Pittman Makes Most Of His Time
Last year, Michael Pittman was the most involved player in the offense. He combined for 1,317 yards on 219 carries (for 926 yards) and 41 receptions (391 yards).
This season, with the addition of rookie RB Cadillac Williams, Pittman's rushes and receptions were limited to a total of 106 for 736 yards. He carried 70 times for 436 yards, with 64 of those on one play Sunday. Pittman's only carry of the game came on the Bucs' first possession of the second quarter, when he got loose up the middle and nearly wasn't brought down until he reached the Saints' 1-yard line. The Bucs scored two plays later.
"Anything I can get, I just try to go out there and work hard when I can get the touches, the catches, whatever," Pittman said. "Sometimes it is frustrating just sitting on the sideline, to tell you the truth, but that's football."
With Kenyatta Walker cleared to play and in the starting lineup for Sunday’s game, the Bucs’ offensive line completed an impressive streak. Walker, Sean Mahan, John Wade, Dan Buenning and Anthony Davis became the first set of five linemen in franchise history to start every game together for an entire season.
Cadillac Williams, who broke the Bucs’ rookie single-season rushing record a week ago, added 81 yards to his season total and finished at 1,178. That stands as the fifth-best single-season total in franchise history, just surpassing Reggie Cobb’s 1,171 in 1992.
Michael Pittman returned three kickoffs for the Buccaneers on Sunday, taking on that role for the first time since 2001, his last season with the Arizona Cardinals. Pittman averaged 26.8 yards on six runbacks in ’01 and had 12 kickoff returns and four punt returns in four seasons with Arizona. The Bucs elected to give that responsibility to Pittman instead of Edell Shepherd on Sunday because Shepherd was playing a larger role at receiver in Michael Clayton’s absence. Pittman averaged 28.3 on his three returns and his 37-yarder was the longest by a Buccaneer this season.
Simeon Rice’s sack of QB Todd Bouman in the third quarter was his 13th of the season, and he added a 14th late in the fourth quarter. That is the fourth-highest single-season total in franchise history. Rice now owns three of the top six sack seasons in Buccaneer annals, as he had 15.5 in 2002 and 15.0 in 2003.
Pittman added to his overall yardage total Sunday with three kickoff returns for 85 yards, including a long of 37 to open the second half - the longest return by a Bucs player this season. Pittman made a plea to special teams coach Richard Bisaccia earlier in the week to let him return kickoffs.
"We isolated a couple of things for Pittman and he helped us in the return game as well," Coach Jon Gruden said. "He didn't touch the ball a lot, but he was very effective."
Simeon Rice - another record
Simeon Rice moved into fourth place in franchise history with his 13 sacks this season. Rice picked up the 12th in the third quarter when he brought down Saints QB Todd Bouman for a 1-yard loss on third-and-9. Rice got Bouman again in the fourth quarter, on a fourth-and-3 play from Tampa Bay's 43-yard line.
Rice credited a tough New Orleans team which hung in until the end, unlike another NFC South rival Sunday.
"Atlanta gave up today," Rice said of the Falcons' 44-11 home loss to Carolina. "We didn't have that situation."
The defense becomes No.1 in the NFL again
For the third time in team history, the Bucs' defense topped the league. Tampa Bay also boasted the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense in 1979 and 2002.
The top ranking marks the ninth straight season the Bucs' defense has finished in the top 10, which is tied with the Los Angeles Rams (1973-81) for the second-longest streak in NFL history. The Dallas Cowboys own the league record with 10 consecutive top-10 finishes (1970-79).
Greg Spires collapsed at midfield near the end of the first quarter, but was able to walk off on his own. He was replaced by Dewayne White for one series and later returned to collect one of the Bucs' four sacks.