Observation Deck: Bucs-Colts review

Bucs RB Earnest Graham (Getty)

How did the Bucs lose on Sunday to Indianapolis? Time of possession played a factor. Find out how, along with my game balls, disappointments, Gruden Heat-O-Meter and my pregame predictions scorecard in this article.

Want to see why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday? Look at the drive chart for the Colts' six scoring drives:

1: 7 plays, 42 yards, 2:49.

2: 14 plays, 74 yards, 8:09.

3: 12 plays, 67 yards, 2:01

4: 13 plays, 77 yards, 7:37.

5: 11 plays, 68 yards, 5:45.

6: 11 plays, 67 yards, 6:28.

All week leading up to the game I heard reporters ask Buccaneers players and coaches about ball control. The theory was that if the Bucs possessed the ball more than the Colts, they might have a chance to win. Everyone agreed.

Sounded logical. But what was it Robert Prosky used to say at the end of every roll call meeting on "Hill Street Blues?"

Do it to them before they do it to you.

That's what the Colts did on Sunday. They turned the tables on the Bucs in a big way, possessing the ball for nearly 39 minutes, most of it based on those five scoring drives that lasted 10 plays or more.

I don't think anyone gives the Colts enough credit for their ability to control the football. In the past couple of years the Colts — specifically quarterback Peyton Manning — have altered their approach. It's geared more toward short and intermediate routes, as defensive teams are now loathe to give up the deep play.

Fine. Manning just picks apart defenses with short and intermediate routes, moving the chains, controlling the clock and possessing the ball more than the opponent.

Do it to them before they do it to you.

A few points to ponder before we start to prepare for the Tennessee game:

First, how much of Sunday's result was the Colts? The team played like a buzzsaw in every facet. The run defense played magnificently without Bob Sanders and Rob Morris. Seventeen rushing yards? That's insane.

I made my feelings clear during the week. Winning this game was irrelevant. The Bucs needed to continue to play at the level they had the previous three weeks. They had to show they could sustain that effort without Carnell Williams in the backfield and Luke Petitgout at left tackle.

The results were spotty. The passing game came closest to a sustained effort but a couple of key drops by Joey Galloway kept it from optimum efficiency. The secondary and linebackers came fairly close, as they didn't give up a big play. But the running game and the pass rush were awful. That can't happen on a consistent basis.

Second, imagine yesterday's game without Jeff Garcia at quarterback. Then make an appointment with your therapist. His day certainly was nothing to write home about — 18-of-23 for 143 yards and two touchdowns — but he didn't throw an interception for the fifth straight game. On a different day, with a running game, his efficiency might have made a difference.

I can't imagine I'd be saying that if Bruce Gradkowski, Luke McCown or Chris Simms had played yesterday. Oh, yeah, Gradkowski threw an interception on the final drive. Point made.

Third, the Bucs must made some moves to address their needs at running back and defensive end. Michael Pittman's injury is likely to keep him out for six to eight weeks. The team said it's a sprained ankle. Other reports have it as a cracked fibula. That leaves the Bucs with Earnest Graham and Kenneth Darby. Tampa Bay must either sign one of the three backs they tried out last week — Zach Crockett being the most likely — or trading for a backup somewhere.

Tampa Bay could use an extra defensive end, too. Greg White has a shoulder injury and could miss some time. But, more to the point, the Bucs had no sacks on Sunday against Indianapolis in a game where they had to have a pass rush. If they can, the Bucs should try and swing something to shore up that area, too.

Those are the two areas that could hold this team back from making a run to the postseason at this point.

Finally, the next four games are key for the Bucs to make a postseason run. While Tennessee is a better team that people think, they're beatable, especially if you watched their game against Atlanta on Sunday. Then the Bucs have Detroit, Jacksonville and Arizona. All are winnable games for this team, and by winning three of them the Bucs could take a 6-3 record into their bye week, which might make them almost unbeatable in a divisional race that looks as it it's going to be between them and Carolina. And the Panthers appear to be teetering, now that quarterback Jake Delhomme will have season-ending elbow surgery.

Game balls

TE Alex Smith: His line? Two catches, six yards, two touchdowns. In a closer game that might have made a difference.

