Buccaneers 14 Patriots 32 - a game review

The Bucs fell to 0-8 in Leeman Bennett's first season on the back of their fourth straight game against a future conference game participant. Fresh off a narrow defeat to Miami, the Bucs returned to Tampa Stadium to take on the eventual AFC champion Patriots, having previously lost to the NFC title team Bears and Rams in Weeks 5 and 6.

But whereas the winless Bucs pushed Miami all the way on account of the latter's traditionally-poor defense, this was a game where the Tampa defense just got worn down by superior talent, poor scheming and an appalling run of injuries.

Having already lost Lee Roy Selmon before the season even started, and the loss of LB Hugh Green to Miami in a trade, the Bucs lost starting linebackers Scot Brantley and Jeff Davis during the first half of this game, and had Keith Browner hobbling in and out of the line-up at times in the second half.

Add to this the loss of C Randy Grimes for a couple of drives, LT George Yarno for the game with a knee injury and KR Leon Bright whilst blocking on a return, and you can see why color commentator Bob Kuechenberg was making references to James Wilder going in to play linebacker if necessary.

The Bucs were already fielding an aging Cecil Johnson and waiver-wire wonder Larry Kubin in their base 3-4 package in the second half, making Patriot RBs Tony Collins and future ESPN presenter Craig James, think all their birthdays had come at once.

Yet it was the Bucs who jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, Steve DeBerg hitting Jimmie Giles for a 16-yard TD pass on the opening drive, and then Browner forcing and recovering a fumble of Patriot QB Steve Grogan, leading to Wilder's one-yard dive with 5:50 remaining in the first period.

But from then on, it was all Patriots with early Tony Franklin fieldgoals being added to by Craig James' two TD runs and an option TD pass to Collins late in the 2nd quarter. A couple of early Steve DeBerg interceptions helped New England out, including one on 3rd & inches midway through the 2nd quarter where he had TE Jerry Bell behind the defense but underthrew the pass, allowing safety Fred Marion to make the pick and end the scoring threat.

The second half was just one-way traffic with the crowd disappearing by the drive and the boos being aimed at P Frank Garcia who was simply shocking, and at coach Leeman Bennett for not putting rookie Steve Young in to replace DeBerg at QB.