December 14, 2003
Bucs Crush Texans’ Coup Attempt
by Warren DeLuca
One tyrannical despot may have seen his last hopes of returning to power snuffed out this weekend, but the reigning NFL champion is not ready to relinquish its crown. The Buccaneers kept their playoff hopes alive by slapping the Texans around by a score of 16-3 in Tampa Bay.
The Texans started Dave Ragone at quarterback for the second consecutive week after deciding shortly before kickoff to rest David Carr’s injured shoulder. The result was as dismal of an offensive showing as one might reasonably predict for a green rookie passer playing against a talented, veteran defense. The Texan defense, missing several of its best players, managed to keep the score down but was unable to prevent the Bucs from controlling the game.
The Bucs scored the only touchdown of the game on their first possession, as Thomas Jones burst around the right side on an 18-yard run. In the second quarter, Tampa Bay worked its way down the field until the Texan defense stiffened at its own 18 yard line, so the Bucs settled for a 36-yard Martin Gramatica field goal.
The Texans again failed to get anything going on offense, although Ragone delivered two catchable deep balls to Andre Johnson, but Johnson was unable to pull either of them in. Tampa Bay put together a 14-play, 72-yard drive that stalled on the Texan four-yard line, so Gramatica split the uprights once again, increasing the Buccaneer lead to 13. Houston started its final possession of the half with 26 seconds left on its own 23 yard line, and proceeded to run the ball up the middle three times, as if they were trying to run out the clock, but called timeouts after each play.
After the break, the Texans forced the Buccaneers into a three-and-out and took the ball for what would be their best possession of the day – an eight play, 51-yard drive. Ragone hit Corey Bradford for the team’s biggest play of the game, a 24-yard gain. Kris Brown kicked a 38-yard field goal as the Texans finally got on the board, trailing 13-3.
The Texans did little else of note in the remainder of the game. Gramatica added another field goal later in the third quarter to make the score 16-3. On the next Tampa Bay possession, Eric Brown blocked Gramatica’s fourth field goal attempt of the day. The game ended with the Bucs allowing the clock to run out with the ball on the Texans’ one yard line.
A Lot of Bending, But Little Breaking
The Buccaneers rolled up 398 yards of total offense, but the Texans only allowed them into the endzone once. Tampa Bay penetrated the Houston red zone four times (not including the final drive of the game) but the Texans managed to hold them to field goals on three of those, including twice when the Bucs had driven inside the Houston 10-yard line.
With their defense missing so many key players and their offense under Ragone not having shown any signs of being able to light up the scoreboard, the Texans went into the game knowing that they could not afford to hand the Bucs the ball in prime field position or allow them any defensive scores. The Texans did not turn the ball over and at least had the benefit of Chad Stanley’s punting. It didn’t matter.
No New Injuries
For the first time in what seems like too many games, no Texans had to be carried or even assisted off the field, and the team has not reported any new serious injuries.
The Texan defense continued to struggle against the run, as Thomas Jones looked like the player the Cardinals had hoped he would be when they drafted him with the seventh overall pick in the 2000 draft. Jones rushed 34 times for 134 yards as the Texans gave up a total of 161 yards on the ground on 42 carries, helping the Bucs to control the clock for over 38 minutes.
No Pass Rush
The Texan pass rush, which had been able to put heat on opposing quarterbacks in recent weeks, went back into hiding. They put little pressure on Brad Johnson so the Tampa Bay passer was able to pick apart a Houston secondary missing Aaron Glenn. The Texans failed to record a single sack for the first time since the Cincinnati game.
The Texans were able to get on the scoreboard this week, but generated only 107 total offensive yards. Not unexpected after Ragone was named the starter, especially against a quality defense like the Bucs have, but disappointing nonetheless. Ragone was sacked five times and completed only nine passes for 64 yards. Domanick Davis returned to the lineup and ran hard, but was not able to break any big gainers.
Midway through the second quarter, Dave Ragone launched a bomb in the direction of a streaking Andre Johnson who had a step on cornerback Ronyell Whitaker. Johnson got his hands on the ball but was unable to pull it in.
Johnson’s third drop of a deep pass on the day, this would prove to be the Texans’ final downfield shot to the rookie. In the second half, the Texans shifted its strategy to getting the ball to Johnson closer to the line of scrimmage, in the hopes that he could break tackles and make yards after the catch. That proved ineffective against the speedy and sure-tackling Buc defense. The Texans lacked the ability to sustain drives against Tampa Bay and when their quick-strike threat proved ineffective, their chances fizzled. Week 14 Review Greg Spires (94) forces Dave Ragone to fumble in the first half. Final Score Houston Texans 3 Tampa Bay Bucs 16 Lookin’ Good
Sharper finished the game with 12 tackles, five assists, and a forced fumble. He made three tackles in the Buc backfield and two more at the line of scrimmage. Sharper was a very physical presence in the middle of the Texan defense.
Oh, my eyes!
Johnson dropped three deep passes in the first half that hit him in the hands. Each of those plays could have made a difference in what at the time was a tight game.
2003 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.09 Denver 12-20 08.15 at Dallas 6-34 08.23 San Diego 17-19 08.28 at Tampa Bay 3-34 Regular Season 09.07 at Miami 21-20 09.14 at New Orleans 10-31 09.21 Kansas City 14-42 09.28 Jacksonville 24-20 10.05 Bye — 10.12 at Tennessee 17-38 10.19 New York Jets 14-19 10.26 at Indianapolis 21-30 11.02 Carolina 14-10 11.09 at Cincinnati 27-34 11.16 at Buffalo 12-10 11.23 New England 20-23 11.30 Atlanta 17-13 12.07 at Jacksonville 0-27 12.14 at Tampa Bay 3-16 12.21 Tennessee 24-27 12.28 Indianapolis 17-20 Overall Record 5-11