The Bucs found a running game in Detroit and dominated the time of possession, but turnovers and penalties killed them and they lost the game to the Lions. Earnest Graham ran with a purpose all day and was able to help the Bucs sustain drives and control the clock. Unfortunately for the Bucs a fumble on the two yard line, a missed field goal, blocked punt, and penalties ended those drives without scoring points. It was a hard defeat for the Bucs to swallow because you just felt that they were outplaying the Lions and would come away with the win.
Graham had a career day running for 92 yards on 19 carries and catching 13 balls for 99 yards. He always seemed to be moving forward and was very physical when hitting the hole and finishing runs off. The Bucs look to have found the guy who can carry it for them 20-25 times a game and get them the good yardage. One thing that Cadillac Williams did not do effectively was catch the ball out of the backfield, which is very important in the west coast system. In his first two games as the starter Graham has looked very comfortable catching out of the backfield and being Jeff Garcia's safety valve. Although it was a great game, the expectations need to be tempered until they play another tough run defense, like Jacksonville next week. The Bucs were also able to get some of the other backs involved in the game and they each ran pretty well. Michael Bennett go the ball 2 times and was in on a couple other play action plays. Bennett had two good runs and you can see his explosion when he touches the ball. BJ Askew had a couple nice catches and runs and is also another physical back. It looks like the Bucs will get Michael Pittman back in two weeks and they should have a nice stable of backs they can go to at that time.
While the running game looked very good yesterday, the passing game lost two more weapons. Wide receivers Mark Jones and Michael Clayton both left the game with injuries. Jones, who has been a top returner this year, is done for the season with a torn patella tendon. Clayton has a high ankle sprain and is awaiting the MRI results right now, but looks like he will be out for a couple of weeks. With the two injuries to their wide outs the Bucs now have only 3 healthy wide outs on the roster with Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard, and Maurice Stovall. They will need to go out and find another wide out off of someones practice squad or a free agent that has not signed on anywhere else. The injuries just keep on mounting for the Bucs.
Outside of the fumble on the 2 yard line, Jeff Garcia had another great game for the Buccaneers. He set a new Bucs record with 19 consecutive completions in one game and was efficient all game long. He was forced to move around a bit because the offensive line did not have it's best game, but he was able to move through his progressions very quickly and find the open receiver. He completed 37 passes to eight different receivers in the game. Garcia is great at recognizing when a guy is not open and checking down to the next option, even in a three step drop. This was his best statistical game as a Buc, but ask him and he will trade it in for a win.
Once again the theme on defense was no pressure up front. The front four of the Bucs amassed three sacks in the game against one of the worst lines in the NFL. The also got ran over by TJ Duckett when he was in the game and ran around when Kevin Jones came into the game. Once again Gaines Adams was invisible. He did show up on the defensive statistics at all and looked lost out there on the field. Whatever game he thinks he is playing, it is not football. The rest of the defensive lineman did not play much better either and although they were not on the field much, they gave up the plays they needed to make.
The Bucs dominated the time of possession in the game and seemed to control most of the game, but when you do not convert on drives you will lose the game and the Bucs did. The defense still does not have a pass rush to speak of and if they don't get one they won't make the playoffs. The running game looked promising, but they will face better defenses in the future. The Bucs made mental mistakes and they can be fixed, but for now they need to find another wide out and figure out a way to stop getting hurt.