-a-rama goal from Malone to make it 5-3 and then a crazy goal by Marty St. Louis. St. Louis missed badly but stayed in front of the net, the puck ricocheted off the boards, right back to his stick and St. Louis dropped it past a thoroughly confused Vokoun to give the Lightning a 6-3 advantage at the 7:46 mark of the third. Six goals was a season high for Tampa Bay. Stephen Weiss' seeing-eye goal at the 13:57 mark sliced the lead to 6-4 but that would be as close as the Panthers would get. Tampa Bay killed off a questionable holding call on Ryan Malone and missed a couple chances at an empty netter for Lecavalier to get his first hat trick of the season.

"The last three games, I really feel guys are on the same page - the most we've been on the same page all year," right wing Marty St. Louis told the Tampa Tribune, "We're seeing it in the results."

Tampa Bay's third straight victory gets the Lightning to the 10 win plateau (finally) and shockingly gets the Bolts out of the cellar in the Southeast division with a 10-16-9 record that's good for 29 points. Despite their little surge, the Bolts remain 10 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning go for their season high fourth straight victory Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Break Up the Bolts - Lightning win 2nd Straight

By JC De La Torre

The Tampa Bay Lightning won their 2nd straight game - Lightning fans, that's called a winning streak - for the first time since October and did it in shocking fashion - a shoot out victory over the Florida Panthers 4-3. Its only the second victory for the Lighting in a shoot out this season (Tampa Bay is now 2-6 in shoot outs, snapping a 5 game losing streak in games decided by shootout) and the Lightning will go for their first 3 game win streak of the season tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum on the second half of the home-and-home with the Panthers.

The teams exchanged goals in the first period with Tampa Bay's Steve Eminger opening the scoring at 11:24 mark, then Florida's Keith Ballard tied it with only 1:32 left in the period. Tampa Bay took control of the game late in the second, getting goals from Mark Recchi and Evgeny Artyukhin with two minutes of each other, the last coming with only 1:23 left in the period to make it 3-1 after two.

The Lightning held that advantage until the 13:37 mark of the third, when former Bolt Corey Stillman converted on the power play to shave the Tampa Bay lead to one. It would hold up until the final minute of the game, when the Panthers pulled their goalie for the extra attacker and it paid off with 0:14 seconds left when Bryan McCabe tied it at 3, a devastating blow to a Tampa Bay hockey team struggling for victories.

Still, the Lightning proved some resiliency, fighting through the overtime and getting it to the shoot out, where Ryan Malone won it with a wrister past goaltender Craig Anderson and sent the Bolts into celebration.

"We talk about building on things," Steve Eminger told the St. Pete Times, "We played a pretty good game, and we ran into some trouble in the end, had some penalty trouble, and that will happen. To build on it, you have to find some way to win, and if it's a shootout, then it's a shootout. We just have to keep on."

Tampa Bay goes for double digit victories tonight as they remain the only team in the NHL not to reach 10 victories on the season. Goalie Mike Smith was solid again, making 25 saves on 28 shots.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Raheem Morris takes over as Bucs Defensive Coordinator

By JC De La Torre

The Monte Kiffin era is officially over. Tampa Bay has named defensive backs coach Raheem Morris as Defensive Coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the Pewter Report reported first on Christmas Day. The move solidifies the future of the Buccaneers defense while Kiffin joins his son at the University of Tennessee.

Morris is well liked by the players, energetic and has been schooled for many years under Kiffin. Morris was with the Bucs from '02 to '05 before leaving to become the Defensive Coordinator at Kansas State. That Kansas State team led the Big 12 in sacks and was one of the catalyst's behind K-State's first bowl appearance since 2003 and an upset of #4 Texas.

Morris was expected to be a sought after commodity for defensive coordinator around the league, viewed in the same light as current Steelers head man Mike Tomlin. Morris could still even be considered for some head coaching vacancies in the NFL, although that opportunity may still be a couple years off.

Buccaneers defensive players were happy with the news of Raheem's promotion.

"That's great. He deserves it," cornerback Ronde Barber told the St. Petersburg Times, "He's put in a lot of good work. His time is now. Good for him; it's a perfect opportunity for him. It's almost a natural opportunity. I look forward to working with him. I think everybody does."

"He's a young coach with a lot of energy and we can relate to that," safety Tanard Jackson said to the Tampa Tribune, "He does some of the same things we do. At the same time, he knows how to separate the business side from the personal side."

"Personally, yes, that would be a great big deal to me because me and Coach Raheem, we talk almost every day," Potential free agent cornerback Phillip Buchanon told the Times regarding whether this would have an impact on his decision to return to Tampa Bay.

"It made things a lot smoother," Tanard Jackson told the Times, "Everyone in this locker room knows Raheem and what he's capable of. The trust has always been there. I'm not going to say it was expected, but guys knew he was going to be the next D-coordinator, and everybody is going to respond well to that."

Morris, as one would expect, was generally excited about the promotion, "I'm just trying to beat Oakland right now, but I am pretty excited about this," Morris told the Tribune, "It's a great accomplishment and I'm proud they're giving me the keys to drive this defense. It's awesome."

My take on this? While there may have been more experienced candidates, you have to believe that Raheem Morris is ready to be a defensive coordinator in the NFL. One of the greatest fears for the organization this season was losing Raheem in the off-season. Under Morris, the Bucs secondary is 5th in the NFL in pass defense and 4th in interceptions and his return to the Bucs defense has helped return Tampa Bay to a Top 10 defensive unit.

Hopefully, the naming of Morris will ease the players minds about next season and they can return to the play that got them as high as #4 in total defense at one point this season (they've fallen to #9 since their defensive slump). Morris should bring a new energy and new ideas on how to attack an offense. While losing Monte is a tough blow for the Bucs organization, Kiffin wasn't going to be around forever. Morris seems to be ready to step in and take over. Hopefully, it will be for awhile.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from TBSB

By JC De La Torre

JC De La Torre's Tampa Bay Sports Blog would like to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. For our readers who aren't of the Christian belief, we'd also like to extend our wishes for Happy Holidays as well.

Thanks for reading and we look forward to bringing you even more exciting Tampa Bay sports action in 2009.

Rays Add Bullpen Depth

By JC De La Torre

The St. Petersburg Times is reporting that the Rays have signed 34yd old right handed relief pitcher Joe Nelson to a 1 yr $1.3 million dollar contract. Nelson walked away from some lucrative opportunities with other teams (reported as many as 20 other teams were interested) but felt that being close to home and playing for the American League champs was what he wanted to do.

