I haven't really touched on the Bears game much (or at all) in this space. Although that is mostly because I've been covering it at the Buccaneer Fanhouse (shameless plug, you can find more of my stuff over there as well as other bloggers who write good and stuff. The Fanhouse even has the NBA and college basketball now, if that's your thing. So check it out while I'm still writing for them.)
Yesterday's game was both a microcosm and anomoly of the Bucs season. The Bucs showed that they are a well coached and disciplined team which simply lacks the talent to make another run at the playoffs, even in the NL-like NFC. The Bucs never gave up in the Bears game even when they were down 24-3 in the third quarter. With the possible exception of the Thanksgiving Massacre, the Bucs have not given up in any of their games (and I'm willing to turn a blind eye to that Cowboy's game since it was Bucs third game in 11 days). Character is often over-rated in pro sports (or at the very least misunderstood), but the Bucs benefit from high character guys like Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and Mike Alstott. In comparison, Vick gave up on his team at the end of last season and the Falcons were crushed in their last game against the Panthers. But at the end of the day the Bucs can't over come the talent gap between them and their opponents. The Bears are simply a better team than the Bucs, and it is no insult to the Bucs to lose late in overtime against the best team in the NFC.
Notes from the Game:
- Joey Galloway is a beast who does not get nearly enough kudos in this space. Considering he may be the best reciever in Bucs history, he doesn't receive nearly enough love from the fans. The 35 years young Galloway has been burning cornerbacks all season but just now has a quarterback who can get him the ball. For example, early in the first quarter Bruce Gradkowski underthrew a deep pass to Galloway which should have been a touchdown. On almost the exact same play in the fourth quarter Rattay leads Galloway on the pass for a touchdown.
- The vaunted Bears defense fell apart against the pass, much the same way their defense fell apart against the Panthers and Steve Smith last season in the playoffs. Considering we've seen the same thing from the Bucs defense against Smith and Marvin Harrison there may be something about the Tampa Two which leaves it weak against the best receivers.
- Speaking of receivers, the rest of the Bucs receivers not-named Galloway finally had a productive game. Alex Smith (5 catches, 24 yards, TD) is starting to show flashes of why he was compared to Antonio Gates coming out of college. Maurice Stovall (3 catches, 42 yards) looks like he can fill the role vacated by Joe Jurevicious. Even Ike Hilliard (3 catches, 55 yards, TD) got in on the action. It's about time somebody besides Pittman led the Bucs in receiving.
- My buddy Plugs mentioned this yesterday, but all MAC quarterbacks are good for is managing the game. For all the hype about the MAC attack there isn't a MAC quarterback in the top 10 of quarterbacks listed by QB rating. Weak-armed Chad Pennington might be the best MAC quarterback (#14 QB rating), followed by Roethlisberger (#21) and Charlie Frye (#25). So that'sthree MAC quarterbacks in the top twenty five, and Frye was replaced in yesterday's game.
- There might actually be something to giving Alstott an increased work load over the last two games. The A-Train had the same amount of rushing yards as Cadillac (26 yards) but he gained those yards on half as many carries (6 to 11). The Bucs largely abandoned the rushing game in the second half, so these numbers may be a bit of an abbaration.
- Finally, we get to Tim Rattay. First off, Rattay gave the Bucs a much needed spark which they have failed to see from Grads. The Bucs scored a season high 31 points against one of the better defenses yesterday, so it's safe to say Rattay will be the starter for the last two games of the season. That being written I think we saw the highlight of Rattay's career with the Bucs yesterday. Grads had similar stats in his first game of the season (20-31, 225 yards, 2 TDs) to Rattay's yesterday (20-35, 268 yards, 3 TDs, 1 int). Both quarterbacks benefitted from defenses which has seen little game film and which were not familiar with their tendencies. Gruden may have found gold with other journeyman quarterbacks (i.e. Rich Gannon) but there is a reason the 49ers were so willing to trade Rattay for a sixth round pick. At the end of the season this is still Simms' team if he wants it.