A new look for the old Bucs

By Joseph Redner  |   Tuesday, October 17, 2006  |  Comments( 0 )

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The margin of victory in the NFL is slimmer than the waifs trotting the runway of a Paris fashion show. Often the only difference between a glamorous team and a revolting one is a single mistake at the wrong moment. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have looked pretty un-fabulous of late, playing the ugly friend to the rest of the NFC South's hot teams and getting left at the dance in some narrow losses.

So it was a beautiful moment for Tampa Bay when a replay double take awarded Michael Clayton a late touchdown against the Bengals, securing the Buccaneers their first victory of the season.

Rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski has been steady filling in for the spleenless Chris Simms. Bruce "Almighty" picked up two key first downs with his feet and displayed the kind of head and athleticism coach John Gruden has been looking for at quarterback. Gradowski's play has been something to look forward to on Sunday and with a brutal schedule coming up, including road trips at Carolina and New York (Giants) and with the Eagles, Saints and Redskins at home, Bucs fans could use a pewter lining to the cloud hanging over Raymond James Stadium.

Defensively, the Bucs seemed years younger and several Red Bulls more active as they held the Bengals to 53 yards rushing and 13 points, 11.5 points shy of their 24.5 per-game average. The Bengals were 3-of-14 on third- down conversions and looked out of step all day.

What the quick legs and quicker head of Gradkowski and the renewed spirits of the 'D' mean looking forward to the Eagles is anyone's guess. Was the victory over the Bengals a sign of an improving Buccaneer team or a declining Cincy team? Close losses aside, this is still a 1-4 football team with a rookie signal caller that'll be facing a team with a savvy veteran QB who is feeling it.

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