Nelson pitched 54 innings for the Florida Marlins in 2008, putting up a 3-1 record, 1 save, 2.00 ERA, 60 strikeouts in 59 games.

A Merry Christmas for Bolts, Blank Pittsburgh 2-0

By JC De La Torre

The Tampa Bay Lightning have given what is tantamount to a lump of coal in Lightning fans stockings all season, but on Christmas Eve, Tampa Bay's coal broke into a gem of a game against one of the NHL's best offensive powers, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tampa Bay limited the Penguins to just 15 shots and no goals while getting some unexpected offensive production from one of their role players to defeat Pittsburgh 2-0.

It was the first victory for Mike Smith since November 21st. "It's like a sigh of relief," Smith told the Associated Press, "You almost forget how to win."

After a scoreless first, Tampa Bay's Matt Pettinger lit the lamp at the 5:15 mark of the 2nd period on a great feed from behind the net by Paul Szczechura to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 advantage. Tampa Bay's defense limited the opportunities of the Penguins, especially superstars Malkin and Crosby, holding the Penguins to only 4 shots in the second period.

At the 11:14 mark of the third period, Szczechura would put the Lightning up 2-0 with a redirect of Jussi Jokinen shot toward the goal. Tampa Bay's much maligned defense would once again play strong, limiting the powerful Penguins to only 3 shots in the third and held on for a surprisingly easy 2-0 victory.

While definitely not playing their best hockey, the Penguins described the loss as embarrassing and coach Michel Therrien blamed the schedule but also his team's effort.

"The schedule is pretty tough. We just played four games in six days. Those are excuses," he told the AP, "We don't have the right attitude. We like to complain about each other on the bench and on the ice. They better wake up pretty quick. ... I'm really disappointed with their work ethic and the concentration. Until they change their attitude, we are going to have the same results."

Tampa Bay on the other hand was happy to give this Christmas gift to their fans, "You can't say enough about the way the guys played," Goalie Mike Smith said, "The defense was great. As a core, they played outstanding. The forwards were coming back and helping the defense out. In order for us to win, we have to have that full commitment from everybody."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fly Eagles Fly...a Call to Philly Fan

By JC De La Torre

Okay Philly don't like us, we don't like you. We took your Super Bowl and Stanley Cup, you took our World Series. Our teams have had bitter, titanic battles over the years and if one thing is certain, we will again. But now is not the time to dredge up all that hatred, now's the time to come together with a common goal - keep the Cowboys out of the playoffs.

While I expect (okay, the way the team has played the last few weeks maybe hope is a more operative word) that the Buccaneers will defeat the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, the game is meaningless if the Eagles fall. As disappointing as a Bucs victory would be for the Eagles and their fans - it doesn't mean there's nothing left to play for. When you kickoff at 4:15, its entirely possible that Philadelphia will already be eliminated from post season contention and its left some Bucs fans wondering if the Eagles and their fans will lie down for Dallas. I know some Eagle fans, even begrudgeonly call some my friends - and I couldn't imagine that happening.

Its still Dallas. And if your boys can't go, what would be better than keeping T.O., Romo, and Jerr-ruh Jones out of the post season? What would be better than sending ESPN and NFL Network's favorite into the off-season with two straight defeats to open their new mecca of Pro Football? Imagine the chaos that would ensue if Tampa Bay, with their dearth of names that anyone but true pro football fans would recognize goes to the post season while Dallas' galaxy of stars have to sit at home and watch on TV...

So, no matter what happens around 4pm eastern time, Eagle fans - there's still something to cheer for. We'll be cheering for your team and you just can't imagine how difficult that is for Tampa Bay fans...imagine having to cheer for Dallas or the Giants to get you into the playoffs - that's how it is for us. So give it all you got, Philly'll feel better about it because no one brings out the hate like Dallas does...and we'll feel better for it because we'll be able to salvage something out of this late season collapse.

Of course, if the Bucs continue to circle the drain and choke against Oakland, all this is moot...but you know what? We'll still root for you guys because nobody wants to see Dallas in the playoffs (except Cowboys fans).

GO BUCS....and (ugh) E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!

Monday, December 22, 2008

TBSB Buccaneers NFC Playoff Madness - Week 17

By JC De La Torre

NFC Playoff Picture - Week 17

1.z-NY Giants 12-3 (9-2) @Min
2.x-Carolina 11-4 (7-4) @NO
3. Minnesota 9-6 (7-4) NYGiants
4.y-Arizona 8-7 (6-5) Seattle
5.x-Atlanta 10-5 (7-4) St. Louis
6.Dallas 9-6 (7-4) @Phi
Tampa Bay 9-6 (8-4) Oak
Chicago 9-6 (7-5) @Hou
Philadelphia 8-6-1 (6-4) DAL

z-Division Champs,Home Field Advantage
y- Division Champions
x- Clinched Playoff spot

The following is the a deep dive breakdown of playoff scenarios for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NFC for the final week of the season, Week 17. Yahoo has put together this awesome Playoff Scenario Generator that helps you put everything in perspective.

NY Giants have clinched the NFC East, a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs

Arizona has clinched the NFC West

Carolina and Atlanta have clinched a playoff spot.

This Week’s Clinching Scenarios
Carolina clinches the NFC South and a 1st round bye with a victory over New Orleans or an Atlanta loss.

Atlanta clinches the NFC South and a 1st round bye with a victory over St. Louis AND a Carolina loss.

Minnesota clinches the NFC North with a win or a loss by Chicago at Houston

Chicago clinches the NFC North with a victory Houston and a loss by Minnesota vs. NY Giants

Dallas clinches a playoff spot with a win

Chicago clinches a playoff spot with a win over Houston AND losses by Dallas at Philadelphia and Tampa Bay vs. Oakland

Philadelphia clinches a playoff spot with win over Dallas AND losses by Tampa Bay vs. Oakland and Chicago against Houston

Bucs Scenarios
Tampa Bay clinches a playoff spot with a win over Oakland AND a loss by Dallas at Philadelphia

Future Cast – Buccaneers Bucs Defeat Oakland

Its pretty simple for the Buccaneers, if they defeat Oakland, they must have Philadelphia defeat the Dallas Cowboys to make the playoffs. Tampa Bay owns the head-to-head tie breaker against the Chicago Bears, while Philadelphia cannot reach 10 wins due to their tie with Cincinnati. Tampa Bay loses the head-to-head tie-breaker with Dallas. So Bucs win, Dallas loses, Bucs are in.

