I intended to post after doing a review of the game video, but evidently a power outage truncated the recording.
Big win for the Bucs, given the difficult start to the schedule (Indy and Seattle among the first five games).
Special teams were huge. St. Louis had no return game, and that's saying something when Dante Hall returns most of the kicks. The Bucs' Mark Jones, on the other hand, had a number of big returns on the day. Special teams play set up field position in the Bucs' favor throughout the day.
Huge credit goes to ST coach Rich Bisaccia, who has got a young and very speedy group of backups living up to their responsibilities on special teams.
Some say the Bucs' defense is "back," but this defense isn't yet driven by the defensive front four, unlike Buccaneer teams of the past. That may yet happen, but so far the defensive line is doing just enough. They haven't dominated anybody. The linebackers and defensive backs have made the defense effective. They're all hustling to the ball and hitting, and providing generally excellent pass coverage.
Jermaine Phillips has finally started to fill John Lynch's shoes, making a big hit on tailback Stephen Jackson and snaring a nifty interception along the sideline. Philip Buchanon has played brilliantly in relief of Brian Kelly, who has been dinged up a bit this season.
At linebacker, Cato June has provided the splash play that we haven't seen since the Ian Gold experiment a few years ago, and Barrett Ruud has made the middle linebacker position his own taking the place of the retired Shelton Quarles. Derrick Brooks might be a shade slower, but he makes up for it with game savvy.
I can't say I've been any sort of Jeff Garcia fan, but the guy deserves a great deal of credit for the way the Bucs offense has played the past two weeks. Garcia has an excellent sense of what is going on around him in the pocket, and he has a knack for finding the open receiver--something the Bucs sorely missed last year.
The offensive line has been almost totally remade since two years ago (center John Wade is the lone remaining starter). The unit has been pretty solid so far and should only get better if it can stay free of injuries. Even if injuries occur, the backups seem pretty solid (especially the surprising Donald Penn at right tackle--just don't let him drive your SUV).
Excellent team effort today. The Bucs stuck to their defensive scheme and took advantage of the breaks. Next week Tampa Bay visits Carolina. That's a great test for the offensive line. If the line gives Garcia time, he'll carve up Carolina's secondary. On the other side of the ball, Steve Smith will give the secondary its toughest test so far this season. I expect Smith to have trouble getting deep. Smith is a huge threat with a short reception, of course, so I hope to see a continuation of the Bucs' crisp tackling. Carolina's using a new zone blocking scheme on offense, and it remains to be seen how well their personnel can carry it off.