Though you wouldn’t know it from the scoreboard, the Bucs offense went from “promising” to “desolate” in less than four quarters. Just when you thought things were finally starting to click for the underdog team from the NFC, they lose both their featured running back (Cadillac Williams) and their left tackle (Luke Petitgout).
On a team just beginning to find its rhythm, injuries at these skill positions will prove costly going into next week’s match-up against their old boss, Tony Dungy and his Colts. The Bucs still have an experienced veteran running back in Michael Pittman, with Pittman being one of the only survivors left after Gruden dismantled the 2002-2003 Super Bowl champions. They also have a reliable back up in Earnest Graham. While Graham may not have a ring to boast, he has been a part of a play-off team and knows what it takes to get to that post season.
As for replacing Petitgout, the Bucs have Anthony Davis, who has spent the past two seasons as the starter. One problem: Davis was the reason the Bucs signed Petitgout in the first place!!!.. He is expected to split time with Donald Penn, a 24 year old kid from Utah State who has never started in the NFL. His first assignment: to shut down All-Pro defensive end Dwight Freeney. Yeah, good luck with that one kid.
As they pack their bags for Indianapolis this week, the Bucs will face the 4-0 reigning Super Bowl champs in their house. As far as backstories go, the one between these two couldn’t be any crazier. Dungy is fired from Tampa Bay, and packs his bags for Indy. Gruden swoops in like a hero with a cape, tweaks the offense, takes the team to the Super Bowl and saves the day. Or wait.. was that Dungy’s team he brought home the ring with?.. Hm: Then.. in a twist of fate, Dungy comes in with his Colts the following season and upsets the defending champs on their own turf, 38-35. And most recently: Dungy of course takes his unstoppable Colts to the Super Bowl and quiets the naysayers.
Would Jon Gruden like revenge?… Sure. Will he get it?.. Doubtful. You don’t suffer the kind of losses they did on offense and bounce back so quickly. A few weeks down the road when the offense has had time to gel again – sure, but not going into the most difficult match-up you have seen this year thus far. And all this is before the Bucs D’ starts to put holes in Peyton’s passing game.
Another interesting back story going into this weeks match-up is that of Cato June. June was sent to Tampa from last years Indianapolis Super Bowl team and will get an opportunity to test his skills against that of his old team mates. How will this play out?.. Time will only tell.
Bottom line. If the Bucs want a shot in hell at winning this game, they’ve got to be aggressive on defense. They’ve got to generate turnovers, get three-and-outs, and create opportunities for defensive scoring. It’s just a few things they have to do to compensate for an offense that is still nursing its wounds.
This week against Indy is all about opportunity. It’s an opportunity for young guns to step up and prove their skills, a chance for veterans to prove they can still play the game like they did in the days of Pewter Power, and a chance for their defense to prove it is completely legit.