Bucs lose to Oakland
Jon Gruden should be fired immediately following the game.

Week 17 - Who to root for
Tampa Bay to beat Oakland (obviously)
Philadelphia to beat Dallas

Electrocuted - Bucs Playoff Hopes on Life Support

By JC De La Torre

There are losses and then there is the excrement the Tampa Bay Buccaneers put on the football field Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. In control of their own playoff destiny (sorry, Bob Costas), all the Buccaneers had to do was win their next two games against sub .500 teams at home (where they were undefeated) and they could make reservations for the playoffs. Instead, the Buccaneers continued their downward spiral, getting blown out by the Chargers 41-24.

The formerly formidable Bucs defense continued is horrid play, getting torn apart by San Diego quarterback Phillip Rivers for 287 yds and 4 touchdowns. Since word came that Monte Kiffin was leaving Tampa Bay for the University of Tennessee, the Buccaneers are 0-3 and the defense has given up 30.7 points per game, 402.3 yds per game, and 188 yds rushing per game. However, on this day, it wouldn't be LaDanian Tomlinson and the Charger running game that would do the Bucs in, San Diego was held to 90 yds rushing. It would be the passing game that would do the damage in this one as Rivers carved up the Bucs defense, extending drives on 3rd down by converting 53% of their 11 opportunities.

After the initial drive of the game by the Chargers was stuffed, Tampa Bay drove to the San Diego 42 yd line. Quarterback Jeff Garcia connected on a screen to Wide Receiver Antonio Bryant, who appeared to have blocking and a developing lane in front of him. Bryant was hit from behind by Chargers defensive lineman Luis Castillo, fumbled and San Diego safety Clinton Hart pounced on the ball to end the Bucs threat. The Chargers took the ball at their own 41 and drove 58 yds in 8 plays, culminating in a 11 yd touchdown pass to Brandon Manumaleuna in the the flat for a touchdown to give San Diego an early 7-0 lead.

Bucs kick returner Clifton Smith showed why he's headed to Hawaii, returning the ensuing kickoff 72 yds to the Chargers 11 yd line, setting up B.J. Askew 1 Yd hurdle to tie it at 7. Back came the Chargers, driving back down the field as the 1st quarter bled into the 2nd and finishing up with a 69 yd, 7 play drive where Rivers found Tight End Antonio Gates wide open for an easy touchdown, giving the Chargers the lead back with 13:37 left in the 1st half.

After the Bucs offense stalled, San Diego marched right back down the football field, converting two 3rd and long situations along the way before setting for a 28 yd Nate Kaeding field goal with 5:24 left in the second to give the Chargers a 17-7 lead. After the teams exchanged 3 and outs, the Bucs offense showed a little life after the two minute warning, driving 49 yds in 8 plays to set up a 49 yd Matt Bryant field goal with 0:17 left in the half to cut the advantage to 17-10. After the ensuing kickoff, Phillip Rivers connected with an inexplicably wide open Vincent Jackson for 25 yds to the Tampa Bay 39, from there Nate Kaeding drilled a 57 yd field goal to reestablish the Chargers 10 point lead going into the locker room, 20-10.

After the Bucs received the 2nd half kickoff, Jeff Garcia drove Tampa Bay 78 yds, converting three 3rd downs on the drive with both his arm and his feet and using those feet to scamper into the endzone to cut the Charger lead to 20-17. The Bucs defense forced a 3 and out and the Bucs got the ball back at their own 18. A run by Warrick Dunn and a pass to Dunn achieved a first down at the 29. On 1st and 10, Garcia took the snap, scambled keeping the play alive then spotted a wide open Antonio Bryant deep down field, Garcia heaved the ball while Bryant waited what seemed an eternity and fielded the catch like a punt, Bryant hauled it in a raced 71 yds for the touchdown giving the Buccaneers their first lead of the game, 24-20 with 5:19 left in the 3rd quarter.

The Chargers would take over the game from there. Phillip Rivers engineered an 11 play, 63 yd drive that extinguised the remainder of the 3rd quarter. On the first play of the 4th quarter and facing 3rd and goal from the Tampa Bay 5, Rivers scrambled, avoiding the rush and keeping the play alive long enough to find Antonio Gates in the back of the end zone for his second touchdown of the day, the Chargers retook the lead 27-24.

After the teams exchanged 3 and outs, the Bucs again had their drive stall. Punter Josh Bidwell blasted a 58 yd bomb to the San Diego 11, but returner Darren Sproles returned the punt 43 yds to the Buccaneer 46, nearly breaking it for the score. Sproles would get his score as 4 plays later, Rivers dropped a screen pass to Sproles who bolted 32 yds for a killer touchdown to give San Diego a commanding 34-24 lead with 7:18 left.

The Bucs tried to rally one last time, Garcia passing and scrambling the to San Diego 48, in the process getting a severe gash over his nose that gushed blood. Facing 3rd and 4, Garcia tried to fit in a pass to Ike Hillard between two defenders, the pass was deflected and intercepted by Antoine Cason, who raced down the sideline 59 yds for the touchdown to provide San Diego their final margin of victory.

Luke McCown came in for mop up duty but accomplished little and the Chargers ran out the clock, keeping their playoff hopes alive and severely damaging the Buccaneers in the process.

Tampa Bay now needs help to make the post season and face a resurgent Oakland Raiders team that has put 26 or more points on their last two opponents. A team that just three weeks ago was 9-3 and hoping to win a first round bye now faces the reality that they will be home for the post-season. A loss to Oakland and the Bucs promising season comes to a crashing close.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cowboys Go Down Against Baltimore

By JC De La Torre

The first part of the clinching scenario for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell into place when the Baltimore Ravens stunned the Dallas Cowboys 33-24 at the final game at Texas Stadium. If Tampa Bay defeats the San Diego Chargers Sunday, all they would need to clinch this week is a loss by Atlanta on the road against the tough Minnesota Vikings.

Carolina has clinched a playoff spot as a result of Dallas loss. The Bucs still have division hopes but need Carolina to lose Sunday Night against the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants and the following week at New Orleans.

