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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
During the offense's opening series, on third and 4, Ike Hilliard ran wide open across the middle, caught a short pass from Garcia and ran for a 26-yard gain.
[Brian Cassella | Times]
Able to catch the defense in a bad matchup, tight end Alex Smith got deep down the field. He caught Garcia's pass at the 16 and ran 12 more yards to the 4, setting up first and goal.
SAN FRANCISCO - The running game was grounded, and the defense rested its starters for most of the second half. But the Bucs offense made several explosive plays in the passing game, an encouraging sign with the playoffs fast approaching. In the NFL, any completion of 20 yards or more is considered a big play. The Bucs had 10. Also, running back Michael Pittman had his best outing since sustaining an ankle injury in early October. Here are five plays worth a closer look.
Clayton's leaping 25-yard catch
On the Bucs' second series, a three-receiver set resulted in an open Michael Clayton against a Cover 2. The outside receiver crossed the middle of the field to clear the safety away. Another target in the flat drew the cornerback toward the line of scrimmage. That left Clayton open down the sideline with Walt Harris (27) the nearest defender. Turned around by Jeff Garcia's pass, he leapt and caught the pass at the 49ers 36. "When I came across, there was a big, wide-open gap," Clayton said. "Jeff did a good job stepping up in the pocket and making the throw." The catch helped lead to Matt Bryant's field goal and 6-0 lead.
Ike Hilliard's 26-yard catch
On the offense's opening series, quarterback Jeff Garcia showed 49ers fans what they have been missing the past four seasons. On third and 4 at the Tampa Bay 37, the Bucs sent three receivers to the same side of the formation. Ike Hilliard ran wide open across the middle, caught a short pass from Garcia and ran for a 26-yard gain. "It felt like I was running forever," Hilliard said. With all of Tampa Bay's receivers in a bunch at the line of scrimmage, safety Donald Stricklandran with the outside receiver, leaving Hilliard uncovered and far ahead of Patrick Willis (52). "The coaches saw something during the week and wanted to use it on a critical third-down situation," Hilliard said. "We wanted to get something going." The possession resulted in a 34-yard Matt Bryant field goal and 3-0 lead.
Versatile running back Michael Pittman spent the past 11 weeks recovering from an ankle injury. When coach Jon Gruden asked him to spend the second half on the sideline Sunday, he refused. Playing comfortably for the first time since the injury, Pittman caught a game-high seven passes for 54 yards. None was more indicative of how important he is to the offense than a 4-yard reception on third and 2 that kept a drive alive late in the third quarter. The pass was down near his feet, but Pittman made the catch and got the first down. It was Pittman's 280th reception with the Bucs, sixth in franchise history. "I'm moving up the chart," he said. "It was good just to get back in the game. It had been frustrating for me being hurt all yearlong. I gained a lot of confidence because I'm still insecure about my ankle. The ankle's not going to get 100 percent until April of next year. I have to get out there and play through it and have a good time."
Smith's 32-yard catch
Two plays after Michael Clayton's long catch during the second series, tight end Alex Smith got into the act. After a false start on center John Wade, the Bucs faced second and 10 at the 49ers 36. Able to catch the defense in a bad matchup, Smith got deep down the field. He caught Garcia's pass at the 16 and ran 12 more yards to the 4, setting up first and goal. "They got confused with our personnel, and we added some shifting to it," Smith said. "The defense was misaligned. We knew their linebackers were more rushers than cover guys. So any time we have a matchup with them, we should win it."
Galloway gets 1,000 yards
Trailing 7-6 in the second quarter, the Bucs offense again was on the move. Receiver Joey Galloway, who entered the game 15 yards shy of 1,000 for the season, broke free from a defender on a slant route for a 29-yard gain. It was his only catch of the game. Galloway is the first receiver in Bucs history to post three 1,000-yard seasons, overall and consecutive. Galloway has six 1,000-yard seasons during his career.