Monday, October 13, 2008

Bucs Smackdown Panthers!

By JC De La Torre

There haven't been many opportunities to say this - so I will enjoy this while I type it. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers up and laid the SMACKDOWN on the Carolina Panthers yesterday. The Bucs crushed Carolina 27-3 in a game that really wasn't even as close as the score. This was as a complete victory as we've seen from this Buccaneer squad in some time. The special teams contributed (blocked punt), the Offense contributed (20 points), and the defense absolutely dominated (3 interceptions of Jake Delhomme).

The Panthers turned the ball over three times and were limited to only 282 yds of total offense (most of which came in garbage time when the Bucs were playing reserves). The game not close from the outset. Rookie Linebacker Geno Hayes blocked Carolina punter Jason Baker's punt, recovered and took it in 27 yds for a score to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead. With 5:21 left in the first quarter, Tanard Jackson intercepted Delhomme, setting up a 5 play, 26 yd drive that culminated in a 2 yd Garcia to Alex Smith TD pass.

The teams would trade field goals in the second quarter and Matt Bryant would add another in the 3rd quarter to increase the lead to 20-3.

The Bucs would put the finishing touches on this one, driving 56 yds in 10 plays, as Earnest Graham plunged in to the end zone from the fullback position to stake Tampa Bay to a 27-3 advantage with 14:11 left in the ball game. The rest of the game consisted of failed Carolina drives and Warrick Dunn's running, as Warrick became the first back in 2008 to rush for over 100 yds against the vaunted Carolina defense. Dunn finished the day with 115 yds on 22 carries.

Tampa Bay didn't escape the game in perfect shape. Penalties continued to be a major issue for the team, as they were flagged several times for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Bucs finished the day 7 penalties for 80 yds. They also sustained injuries to FB Bryan Storer, WR Maurice Stovall, and LG Aaron Sears. Injured players Sabby Piscitelli and Barrett Ruud made it through without issue.

Then, there's the QB debate. Jeff Garcia looked steady, moving around in the pocket and making plays. He didn't turn the ball over and made the plays that resulted in the two Tampa Bay offensive touchdowns. Garcia was 15 for 20, 173 yds, with 1 TD. He was not sacked, which is a credit to the o-line who had a terrific day handling one of the fearcest front fours in football. I said to a friend, if Griese is going to be gun shy - he is no use to us. He may turn the ball over, but he also takes more chances that moves the chains and gets the Bucs into scoring position. Against Denver, he looked afraid to make a mistake, and that's not going to help the Bucs. Garcia looked confident, made plays, and most importantly, didn't turn the ball over. He looked like the old Jeff Garcia from last season. I think if Jeff Garcia has his head on right and is playing like he did last season - he is the choice for quarterback.

The Bucs improve to 4-2, dropping Carolina to an identical 4-2 record and enter a 3 way tie for first place in the NFC South with Carolina and Atlanta - two teams the Bucs dominated at home. Next week will be a big one, as it is Mike Alstott Commemorative Night. The Bucs will honor the A-train in front of a National television audience. The struggling Seattle Seahawks provide the opposition.

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