Bucs Lose 31-34

Published: December 17th, 2006
By Buccaneer Harbour
In a sudden, and almost stunning turnaround, the Bucs were down 24-3 with just over 5 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter, when they came roaring back. The Bucs scored their first TD in nearly 4 games worth of play, with Mike Alstott bouncing outside on a nice toss play, taking it 14 yards for the TD. Then, the Bucs kick off to Hester and force the ball out when they hit him, where it landed in Mallard's hands. Just like that, the Bucs were set up for another TD, and Rattay delivered on 3rd and goal from the 9, hitting Alex Smith for the TD pass. Now the Bucs were back in the game at 24-17.

It then looked pretty bad when the Bucs defense let Chicago move the ball right down the field to score a short TD run by Benson, who broke through Phillips' tackle attempt at the legs. Now the Bucs were down two scores again with just over 9 minutes in the 4th. Then Rattay threw an interception that looked to be somewhat on Galloway for not trying harder to get to the pass. But the defense held forcing a 3 and out with 7 and a half minutes to go and the Bears punted the ball and pinned the Bucs down at the 5 yard line. It certainly didn't look good then, but on 3rd and 9 Rattay hits Galloway down the seam for a first down and then, on second down, nails Galloway again about 30 yards down field, then Joey turned on the jets and took it to the house, for a 64 yard TD. Bucs defense forces another 3 and out, and then Mark Jones returns the ball to the 50 yard line. Two plays later, Rattay hits Hilliard on an intermediate slant/post route, and he takes it 44 yards, stiff arm included, to make it a tied ball game at 31 with 3:44 left.

Neither team could do anything the rest of the way and the game went into overtime, where the Bucs just couldn't get a break on field position. Alex Smith fumbled after a first down catch, giving the Bears a shot at a 30+ yard field goal to win, but the kicker missed. The Bucs did nothing, and the Bears did nothing, then punted, pinning the Bucs inside the 2. There, two false start penalties killed the Bucs' chances to get the ball out, and the punt gave the Bears the ball near midfield. One big pass catch later (which hit the ground and should have been challenged/reviewed) and the Bears then hit the winning field goal after one more first down.

It was a great second half to watch, and illustrated the one thing I've been saying to many people all along: in this offense, it's all about the play of the QB. Rattay came in and ran the offense like a veteran and it worked very well. You could even see Gruden getting enthusiastic on the sideline as the offense finally started working again, proving that it was the QB that was the main cause of our problems. Even the announcers mentioned that the Bears saw a more complex offense with Rattay in late last week. Quite frankly, the Bucs should stick with Rattay and make sure he's got it, so they can sign him for insurance purposes. If he comes out and starts sucking, then they, of course, should just let him go. Maybe Gruden should have made this change a long time ago, but Rattay practices poorly, and Gruden is big on rewarding guys who show it in practice. In the end, the Bucs lost, but the game still feels like a win because it proved that we do in fact have the skill talent to beat teams. That was the number 3 defense, after all, that they beat, and they weren't playing prevent. They were in fact coming hard, and the offensive line held up.

Oh well. Maybe they can beat Cleveland next week just to get another win and maybe see this offense scoring even more. It was nice to see someone finally able to take advantage of the receivers getting open. Too bad Gruden didn't just start with Rattay. We might have upset the 13.5 point favorites.