Upset In The Battle Of The Bays

Published: September 29th, 2008
By Atop the Crow's Nest

My heart was heavy every time I saw Matt Bryant walk on the field. This man has so much courage. I couldn’t fathom losing a child, and playing a game just a few days later. How Matt did it, we’ll never know. One thing is for sure though. Tryson was his father’s angel yesterday, as Matt won the game with his timely kicking. Had Bryant not been there, the Bucs would have never pulled the upset. Let’s look at what made this game what it was:

The Return of Warrick Dunn
Warrick Dunn had his best day since returning to the Buccaneers. When the Bucs couldn’t get a running game going, it was Dunn they turned too. Dunn ran the ball 16 times for 63 yards, coming in second to Earnest Graham’s 111 yards. Dunn also caught 2 passes for 23 yards, giving him 86 total yards on the day. Brian Griese looked Dunn’s way more than once, but either missed him, or hit an irresponsible referee. Although his stats might not show it, Dunn was a difference maker in the game. He converted a couple of key third downs, and made something positive happen every time he touched the ball. It was his best game as a Buc in nearly 7 years.

I knew that Aaron Rodgers would throw a pick this week. I just knew it. It didn’t take long before the defense justified my confidence. In the second quarter, Derrick Brooks picked off Aaron Rodgers for the first time this season. He quickly lateraled the ball to Cato June, who gained no yardage. The Bucs didn’t stop there. Later in the quarter, Barrett Ruud grabbed an interception. Then, with under two minutes left in the 4th quarter, Gaines Adams picked off Rodgers for a third time, solidifying the win for the Bucs. The Bucs have 7 interceptions on the season, and one in every game so far. The same goes for sacks. The Bucs added another 3 sacks, giving them 11 on the season, and they have recorded one in every game. Derrick Brooks had the best game of all the defenders. He had one interception, two that went in and out of his hands, 3 tackles, including a big one for a loss, and one forced fumble. In the end, the Bucs defense had 3 interceptions, 3 sacks, one fumble returned for a touchdown by Jermaine Philips, allowed only 181 yards and 8 first downs, and in perhaps the most staggering statistic, held Ryan Grant to only 20 yards on 15 carries.

Win One for Tryson
The Bucs all had heavy hearts yesterday. You knew that they were motivated to win, not for themselves, but for Matt Bryant. After dealing with the tragic loss of his 3-month old son, the Bucs rallied around Bryant, who showed tremendous courage in playing. Bryant made all three field goal attempts, and all three extra points. His last field goal put the Bucs up by two with a little over two minutes left in the game. At that point, Aaron Rodgers had sat out with a shoulder injury, allowing rookie Matt Flynn to take his place. With Rodgers status in doubt, that field goal became the game winner. After every field goal, Bryant blew a kiss to the sky, letting his son know that he would always be a part of his life. It was an emotional day in Tampa, and the Bucs ended it with a victory.

Game Notes:

  • Dexter Jackson returned a kick 45 yards, the longest of his career.
  • Barrett Ruud had an interception in his second straight game.
  • Derrick Brooks grabbed his 25th career interception, keeping him 3 away from becoming 4th on the Bucs all-time interceptions list.
  • Dexter Jackson returned 3 kicks for a total of 100 yards, a career high.
  • Ronde Barber moved into sole possession of 4th place on the Bucs all-time list for games played.
  • Barrett Ruud had two interceptions all of last year. He already has two this year.

The Bucs passed their first tough test of the season. Now they have to go against the highest-scoring offense in the league in Denver. The Broncos lost a shocker on Sunday, but look for them to bounce back with a vengeance. The Bucs victory was big, as they maintained a tie for the lead in the division with Carolina. The Bucs will face Carolina in two weeks, but for right now, they have to worry about the 3-1 Broncos.