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American Football: Pittman carries Bucs over Houston

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posted on Sep, 3 2004 @ 08:42 AM
Michael Pittman, who got extensive playing time because the Bucs rested starter Charlie Garner, ran for 71 yards on 12 carries and Tampa Bay held Houston to three field goals in a 17-9 victory.

Several starters on both sides were on the sidelines by the end of the scoreless first quarter, leaving reserves jockeying for jobs to play the rest of the night.

"It was a good outing for us," Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice said. "We expect a lot out of this year and it was a good showing tonight."

The battle to be Tampa Bay's No. 2 quarterback practically played to a draw. Brian Griese was 12-of-16 for 110 yards and a touchdown, then Chris Simms went 6-of-10 for 73 yards with one touchdown that capped an 89-yard drive, although he was intercepted later.

It was Simms' first game as a pro in Texas, where he played his college ball down the road at the University of Texas.

Griese hit Rickey Dudley for a 1-yard score in the second quarter. Simms' touchdown came in the third quarter, a 6-yard strike to Will Heller.

"I like these guys," said Bucs coach Jon Gruden, who hinted the backup job won't be settled by the opener. "We're fortunate to have three guys who can play. That'll be a competitive situation every week."

The backups came in after a lackluster matchup of starters. Brad Johnson was 4-of-8 for 50 yards for Tampa Bay (3-1) and his Houston counterpart, David Carr, was 4-of-6 for 35 yards and an interception before both donned baseball caps.

Carr wasn't quite done, however.

"Things were boring on the sidelines, so I told someone I was going to go out and get the tee after the kickoff," Carr said of a chat with teammates moments after Kris Brown's third field goal. "They said they didn't think I'd do it, but I did.

"They timed me, and I wasn't as fast as the regular guy."

Texans tailback Domanick Davis was done after one carry for eight yards.

Martin Gramatica did little to allay concerns about his kicking. Gramatica, the one-time star who struggled last year and was just 3-for-6 from 40 or more yards in preseason, was short and wide right on a 47-yard try in the first quarter.

"I feel positive about Martin," Gruden said. "I just wish he would have made that."

Gramatica did nail a 20-yarder early in the second quarter to open the scoring after the Texans (1-3) held for three plays at the goal line.

The banged-up Bucs did lose guard Kerry Jenkins with a neck strain, while Texans backup running back Tony Hollings left with a thigh bruise. Otherwise, both sides weren't too much worse for wear.

The game marked the return of Texans nose tackle Seth Payne, out since the second week of last season when he blew out his left knee at New Orleans. Payne, who has practiced for most of training camp, played much of the game.

"I had some good plays and some bad plays," Payne said. "I felt like a rookie. If I don't get back to veteran status by next week, I'm in trouble."

Tampa Bay offensive tackle Derrick Deese (foot) and receiver Charles Lee (hamstring) also made their exhibition debuts. Lee gained 55 yards on three catches, including a highlight-reel grab down the right sideline in the second half.


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