Bolts Lose Another 1 Goal Game

By JC De La Torre

The Tampa Bay Lightning's inability to win close games reared its ugly head once again as they fell 4-3 to South East division rivals, the Atlanta Thrashers 4-3 in a wild contest at Phillips Arena. Kari Lehtonen was making his first start in a couple weeks for the Thrashers and gave up goals on the first two shots he faced but saw his team rally in the first period to give him a lead going into the 1st intermission.

Just 0:18 into the hockey game, Slava Kozlov found a lose puck, skated in and put it past Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith to give the Thrashers a quick 1-0 lead. Tampa Bay would tie it at the 3:54 mark of the first period when Martin St. Louis ended an 0-for-26 power play streak for the Lightning with his eleventh goal of the season. At the 8:15 mark of the first, Adam Hall would get a rare goal to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead. Atlanta exploded back late in the 1st period, getting goals from Eric Perrin and Todd White to jump back ahead 3-2.

After a scoreless 2nd period, Atlanta increased their advantage at the 4:06 mark of the third period to make it 4-2. Tampa Bay would make one last rally, as St. Louis got his second of the night on the man advantage to pull the Lightning within 1. Tampa Bay dominated the third period, outshooting the Thrashers 24-6, benefiting from three straight penalties called on Atlanta. The Lightning could only cash in on one of their opportunities and that would be the difference in the game. Lehtonen was sensational in the third, making 23 saves to preserve the Thrasher lead.

Frustration has set in for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who now have lost 17 of their last 19 games.

"It's frustrating," St. Louis told the Associated Press, "I don't think there are enough guys that really want to win."

Bulls Blow Out Memphis in St. Pete Bowl

By JC De La Torre

I don't know if South Florida really wanted to be there...the fans sure didn't as a the paltry attendance of 25,205 would attest, but if they didn't, they at least decided to make the most of it by crushing their opponent, the Memphis Tigers, 41-14 in the inaugural (and possibly only) MagicJack St. Petersburg Bowl.

USF used "special" uniforms with a white helmet sporting the USF logo and a different shade of green making them resemble the New York Jets, and they played like the Jets as well as they jumped on the Tigers quickly. Dontavia Bogan returned the opening kickoff 56 yds to the Memphis 43 yd line. Two plays later, Matt Grothe found Taurus Johnson for a 26 yd score to put the Bulls up 7-0 just 1:02 into the ball game. After an exchange of punts (two by Memphis), USF marched back down the field on a 6 play 58 yd drive, capped off by Benjamin Williams 3 yd score to make it 14-0.

The Tigers finally came to life late in the first quarter, driving 73 yd on six plays, with quarterback Arkelon Hall keeping it into the end zone from 3 yd out to cut the USF lead to 7. The Bulls answered, moving into the second quarter with a 63 yd, 14 play drive the culminated in a 23 yd field goal by Maikon Bonani to increase the South Florida lead to 17-7. After the Memphis drive stalled at their own 42, USF would add yet another score with Grothe connecting with reserve tight end Ben Busbee for a 13 yd score to give the Bulls a commanding 24-7 advantage with 4:15 left in the half. To the Tigers credit, they wouldn't quit as Arkelon Hall led Memphis back down the field and connected with Duke Calhoun on a 2 yd score with 0:04 left in the half. The Bulls led 24-14 at halftime.

That would be as close as it got as the USF defense dominated the second half, shutting out the Tigers, while Matt Grothe connected with Dontavia Bogan on 24 yd touchdown, Maikon Bonani added another field goal, and Moises Plancher plunged in from 2 yds out, giving the Bulls a 41-14 advantage that they would not relinquish.

South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe had one of his best games of the season throwing for 236 yds, 3 touchdowns and most importantly - no interceptions. He also added 83 yds rushing, leading all rushers for the game. The Bulls earned their first bowl victory outgaining the Memphis Tigers 496 to 238 making the plays they needed to make and getting superb play from their quarterback.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Refs Rob Lightning in Shootout

By JC De La Torre

The Tampa Bay Lightning have found a myriad of ways to lose this season but in this game, the Bolts deserved a better fate. A terrible call by referee Tim Peel cost Tampa Bay in the shootout as the Bolts fell 2-1 to the Colorado Avalanche. Peele ruled that Lightning goalie Mike Smith threw his stick at Milan Hejduk during his shootout attempt and awarded a goal. Video replays showed that there was no throwing motion, Smith went for the poke check, missed then spun around to try and get his blocker on the shot, as Smith lifted up his blocker, he dropped his stick to the ice and made the save.

The call ruined a terrific performance by Smith, who made 34 saves, some in spectacular fashion to get the Lightning to the shootout. Paul Stastny scored at the 3:46 mark of the 1st period to give Colorado an early 1-0 advantage, the lead would hold until the midway through the second, when Jeff Halpern made his triumphant return to the Lightning line up with a goal. Halpern's offense was sorely missed and as he works himself back into the flow of the game, he'll make a big impact on the Lightning.

Tampa Bay outshot the Avalanche 38-35 and dominated the overtime, with Vinny Lecavalier, Vaclav Prospal, and Martin St. Louis each just missing opportunities to end it. Then came the controversial shoot out where Jussi Jokinen, Wojtek Wolski, and Vincent Lecavalier were stopped on their chances setting up Milan Hejduk's opportunity. Hejduk skated in, deked and fired a shot toward the Lightning goal that Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith saved with his blocker. Hejduk then yelled at the referees that Smith threw his stick, the officials huddled for several minutes, then referee Peel made the call. Mike Smith darted from his goal line screaming at the officials, the Lightning bench exploded in protest. Head coach Rick Tocchet demanded from the officials "Who made the call, who made the call?" and was told by Peel, "Its a consensus of all of us." Tocchet said he asked again, "Who saw him throw the stick at Hejduk?" but no one would take responsibility. Martin St. Louis pointed to the video replay on the jumbotron and shook his head in disgust when told by the referees that it wasn't a reviewable play. With the call made, St. Louis tried his penalty shot, but fired into the pads of Andrew Raycroft and the giddy Avalanche erupted in celebration, causing the frustrated Lightning fans to shower the ice in debris. Definitely not the proudest moment for Lightning fans but their dismay is definitely understandable.

This hockey team needs every victory they can get to have a victory robbed from them is just a travesty of justice. The NHL instituted the shootout as something exciting for the fans, something that would eliminate sister-kissing ties but the fact they don't have the foresight to make something like this reviewable is just ridiculous.

