Gruden Stands By Fourth-And-1 Call
Even in hindsight, Jon Gruden would have done the same thing. He would have kept the Bucs offense on the field to try to convert fourth-and-1, instead of sending in Martin Gramatica to attempt a 46- yard field goal that would have tied the game. Gruden's decision, he said, had nothing to do with a hip injury that limited Gramatica earlier in the week or a lack of confidence in his struggling kicker. Other Bucs aren't so sure. ``Obviously if he's not kicking it,'' Ronde Barber said, ``the coach doesn't have confidence in him.''

``I guess he didn't have confidence in Martin,'' cornerback Corey Ivy said. ``It's Coach's decision and we have to line up and live with the results.''

The Bucs were trailing 17-14 early in the fourth quarter when Michael Pittman ran into an Atlanta pile for no gain at the Falcons 28-yard line and appeared to fumble the ball. Falcons linebacker Chris Draft picked it up and ran it into the end zone, but officials ruled Pittman's forward progress had been stopped and the whistle blew the play dead. So on fourth-and-1, Pittman took a pitch from Brian Griese, but didn't pick up enough yardage for the first down. ``If [Coach Gruden] says it's the perfect call, then it's the perfect call,'' Pittman said. ``The offensive unit just didn't get the first down. It was a big turning point and we lost a lot of momentum.''

Earlier this season, when Gramatica's inconsistency became a problem, the Bucs tried out some kickers. They signed Jay Taylor to the practice squad this week to help Gramatica with reps at practice. But later in the week, Gramatica did most of the kicking. The injury, he said, was not a problem. ``I felt good,'' Gramatica said. ``I was kicking it really well today. It was just a coaching decision.''

Four of Gramatica's five misses this season have come from the 40- to 49-yard range. Last season, when he also struggled with consistency, half of his 10 misses also were in that range. Despite those struggles, special teams coach Richard Bisaccia said a lack of confidence in Gramatica was not a factor in deciding to not attempt the field goal. ``It's well-documented what he's done in that range,'' Bisaccia said. ``Obviously, he hasn't played well enough in that range. If [lack of confidence in Gramatica] was part of the conversation, I'd tell you. It wasn't really a thought. We decided to go ahead and go for it on fourth down.''

Gramatica had a good day of practice Thursday, where he was 4-for-4 in the plus-40 range. Bisaccia and Gramatica always determine the kicker's range before the game. On Sunday, it was better than 45 yards. ``I thought he could hit 53 today,'' Bisaccia said. ``Indoors, he plays good. You go back to that New Orleans game, he hits a 53-yarder, but he missed a 40-something yarder in that game too, pushed it a little bit left. But again, if [lack of confidence] was part of the deal, I'm sure we'd tell you. Coach just felt like he had them a little bit on that situation and got what we wanted. We just didn't make the play.''

Katherine Smith The Tampa Tribune 15 November 2004