White Leads Line's Performance
Greg White led the best defensive line performance by Tampa Bay this season, but there was one self criticism he could not avoid after a 31-7 victory against Atlanta.
"You know what upsets me? You know I forgot to TiVo Sunday's game," White said. "I forgot to TiVo the game. Ain't that something?"
Jovan Haye set the pace on Atlanta's third series by delivering a punishing hit on QB Byron Leftwich as he attempted to throw, which led to MLB's Barrett Ruud's interception. Three plays later, Jeff Garcia threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Joey Galloway, giving Tampa Bay a 7-0 advantage.
White, a 28-year-old rookie, added to Tampa Bay's pressure in the first quarter when he sacked Leftwich, whose fumble was picked up and returned 41 yards by CB Ronde Barber, giving Tampa Bay a 14-0 lead. White finished with two sacks and forced two turnovers.
"We took another step. It isn't the biggest of steps, but it's a step forward," Haye said. "We've been getting better over the last couple of weeks and it's good to apply pressure that could turn into sacks today. Guys are looking at each other now knowing what to expect. Back then, we didn't know each other, but now guys get that look and we know what to expect from each other. It came together today real good."
Gaines Adams has taken the most heat for not playing well, but he has shown improvement recently. He recorded one sacks, plus batted a Leftwich pass that resulted in DT Chris Hovan's first career interception in the third quarter. "In this league, continuity is not going to show the first week of the season," Adams said. "This time right now is crunch time. The D-line is picking it up and we just have to keep it going."
Graham running wild
Earnest Graham is used to not being mentioned much past August, but even as he revitalizes Tampa Bay's running game, he is doing it very quietly. Graham rushed 17 times for 102 yards and one touchdown Sunday. It was Graham's second consecutive 100-yard game; the last Tampa Bay running back to do that was Cadillac Williams in the first three games of 2005.
"It feels pretty good," Graham said. "At the beginning of the season, we didn't do too well on the road. We came out and were able to get a good road victory and it's great to win in that fashion."
Graham was able to perform with the help of RB Michael Pittman, who had missed the previous four games with an ankle injury. Pittman carried 10 times for 44 yards, plus had two receptions for 17 yards, while backup Michael Bennett was deactivated.
"We've finally found our stride. The last few weeks we've come out, gotten ahead and been able to run the ball well," Graham said. "That's crucial going into this playoff run, being able to run the ball. We're happy, but we have to keep improving."
The wrong direction
Brian Kelly recovered a fumble from Atlanta WR Roddy White after a hit by LB Cato June, but then he started running in the wrong direction, lateralled back to June, who fumbled and gave the ball back to Atlanta. Tampa Bay challenged the ruling. However, instead of questioning if the ground caused June to fumble and possibly getting the call overturned, the Bucs wanted to know if a Falcons player had tackled Kelly instead and if he was down before dishing the ball to June.
The call on the field was upheld. However, it was still questionable as to why Kelly dished the ball in the first place. "It got wild," Kelly said. "I was just trying to keep the ball alive."
June said he was surprised to get the ball, but he needs to work on his basketball moves to elude tacklers next time. "Everybody is trying to make plays," June said.
Tampa Bay's victory gave Jon Gruden his 20th road victory, tying former coach Tony Dungy for most road wins in team history.
Joey Galloway caught his 28th career TD with Tampa Bay, moving him into third place for most career TD receptions in Bucs history.
John Wade made his 100th NFL start on Sunday, 66 of which have come as a Buccaneer.
Ronde Barber's 40-yard fumble return in the second quarter gave him nine regular-season defensive touchdowns on his career. That ties Barber for first place among all active NFL defenders, matching Minnesota's Darren Sharper.
Greg White recorded the first multi-sack game of his career, the first by a Buccaneer this season. The last to do so was Greg Spires, who had two against Cleveland on Dec. 24, 2006.
The Bucs have won all six of their games this season in which they led at halftime. They are 0-4 when trailing at the break.
Anwar Richardson, The Tampa Tribune 19 November 2007