"I guess if you're winning, if you're up in the standings, those calls seem to go your way," Mike Smith lamented to the Sun Sports Network after the game.

If, by some miracle, the Lightning rally but miss the playoffs by one point - this will be a game that will be remembered. If Colorado wins a division or beats out another team for the final playoff spot by 1 point - it will be because of this farce. I don't believe the fix was in, I just believe in what I've always believed, the NHL referees' incompetence.

Tampa Bay Sports News Cavalcade

By JC De La Torre
The local fishwraps were actually worth reading today as they had several interesting stories about our various favorite teams.

The St. Petersburg Times is highlighting Rays Manager Joe Maddon's "Thankmas" initiative. It's a program Maddon began three years ago to raise awareness of the homeless situation in Tampa Bay. Maddon, along with a couple of dozen Rays employees, spend an afternoon cooking spaghetti, meatballs, sausage and pierogies in the Tropicana Field kitchen, then travel around the bay area for several days delivering meals at homeless shelters.

The Times also reported that Rocco Baldelli's medical condition was misinterpreted as mitochondrial disorder. Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic have reviewed more sophisticated testing that indicates his condition is a channelopathy, which is a treatable condition that involves dysfunction of ion channels for such things as potassium, sodium, chloride and calcium according to

"It's definitely an encouraging development," Baldelli told the Times, "Knowing this is a treatable condition, I feel this is a very positive thing for me and my baseball career. With this less severe diagnosis, I hope to be on the field on a much more regular basis."

The Lightning return to the ice tonight against the Colorado Avalanche after a four day layoff and some good may have come out of it. Other than getting some much needed practice time to continue the process of implementing Rick Tocchet's system, Tocchet and team captain Vincent Lecavalier got a chance to get on the same page.

"Tocc is talking to players. He's listening to players," Lecavalier said to the St. Petersburg Times, "He's telling us things and how to be better. It was a good conversation. It's not like we're out of control, but we can be more precise in what we do, It's not only the coaching staff that has to tell guys to be on time, when the bus is, and all the other stuff that surrounds the locker room. It has to be the players. Myself as team captain. I have to do that."

"You've got to be in a situation where you can't let your team be sloppy," Tocchet told the Tampa Tribune, "What I mean by sloppy is sloppy with your sticks on the ice, taking stupid penalties, little trivial things, late for the bus. It has to come from the room. The coach has to mandate it, but it has to come from the room."

Player accountability has been something the Lightning have sorely lacked since Dave Andreychuck's retirement. Let's hope that Lecavalier can grow into and assume that role.

Head Coach Jon Gruden is confident Jeff Garcia will be available for Sunday's critical game against the San Diego Chargers. Garcia practiced on Wednesday and told the St. Petersburg Times, "I really just have to do my best to block it out, I really just have to take the approach that I'm going to be me and do whatever I have to do in order to be successful and not think about what I'm trying to overcome. And hopefully at that point on Sunday, it won't even be a question mark."

The Tampa Tribune reports that just in case, the Bucs are getting Brian Griese ready to go. The paper also reports that Chris Hovan and Jovan Haye returned to practice, which could be great news for the Bucs run defense that has given up 474 yds in the last two games. Derrick Brooks also appears to be improving with his rib injury. He's still a gametime decision but Gruden told the Trib, ""We did get good news (Wednesday), that doesn't mean Brooks is going to be out there running around (today). But there is at least a better chance that he can play. Knowing Derrick Brooks the way I do and you do, he'll find a way to get to the field. And chances are he'll play one of his best games."

USF Bulls
There's apparently plenty of tickets still available for the inaugural St. Pete Bowl that has the powerhouse matchup of USF vs. Memphis. Yeah, the Bowls are more important to college football...who needs a playoff when you can have USF vs. Memphis in the Magic Jack St. Pete Bowl?

Tampa Bay Storm
The Arena League owners have voted to suspend the league for the 2009 season and hopes to return for 2010, but the AFLPA (who knew they had one?) has rejected the board of directors' move to suspend the 2009 season by voting against it according to an arena league blog called reports a "team representative for the AFLPA told ArenaFan that the Executive Board for the AFLPA has not requested a revote of the owners. The source went on to state that the players are under belief that the vote for the Orlando Predators was not made by the majority owner, and that a minority owner gave their vote to a different team. The vote for suspending the season passed the Board of Directors by just one vote."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brooks, Clifton Smith to the Pro Bowl

By JC De La Torre

Last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not get one player picked to represent them in the Pro Bowl, eventually, Jeff Garcia made it to the game as an alternate. This year, Tampa Bay will be represented by two Buccaneers, weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks and kick/punt return specialist Clifton Smith will each make the trek to Hawaii for the 2009 Pro Bowl game.

For Brooks, its his 11th trip to the NFL all-star game 2nd all time among linebackers (only Junior Seau has been to more), while Smith, a rookie, will be making his first trip. Smith is an amazing story as he was cut by the Buccaneers in training camp and spent the first half of the season on the practice squad. Smith joined the Bucs after 2nd round draft pick Dexter Jackson had proven to be ineffective. Smith went on to lead the NFC in kick and punt return average while becoming the first Buccaneer to return a kickoff and punt return for a touchdown in the same season.

Some notable Buccaneers were not selected - including middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, Free Safety Tanard Jackson, and center Jeff Faine. Jon Gruden has also said repeatedly that if "Matt Bryant does not make the Pro Bowl they shouldn't have the game." Well, unfortunately, Bryant also was left off the list.
The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants and the NFC North leading Minnesota Vikings led the NFC with 6 Pro Bowl players.

Here's the entire NFC squad, alternates should be named in the next day or so.

