Tampa Bay Bucs: A solid win after a shaky start

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The Bucs continue their knack for finding good defensive players in the discard pile of other teams. This year's prize is defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson, a castoff from the Chiefs. He had two sacks against the Lions. And I thought the hit he put on QB Drew Stanton that appeared to knock him out of the game was a good, solid smack. Instead, Wilkerson got flagged for roughing the quarterback.

With the Falcons 45-28 win over the Panthers, the Bucs (8-3) move into a first place tie with Carolina (right now they hold the tiebreaker with the Panthers, but still have to go to Charlotte and play). That's a good thing, of course. But remember, the Bucs have to face off against the Falcons in the Georgia Dome on Dec. 14. Atlanta has been very strong at home this season.

The Bucs remaining five games are: home against New Orleans, away against Carolina, away against Atlanta, and then a final two home contests that look like gifts: The Chargers and the Raiders. The Bucs haven't lost at home this season. I'm figuring they go 3-2 down the stretch, which should be good for a playoff berth.

I don't know about you, but when the Bucs went down 17-0 against the lowly Lions, I really didn't think they were in any trouble. Sure enough, Tampa Bay went on to score 35 unanswered points to take a 35-17 lead, and ultimately win 38-20. The Lions not only looked thoroughly inept, but completely snakebit. Detroit  doesn't have any truly bad teams remaining on its schedule, so 0-16 seems a real possibility.

But this post is about the Bucs, so on to a few observations:

Clifton Smith, the once-obscure rookie who's now a fixtures as a kick and punt returner, has fumbled in every game he's played in. He was fortunate today because this game's fumble was recovered by one of his teammates. That said, he also returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown today (to go along with a kickoff return for a TD against Kansas City a few weeks ago.) Coach Jon Gruden has said Smith's fumbling is simply unacceptable, but, really now, you gotta take the good with the bad.

It started as another shaky outing for cornerback Ronde Barber, who was beaten by Calvin Johnson for the Lions' first TD. Ah, but then redemption. Barber intercepted two passes — his first two of the season — one of which he returned for a touchdown. He now has 11 interceptions or fumbles returned for touchdown in his career, the most among active players.

At one point, Fox color commentator Tony Boselli said second-year defensive end Gaines Adams is "becoming the force he was expected to be." I'm not sold. I find it maddening to watch the goose-necked Adams repeatedly take wide, outside rushes and get pushed out of the play by the offensive tackle. That said, he did have a sack, a tipped pass and three tackles against Detroit. He also dropped back in coverage a couple of times. Adams is quick off the ball, and brings some intangible qualities to the game, but I just don't see him becoming a stud pass rusher.

It was nice to see RB Carnell Williams return from a catastrophic knee injury last year and get some action. He has a ways to go before he contributes in any positive sense. On his first series, he collided with QB Jeff Garcia in the backfield, causing him to fumble, which Detroit scooped up and returned for a touchdown. He ended up getting 16 carries (for a paltry 27 yards) in mostly mop-up duty. On one run, he showed a decent burst of quickness and a shifty change of direction, but it's clear that Cadillac needs a lot of tuning up before he's truly back.

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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