S Tanard Jackson : Aside from that hit on Dallas Clark that took everyone' breath away, he also picked off Peyton Manning and defended two other passes.

CB Phillip Buchanon : Had 10 tackles, which is great for the stat line but terrible for any defense that hopes to win.

QB Jeff Garcia : He was about the only highlight on offense. Did not throw an interception for the fifth straight game.

WR Ike Hilliard: Led the Bucs in receptions and yards for the second straight week. Needed a couple of more on third down, though.

The disappointments

WR Joey Galloway : Caught four passes, but dropped a couple of others and lost a possible TD pass in the lights.

The Bucs pass rush : Sunday was the day the Bucs desperately needed pressure but it never came. No sacks and five hurries. Peyton Manning was way too comfortable.

The Bucs offensive line: After two spectacular weeks as run blockers, the entire unit came crashing down, as the Bucs gained only 17 yards on the ground.

RB Earnest Graham: Part of the blame has to fall to him, too. He showed no explosion at the hole (what few holes there were on Sunday).

The Gruden Heat-O-Meter

Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden entered this season on the hot seat. Each week I'll take the temperature under that seat.

Last week: 2; Now: 2.5.

It's hard to turn the burner up on Gruden because of this game. The Bucs lost to the defending Super Bowl champions, a Colts team that may be playing better football than they did at any time last year. The Bucs had to make some changes in their offensive makeup, and then lost Pittman midway through the game.

Gruden's mission this week is to make sure the Bucs don't lose confidence after a loss like this. The next four games are a crucial stretch for the Bucs, who could use three wins in the next four games to build a one- or two-game lead in the NFC South and go into the bye with, perhaps, a 6-3 record.

The Scorecard

I made 10 predictions before the game. How did I do? Let's check, shall we?

Offensive predictions

1. Jeff Garcia will throw his first interception of the season and take at least three sacks. He'll throw more than 30 attempts because the Bucs will fall behind early. Partial credit for the Bucs falling behind early (they were down 13-0 early in the second quarter). But I was wrong about Garcia tossing a pick and his attempts total. He only threw 23 times, certainly a result of the Colts' incredible time of possession on Sunday.

2. Michael Pittman and Earnest Graham will combine for 100 rushing yards, but their per-carry average will be around 4.0, as the Colts will be without Bob Sanders. Sanders wasn't there, but the Bucs running game was God awful. The Bucs rushed for 17 total yards and Pittman got hurt. The average? It was 1.4 yards per carry. It had to be one of the worst rushing performances in team history.

3. The leading receiver on Sunday will be … Joey Galloway. Wrong. It was Ike Hilliard for the second straight week.

4. Donald Penn will give up at least two sacks to Dwight Freeney. Wrong. Freeney had a half-sack early in the game. After the first two Bucs offensive possessions, the line actually seemed to take Freeney out of the game. Penn seemed to settle down as the game wore on.

5. Pittman will enjoy a great day as a receiver, catching at least five passes for 50 yards. Nope. Pittman had two catches for 16 yards.

Defensive predictions

1. The Buccaneers will struggle with their pass rush early in the game, but the Colts' weak running game will open up opportunities for the Bucs to register a sack or two in the second half, much like against Carolina last week. Nope. The pass rush struggled the entire game. They did not register a sack.

2. Colts TE Dallas Clark will beat Bucs MLB Barrett Ruud for at least one long catch. Clark had seven catches for 49 yards and a touchdown, but is longest was for 10 yards and I don't think he beat Ruud on that play.

3. Bucs CB Phillip Buchanon will pick off Manning. Nope. Turned out it was Tanard Jackson.

4. The Bucs will have trouble containing Anthony Gonzalez in the slot, as they'll pay special attention to Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. Hey, I was right about something. Gonzalez had a fine day, catching seven passes for 71 yards.

5. WLB Derrick Brooks will force a fumble and have at least eight tackles. No fumble, but he had a team-leading 12 tackles. Partial credit.

Prediction

I picked the Colts to win 22-20, so I'm 3-2 in picking the winner. But I really expected this game to be closer. Give the Colts a big tip of the cap for their run defense, which I expected to be completely porous but instead played its best game of the season and completely took the Bucs out of the game plan they wanted.


Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.

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