2009 NFC Pro Bowl Squad (courtesy of
Kurt Warner, Arizona
Drew Brees, New Orleans
Eli Manning, New York Giants

Running back
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
Michael Turner, Atlanta
Clinton Portis, Washington

Mike Sellers, Washington

Wide receiver
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona
Anquan Boldin, Arizona
Steve Smith, Carolina
Roddy White, Atlanta

Tight end
Jason Witten, Dallas
Chris Cooley, Washington

Jordan Gross, Carolina
Walter Jones, Seattle
Chris Samuels, Washington

Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota
Chris Snee, New York Giants
Leonard Davis, Dallas

Andre Gurode, Dallas
Shaun O'Hara, New York Giants

Defensive end
Julius Peppers, Carolina
Justin Tuck, New York Giants
Jared Allen, Minnesota

Defensive tackle
Kevin Williams, Minnesota
Jay Ratliff, Dallas
Pat Williams, Minnesota

Outside linebacker
DeMarcus Ware, Dallas
Lance Briggs, Chicago
Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay

Inside linebacker
Patrick Willis, San Francisco
Jon Beason, Carolina

Charles Woodson, Green Bay
Antoine Winfield, Minnesota
Asante Samuel, Philadelphia

Free safety
Nick Collins, Green Bay
Brian Dawkins, Philadelphia

Strong safety
Adrian Wilson, Arizona

Special teams
Jeff Feagles, New York Giants

John Carney, New York Giants

Kick returner
Clifton Smith, Tampa Bay

Special teamer
Sean Morey, Arizona

Stylez G. White, Kiffin, and Martin Fennelly

By JC De La Torre

I like Tampa Tribune's Martin Fennelly's writing style. Sure, his prose isn't perfect (like I can talk) and his jokes sometimes make little sense but for me he's typically an enjoyable read. I like the dry humor he brings to the serious world of sports writing. I find him witty at times and hilarious others. However, with all that said, I truly believe he crossed the line in today's article concerning Jon Gruden and Joey Galloway. Oh, it wasn't the substance of the article, which primarily I agree with - I mean if Jon Gruden is the offensive mastermind he believes himself to be, he should be able to find a way to get a weapon like Joey Galloway on the football field. No, it was how Fennelly ended his column today.

Fennelly wrote in today's Tampa Tribune, "We can't always explain Gruden's world, where a Luke McCown can be good enough to back up Garcia, but when Garcia gets hurt, McCown isn't good enough and gets to back up Griese. Tell me that logic doesn't make your eyes cross. Then again, there's always a chance Bryant will get hurt. All the Bucs are doing it these days. Don't deactivate those street clothes, Joey."

I emphasized the section I had a problem with. If you've ever been in a locker room the one thing you never ever say, write or even think about - and that's a player getting injured. Don't get me wrong, I've never believed in jinxes, karma, or anything of that ilk, its just that that type of thing just isn't done. I don't believe because Fennelly wrote something, it will happen to Bryant...hell, if I believed that than this entire blog entry would consist of "JC De La Torre will win the first Florida power ball...JC De La Torre will win the first Florida power ball..." but its just not something you do if you write about sports. So Martin, I think you fumbled today and you owe an apology to Antonio Bryant for putting the fu-fu-gato on him.

Speaking of the Tribune, nice to see Buccaneer beat writer Roy Cummings caught up with the rest of us in knowing that the Bucs still control their own destiny. As you, my few but beloved readers, know, we had the entire playoff scenarios broken down for you moments after the Giants whiffed against the Dallas Cowboys in our TBSB Buccaneers NFC Playoff Scenario Madness - Week 16, deep dive anaylsis of the NFC playoff picture and where the Buccaneers figured into it as only you can find it here. As John McClane would say, Roy, "Welcome to tha party, pal!". Now if we could only get ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio up to speed we'll be all set.

In other Bucs news, defensive end Greg White has officially changed his name to Stylez G. White. Why? Who the hell knows...White told the Tampa Tribune that he picked his new name from a character in the 1985 movie "Teen Wolf," starring Michael J. Fox.

"That was his best friend's name in the movie," White said. "I always liked that name. "

Okie dokie, Mr. Stylez G. White, I'm sure your momma is proud.

Finally, Monte Kiffin made it official, he will be leaving the Buccaneers after this season concludes to join his son Lane at the University of Tennessee. Is it any coincidence that the decline of the Buccaneer defense has coincided with the rumor of Kiffin's departure? This isn't to suggest Kiffin is working any less as hard as he has in the past or that the players are not playing as hard for him down the stretch, I just find it a bit interesting that the time line seems to intertwine.

Hopefully, now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, everyone can concentrate on football, mainly LaDanian Tomlinson.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Phillips Done for the Year, Brooks "Very Questionable"

By JC De La Torre

On top of the tough loss on the road in Atlanta, the Bucs may have lost two key contributors to the defense. Strong Safety Jermaine Phillips broke his right arm (again) and is done for the year while future hall-of-fame linebacker Derrick Brooks was termed by head coach Jon Gruden as "very questionable" for Sunday's game with the San Diego Chargers with a rib injury the Pewter Report is reporting today from Gruden's 10am presser.

Gruden also added he will wait until Wednesday to determine a starting quarterback for the Chargers game.

Tampa Bay needs to win their final two games to make the playoffs.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

TBSB Buccaneers NFC Playoff Scenario Madness - Week 16

By JC De La Torre

Current NFC Playoff Standings

Seed Team Record (conf rec) Remaining Games

1. NY Giants 11-3 (8-2) Car, @Min
2. Carolina 11-3 (7-3) @NYGiants, @NO
3. Minnesota 9-5 (7-3) Atl, NYGiants
4.Arizona 8-6 (6-5) @NE, Seattle
5.Dallas 9-5 (7-4) BAL, @Phi
6.Tampa Bay 9-5 (8-4) SD, Oak
Atlanta 9-5 (6-4) @Min, St. Louis
Philadelphia 7-5-1 (6-4) Clev, @WAS, DAL
Chicago 8-6 (6-5) GB, @Hou
Washington 7-7 (6-4) Phil, @San Fran
New Orleans 7-7 (4-6) @DET, Carolina
Seattle 3-11 (3-8) NYJets, @Ari
St. Louis 2-12 (2-8) SF, @Atl

The following is the a deep dive breakdown of playoff scenarios for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NFC for Week 16. You'll only find this detailed of a breakdown here at the JC De La Torre's Tampa Bay Sports Blog, we'll update it each week as the Bucs progress through the final quarter of their schedule. BTW, Yahoo has put together this awesome Playoff Scenario Generator that helps you put everything in perspective

It was an extremely rough week for the Bucs' playoff hopes, not only did Carolina pull away from the rest of the pack in the NFC South, the Bucs are now in a dog fight with the team they lost a gut-wrenching heartbreaker in overtime to yesterday, the Atlanta Falcons, for the final playoff spot. When the season comes to a close it may be a victory by the 3-11 Seattle Seahawks over the 2-12 St. Louis Rams that proves to be the difference in the Bucs making or missing the playoffs. The Bucs are currently the 6th and final seed in the NFC...barely, but despite the loss to Atlanta, the Bucs do have some control of their own destiny. If they win both their final games, they should take the final playoff spot...we think...if the Rams lose out...and the Cowboys stay ahead of the Eagles....oh boy...actually, it is a lot clearer than that. The Bucs do control their own destiny - if they win their last two games, they are in the playoffs.

