Gradkowski, Galloway Give Unit Something To Build On
Katherine Smith, The Tampa Tribune, published 6 November 2006

Two weeks ago, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and receiver Joey Galloway were lamenting about the need for the duo to be on the same page. In the Bucs' victory against Philadelphia, Gradkowski missed on a couple of deep throws to Galloway. The two agreed it was merely a matter of getting their timing down.

After the Bucs fell behind by 17 points in the first half against New Orleans on Sunday, the rookie quarterback and the veteran receiver hooked up for two touchdown plays that gave the Bucs offense some signs of life. "We connected a couple of times today," Galloway said. "Not enough to win, unfortunately, but it gives us something to build on."

It was perhaps the lone bright spot in yet another uneven performance for the Bucs this season. Galloway finished with four receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns. All four receptions came in the first half, when the Bucs rallied to get back into the game. His first touchdown reception, a 44-yard deep ball from Gradkowski, was the Bucs' longest play of the game.

"Anytime you see him matched up man-to-man, you have to take a shot," Gradkowski said. "He ran a great route, he went and got the ball and it was a great play to get us started and get points on the board."

Gradkowski, who finished 18 of 31 for 185 yards and two touchdowns, hit Galloway for a 17-yard touchdown reception just before the end of the first half, their second score of the day, to pull the Bucs within three points. Gradkowski threaded the ball between two Saints defenders, linebacker Scott Fujita and free safety Josh Bullocks.

"I knew the linebacker really couldn't make a play because his back was to me," Gradkowski said. "I was kind of like, 'Hey, take a shot.' I knew either Joey was going to make a play or we were going to kick a field goal. It was the kind of shot we needed to take. I think I play better when I do take shots like that and play aggressive."

Any momentum the Bucs built at the end of the first half ended in the third quarter when the offense, much like it did most of the first two quarters, failed to move the ball. "We battled back into the football game," Coach Jon Gruden said. "We had a tremendous effort to make it a 17-14 game. Unfortunately, it got away from us again to start the third quarter, much as it did to start the football game."

Tampa Bay's defense stopped the Saints on the opening series of the second half. But when the Bucs took over, any momentum they had disappeared. The offense had two consecutive three-and-outs in the third quarter; New Orleans scored two touchdowns in the quarter to increase its lead to 17 again. The Bucs offense finished with eight three-and-outs, including six in a row at the outset.

Gradkowski completed only six passes for 44 yards in the second half. He also fumbled the ball away at the Bucs' 18-yard line when he was sacked by the Saints' Charles Grant and Brian Young with a little more than two minutes remaining.

"We just didn't play well," Galloway said. "Offensively, in the second half, we didn't do anything. We didn't do anything well. When you're behind and you're not playing well offensively, it's always going to be tough."