T he Bucs defensive line was at it again. The unit repeatedly pressured Colts QB Curtis Painter — making his first career start —registering four sacks and leaving him, at times, exasperated. • The pressure began from the outset, when DE Michael Bennett, on the Colts' second series, leaped over a running back and decked Painter. The hit jarred the ball loose, with Bennett recovering at the Indianapolis 32. Bennett picked up his second sack later, while DT Gerald McCoy notched his first and rookie DE Adrian Clayborn his second in as many weeks. The subsequent three sacks each came in the fourth quarter, with the score 17-17 for most of the period. • In the past two weeks, the Bucs have eight combined sacks. All that after they had no sacks and virtually no pressure in the season opener against the Lions.
Hank Jr.'s comments too rowdy for ESPN
. ESPN wouldn't go so far as to ban Hank Williams Jr. forever. But after the singer's comments on Fox News comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler, the network removed his traditional opening song from its telecast of the Bucs-Colts game.
"While Hank Williams Jr. is not an ESPN employee," the network said, "we recognize that he is closely linked to our company through the open to Monday Night Football. We are extremely disappointed with his comments, and as a result we have decided to pull the open from (Monday night's) telecast."
The remark came on the Fox and Friends show Monday morning, as Williams, above, criticized Republican House Speaker John Boehner for playing golf with Obama: "That would be like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu. Not hardly. In the shape this country is in?" Williams later released a statement: "Some of us have strong opinions and are often misunderstood. My analogy was extreme — but it was to make a point. I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me — how ludicrous that pairing was. … I have always respected the office of the president."
Some had called for Williams' theme to be dropped permanently from the show.
This time, challenge doesn't work out
. Bucs coach Raheem Morris has said he will throw the red challenge flag for a big enough play, even if it doesn't seem clear he will win it. At the end of the first quarter, he did just that — and lost, costing the team a timeout.
On second and 7 from the Tampa Bay 38, Bucs WR Arrelious Benn appeared to make a tough catch on the right sideline, successfully evading diving Colts DB Terrence Johnson and taking the ball 62 yards for the game's first touchdown. But the score was nullified when Benn was called for an illegal touch after going out of bounds, then being the first one to touch the ball when he came back in play. The penalty ended the first quarter, which meant the Bucs could not call another play, and Morris threw the challenge flag for a review. After looking at the replay, officials upheld the ruling on the field.
Watching two games? It's not so easy
. The toughest thing about trying to watch all the local sports on television Monday night was the whiplash. As the Rays' playoff game stretched past 9 p.m. on TBS, ESPN was more than a half-hour into the Monday Night Football game featuring the Bucs and Colts in Tampa, requiring serious channel flipping.
At least TBS's announcers corrected one problem early; after calling the town "Tampa" once, they realized Tropicana Field is in St. Petersburg and kept saying so — conspicuously. The city looked good — lots of lush skyline shots from the Goodyear blimp — but announcers dinged the Trop for a ceiling colored so lightly outfielders couldn't track foul balls.
Monday Night Football was controversial before it started, as ESPN clipped Hank Williams Jr.'s opening theme amid controversy after the singer compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. And former Bucs coach Jon Gruden was relaxed in his hometown, talking up towering young Bucs QB Josh Freeman with ease. (The only minus: Florida rockers Sister Hazel singing the national anthem looking like they just stepped out of a Hooters).
An executive at Tampa's ABC affiliate, WFTS-Ch. 28, said about 50 people complained about the station pre-empting Dancing With the Stars to broadcast ESPN's game, the Bucs' first televised home game in 21 months and first Tampa Monday Night Football appearance in eight years. His advice: program the VCR (or, well, DVR) and enjoy seeing local sports history made.
Barth off the mark
. Bucs K Connor Barth entered 6-of-6 on field goals and 6-of-6 on extra points. That didn't last long. He hit a 46-yard field goal off the right upright in the first quarter. It marked his first regular-season miss since the Seahawks blocked his 44-yard attempt in Week 16 last year.
. Two former Bucs coaches watched the game from a familiar place — Raymond James Stadium. Jon Gruden was an analyst for ESPN's telecast, while Tony Dungy was shown on the stadium's big screen watching from a suite. Dungy also coached the Colts and led them to their first Super Bowl title.
. Many Bucs and Colts players traded in some of their regular accessories, such as towels, socks and armbands, for pink versions to support National Breast Cancer Awareness month. Bucs starters Geno Hayes, Mason Foster, Dekoda Wilson and LeGarrette Blount sported bright pink shoes as well.
Colts DT Foster suffers ugly injury
. It was a moment no player or fan wants to see.
With one minute left in the first half, Bucs QB Josh Freeman dropped back on first and 10 at the Tampa Bay 46. TE Kellen Winslow caught the 5-yard pass, but Colts DT Eric Foster crumbled. Foster was moving forward when DE Tyler Brayton fell on the back of his right leg, causing Foster to fall back with his weight moving in the opposite direction. The result: Foster's right ankle twisted in an unnatural way, and the four-year pro fell in a heap of pain.
The Colts took a timeout as trainers brought out a cart. They immobilized Foster's right leg in a blow-up cast, and he was taken off the field, pounding on his thigh and giving fist pumps to a few players. Foster was taken to a nearby hospital and would stay overnight, the Colts said.
Not quite the best of games for Talib
. As the Bucs' featured cornerback, Aqib Talib has no easy weeks.
Take Monday night, for instance. Three weeks after shadowing Lions standout WR Calvin Johnson all day in the season opener and a week after chasing speedy Falcons rookie Julio Jones for four quarters, Talib got a career-best effort from Colts WR Pierre Garcon, who caught touchdown passes of 87 and 59 yards. While the 59-yarder came via a screen pass on which Talib was blocked, the first of the two scores came in single coverage.
But Talib fought on, nearly intercepting Colts QB Curtis Painter for what could have been a touchdown return.
Penalties pile up against Tampa Bay
. The Bucs' 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter was out of the ordinary for one reason: It was one of the team's only long possessions without a penalty. Referees flagged the Bucs 14 times for 106 yards, and some of the calls were costly.
An unnecessary roughness penalty on WR Preston Parker killed 15 yards late in the first half. A defensive holding call on CB Aqib Talib gave the Colts a fresh set of downs in the second quarter near their end zone. Two plays later, the Colts scored on an 87-yard pass from QB Curtis Painter to WR Pierre Garcon.
Penalties threatened to derail the Bucs' winning touchdown drive. With 4:51 left, they faced third and inches in Colts territory, but a delay of game penalty pushed them back farther. The Bucs needed a scramble by QB Josh Freeman to avert disaster.
Colts bring pressure
. The Colts didn't have QB Peyton Manning. But they still have DE Dwight Freeney, and unlike Manning, there's nothing wrong with his neck. Freeney gave Bucs LT Donald Penn all he could handle, using his lightning-quick spin move to get by Penn on several occasions, collapsing the pocket at times and flushing Freeman from it at others. On one play, Freeney drew a personal foul on TE Kellen Winslow, who, in a poor effort to block Freeney, grabbed and pulled his facemask. But Freeney had help. Freeman was sacked once each by DEs Jerry Hughes and Robert Mathis.