Here's where we stand going into Week 16 -


New York has clinched the NFC East

Arizona has clinched the NFC West

This Week’s Clinching Scenarios

The winner of the Carolina-NY Giants game Sunday night will clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs in the NFC.

If Carolina wins, they clinch the NFC South title.

Minnesota can clinch the NFC North with a victory over Atlanta and a loss by Chicago to Green Bay.

Dallas can clinch a playoff spot with a victory over Baltimore and a loss by Tampa Bay or Atlanta AND Philadelphia

Atlanta can clinch a playoff spot with victory over Minnesota and a loss by Tampa Bay AND Philadelphia OR Dallas.

Bucs Scenarios

The Bucs can clinch a playoff spot with a victory over San Diego and a loss by Atlanta AND Philadelphia (assuming the Eagles defeat Cleveland tonight) OR Dallas loss to Baltimore.

Future Cast – Buccaneers

If the Bucs Win Out –

The division appears to be out of reach, but if the Panthers lose their final two games at New York and at New Orleans, the Bucs can mathematically still win the NFC South. Thanks to Seattle's victory over St. Louis and Dallas staying ahead of Philadelphia, the Buccaneers would win a three-way tie between the Bucs, Panthers and Falcons. The Bucs would get the Panthers on conference record, while the Bucs and Falcons will go down to the strength of schedule tie-breaker, which the Buccaneers would win.

Here's the breakdown of the Atlanta-Tampa Bay tie-breaker scenario -

Bucs/Falcons tie-breakers

1. Head-to-Head – Even (1-1)

2. Division record – Even - Tampa Bay 3-3, Atlanta 3-3

3. Common Games – Even - New Orleans, Carolina, Green Bay, Denver, Kansas City, MinnesotaDetroit, San Diego,Chicago, Oakland (assuming both win out) – Tampa Bay 9-3, Atlanta 9-3

4. Conference Record (Assuming both win out) – Even - Tampa Bay 8-4, Atlanta 8-4

5. Strength of Victory – Currently Bucs lead - Tampa Bay 54-72 .428, Atlanta 51-75 .404, if both teams win out, they will be tied 62-94.

6. Strength of Schedule – Currently Bucs lead – Tampa Bay 106-118 .473, Atlanta 104-118-1 .466 – As long as Dallas has a better record than Philadelphia, the Bucs will win this tie-breaker

So basically, this fluid strength of victory flipped for the Bucs this week with Seattle's victory over St. Louis, if both the Bucs and Falcons win out, their strength of victory will be tied, forcing them to the sixth tie-breaker, which favors Tampa Bay. If Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta all win out, Dallas is the 5 seed, Tampa Bay the 6 and Atlanta's home for christmas.
If the Bucs lose to either San Diego or Oakland -

The Bucs are eliminated from the division race. For the Bucs to be able to make the playoffs, Atlanta must lose to Minnesota and Philadelphia (assuming they win tonight), must lose one of their remaining two games. If Atlanta defeats Minnesota, they will own the advantage in common opponents as Bucs would fall to 8-4.

If the Bucs lose out -

The Bucs are out of the playoffs.

Earliest the Bucs can Clinch a playoff spot

Week 16 - The Bucs can clinch a playoff spot with a victory over San Diego and a loss by Atlanta AND Philadelphia (assuming the Eagles defeat Cleveland tonight).

Earliest the Bucs can clinch the NFC South -

Week 17 - The Bucs would need to win out and Carolina would need to lose out.

Week 16 - Who to Root For -

Bucs to beat San Diego - if the Bucs lose this game, their chances for the post-season decrease dramatically. The final two games are MUST WINS.

Baltimore to defeat Dallas - Drops Dallas to 6 losses on the season and with a Bucs victory over San Diego would allow Tampa Bay to control their own destiny.

San Francisco over St. Louis - Need to keep the Rams down...or strength of victory could flip yet again.

Seattle over the NY Jets - Need to keep the Seahawks up...see above

Minnesota to defeat Atlanta - Would break the tie with the Falcons if the Bucs win.

Washington to defeat Philadelphia - This would pretty much eliminate the Eagles from contention.

NY Giants to defeat Carolina - It would keep the NFC South in play for the Bucs if they win.

Falcons Outlast Bucs in Overtime

By JC De La Torre

As gut-wrenching defeats go, this one stings a bit. With the Buccaneers playing their second road division game in a week and playing without two of two defensive linemen and their starting quarterback, Tampa Bay battled the high flying Falcons to a stalemate during regulation, but fell in overtime 13-10. The loss significantly damages the Buccaneers playoff chance and forces Tampa Bay into must win situations for the final two games of the season.

The full enormity likely won't be known until later tonight when Carolina-Denver, Dallas-New York, and Cleveland-Philadelphia are completed, but the defeat definitely puts the Bucs in deep trouble. With the heart of the Buccaneers defensive line, Chris Hovan, out of the lineup, the Falcons took advantage, pounding Michael Turner between the tackles to the tune of 152 yds on 33 carries.

The Falcons would jump on Tampa Bay quickly, as special teams penalty put the Buccaneer offense and backup QB Brian Griese deep in their own territory. The Bucs offensive line would commit a penalty pushing them back further and after punting, the Falcons took over at the Tampa Bay 33. The Bucs defense stood strong, allowing the Falcons to only drive it 26 yds and settle for a 26 yd Jason Elam field goal to give Atlanta a 3-0 lead with 6:53 left in the first.

After the ensuing Bucs drive stalled, Atlanta would drive 72 yds in 9 plays, highlighted by a 30 yd reception by Roddy White to set up Michael Turner's 2 yd touchdown, Atlanta held a 10-0 lead as the first quarter came to a close.

Midway through the second quarter, the Bucs defense thwarted an attempt by the Falcons to extend the lead as rookie Aquib Talib intercepted Atlanta Quarterback Matt Ryan in the end zone. Later with 1:23 left in the first half, the Bucs would get to the rookie again, this time the ageless one, Ronde Barber would victimize the rookie, picking him off at the Tampa Bay 35 yd line. The Bucs comatose offense would finally come to life, with Griese moving the Bucs 67 yds in 10 plays culminating with another touchdown grab from Antonio Bryant, who finished the day with 8 catches for 108 yds, going over 1,000 yds for only the 2nd time in his career and earning a career high in receptions. The Bucs trailed 10-7 at the half.

