No Sticks preview this week because 1) this is basically an exhibition game, and 2) I'm exhausted from mountain biking all day yesterday. I have muscles I wasn't even aware of which are sore.
The Bucs are wise to rest almost all their starters this week. Just look at the Giants last night who played their starters the entire game, only to lose in the closing minutes of the game. New York will very likely come out flat against the Bucs next week for two reasons: 1) teams tend to play flat after an emotional game, and 2) the Giants have to go on the road. I understand the Giants were playing for pride last night but that decision will likely come back to bight them in the ass.
Anyway, I off to the game which in all likelihood will be even uglier than last week's San Francisco debacle. Until I get back from the game I leave you with this image from the Onion titled "Vinny Testeverde Touchdown Dance Hopelessly Out-Of-Date."
CAROLINA 31, TAMPA BAY 23
This game had a definite exhibition game feel to it, there wasn't close to as much energy as the crowd would normally have, or will have for next week's playoff game against the Giants. On offense the backups all started at quarterback, runningback and receivers. On the defensive side of the ball the second stringers received starts at middlebacker and strong safety. And about the time the Panthers pulled away from the Bucs Gruden was playing mostly second- and third-stringers.
No POSITIVES/NEGATIVES for this week for the same reason as last week, this was little more than an exhibition game. But I think we need a new definition for Clayton:
Clay - ton
1. A first round draft pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (noun)
2. To come up big when it does not matter (verb)
With the exception of his rookie season when the Bucs were headed for a losing season Michael Clayton has failed to produce. And today Clayton didn't play well until the Bucs had almost certainly lost. Clayton had 3 catches for 45 yards after Carolina scored their final touchdown, putting the game out of reach.
Since I don't want to leave this post on an entirely negative note I will also give praise to Alex Smith, who made only one catch but made it the best catch of the day. With four defenders half a second from hitting him Smith went up and caught a hanging ball from McCown that should have been intercepted. Considering the injuries in the receiving corps Gruden will likely use his tightends in the receiving game often, which should give Smith a chance to excel in the playoffs.