The Bucs opened the 3rd quarter with a 3-and-out, and Atlanta moved down the football down to the Tampa Bay 33. After scrambling away from the Tampa Bay rush, Matt Ryan found little used tigh end Jeff Rader for a touchdown and a commanding 16-7 lead...or did they? Jon Gruden challenged and it was ruled that Bucs Safety Jermaine Phillips forced Rader to fumble to football at the one and it was clearly recovered in the end zone by Phillip Buchanon, Atlanta was denied points and the football.

The Bucs offense would fail to capitalize, as Brian Griese inexplicably threw into triple coverage and was intercepted by Falcons corner Dominique Foxworth. The teams would exchange punts the remainder of the third quarter and moving into the 4th quarter until finally, Tampa Bay mounted another drive. The Bucs drove all the way to the Atlanta 30 yd line, where Jeff Faine would get called for an illegal snap and the Bucs would be penalized 5 yds, Griese's 3rd down pass would fall incomplete and Tampa Bay would have to settle for a 53 yd field goal attempt by Matt Bryant. Bryant's kick had the power but lacked the accuracy, as he pulled it to the left.

Atlanta failed to take advantage of the field position, going three-and-out, and then punter Michael Koenen's punt was blocked by Bucs special teamer Brian Clark, the block was fielded by reserve safety Sabby Piscitelli, who returned it 18yds to the Atlanta 22. Griese hit Michael Clayton at the Atlanta 11 while the two-minute warning expired, then Cadillac Williams 3 yd carry put the Bucs at point blank range at the 9. Then the Bucs offense, which we all know is red zone challeged, hit reverse. First, Griese held the ball to long and was sacked for an 11 yd loss, then Aaron Sears was called for holding, backing the Bucs back to the 30. Jon Gruden called a draw play on 3rd and 28 and Warrick Dunn scampered for 10 yds to the 20. Matt Bryant flirted with the right upright but tucked it in with 0:34 left in regulation to tie the game at 10.

The Bucs won the toss in overtime, but another special teams miscue on the kickoff pinned the Bucs at their own 7. Tampa Bay moved it out to their own 37 but Griese again held the ball to long on third down and was sacked for a 13 yd loss. Punter Josh Bidwell blasted a nice of 47 yds with no return, putting the Falcons at their own 29, but the Falcons would take advantage of the winded Bucs defense, driving it 55 yds in 11 plays, to set up veteran kicker Jason Elam's 34 yd game winner. The Falcons overcame a fumble by Matt Ryan that was recovered by a Falcons offensive lineman. Elam lined up and tucked it in the left upright - ballgame, Atlanta wins and the Bucs lose two straight for the first time this season.

The Falcons and Bucs are now tied with 9-5 records in the NFC South and the Bucs are now in a dogfight for one of the NFC's two wild card spots. The good news for the Bucs, is they have San Diego and Oakland at home to wrap up the season where they are undefeated, in Raymond James Stadium. One last note, Warrick Dunn became the sixth player in NFL history to rush for 10,000 yds and have 500 receptions in his career.

Bradford wins the Heisman, Tebow led in 1st Place Votes

By JC De La Torre

Florida Quarterback and 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow finished third in the Heisman balloting this year despite receiving the most first place votes (309) and finished a mere 151 pts behind the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Oklahoma Quarterback Sam Bradford.

Bradford and the Sooners will face Tebow's Gators for the National Championship in January.

My take on the decision? Its the right choice, Tebow's numbers are down this year as the team around him became more complete. Tebow wasn't the entire offense this year and it helped, as the Gators improved from 9-4 to 12-1 this season.

In the end, what will mean more to Tebow isn't whether or not he beat Bradford for this prestigious award, its whether or not he beats him on January 8.

Power Outage - Bolts Blanked By Sens 2-0

By JC De La Torre

The two worst scoring teams in the NHL got together tonight and the outcome could have easily been predicted as the Ottawa Senators edged the Lightning 2-0. Ottawa didn't get their second goal of the hockey game until Daniel Alfredsson fired into an empty net with 0:45 left in the game, despite having 8 power play chances (they were 1-for-8).

Penalty was the word of the night for Tampa Bay as one after another, members of the Lightning paraded to the sin bin, eventually totaling in 29 total penalty minutes and 8 short handed situations. While on the penalty kill, the Lightning offensive attack was downright offensive, generating very little pressure on Ottawa Goalie Martin Gerber, who at times looked like he was fighting the puck a bit. Ottawa would finally break a scoreless deadlock when a former Bolt (albeit was a brief tenure) Alexandre Picard fired the puck past Mike Smith on the Power play for a 1-0 lead. Smith was sensational again on the night, stopping 31 of 32 shots against, while Gerber stopped all 24 shots he faced.

While some of the calls seemed borderline at best and the Lightning had grievances the way the linesman was dropping the puck on faceoffs (appearing to give Ottawa center men clear advantage), the coup de grĂ¢ce came in the final moments of the game. With Mike Smith pulled for the extra attacker, the linesman dropped the puck on a face off in the Ottawa zone. Inexplicably, as the lineman Derek Amell tried to get out of the way of Mike Fisher and Jussi Jokinen battling for control, he flailed his legs and at one point lifted his skate arching upward behind his body, the skate would catch Martin St. Louis in the face as he reached down to try to gain control of the puck. St. Louis went immediately down, but play continued as Ottawa got control. As St. Louis struggled to the Lightning bench, Alfredsson put the puck in the empty net, clinching the game.

The Lightning were furious and Paul Ranger earned a 10 minute misconduct penalty. St. Louis suffered a nasty gash and needed eight stitches to close up two separate cuts on his forehead. It didn't matter as the final seconds ticked off, the Lightning were shut out for the fourth time this season and have scored three or fewer goals in twenty-eight of their thirty games this season.

Tampa Bay falls to 7-15-8 on the year and are 2-8-4 since Rick Tocchet replaced Barry Melrose as head coach.

After a tumultuous month with little to show for their troubles, the Lightning will get four days off, not playing again until Thursday.

"There will be a lot of practice time in the next four days," Tocchet told the Associated Press.

We can only hope that some of the time is spent re-teaching the scorers how to put the biscuit in the basket.