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THREE NOT A CROWD IN BUCS' BACKFIELD

Earnest Graham, Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett lead a potent running game.

Goldilocks had her bears. Charlie had his Angels. Musketeers, blind mice and little pigs play well together in this denomination.

When it comes to Bucs running backs this season, coach Jon Gruden also has a triple threat.

If anything became clear in Sunday night's 27-10 win over the Patriots, it's that the Tampa Bay trio of Earnest Graham, Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett can make the offense go. And go. And go.

In the first half alone, those backs combined to help the Bucs rush 19 times for 114 yards and a touchdown, a robust 6 yards per carry.

The victory improved the Bucs to 2-0 in the preseason. The Patriots, who left quarterback Tom Brady in New England, fell to 0-2.

Playing together for an extended period for the first time this preseason, Graham and Dunn got things rolling early, and Bennett finished the Pats off.

Together, they chewed up more yards than mole crickets.

Graham (five rushes for 13 yards) provided muscle up the middle, scoring on a 1-yard run. Dunn (three rushes for 12 yards) zigged and zagged and caught three passes for 15 yards. Bennett lit a fuse and exploded for 57 yards on eight carries, including a 23-yarder to help set up the Bucs' second touchdown.

It was the first action of the preseason for Dunn, who had not played in a Bucs uniform at Raymond James Stadium since 2001. Dunn was greeted during pregame introductions with a standing ovation.

"It felt like everyone missed me, so it was good to get introduced to the crowd. And they all welcomed me back with a standing ovation, and that was great," Dunn said. "It was great to come out in the first quarter and establish ourselves offensively because I didn't play last week. It was good to get a feel for the game a little and just get into it. It was a great atmosphere."

The Bucs scored on three of their four possessions in the first half and held a huge advantage at intermission in total yards (234-87), first downs (16-5) and time of possession (20:08-9:52).

Don't think the Bucs are deep just at tailback.

Fullback Byron Storer, playing for injured starter B.J. Askew, opened many of the holes and was rewarded with a 1-yard touchdown reception from Luke McCown. The play capped an 86-yard drive that covered eight plays and gave the Bucs a 17-0 lead with 1:13 remaining in the first half.

"The biggest thing is to come out and play," Bennett said. "Being able to come out and get some work in with the first group of guys felt good. I was able to get a good rhythm early. I ran behind Byron (Storer). I believe he's doing a great job, and he deserves his shot and was able to get a touchdown at the end."

The Bucs' ground game made things easier for McCown and starting quarterback Brian Griese. In the first half, they combined to go 15-of-17 for 120 yards and a score.

Griese, who was acquired in a trade with the Bears, continued to press McCown for the No. 2 spot. He went 9-of-10 for 44 yards, much of it coming on the first possession of the game, when the Bucs drove 80 yards in 17 plays.

It was reminiscent of the 19-play, 78-yard march Griese orchestrated in last week's preseason opener at Miami. In two games, Griese is 19-of-24 for 103 yards and two touchdowns.

"You got to be pleased when you can take ball against a defense like that and go 17 plays," Gruden said. "Brian Griese has been playing really good, and I'm very pleased with the (offensive) line."

It's Griese's second stint with the Bucs, having thrived in Gruden's system in 2004-05.

"It was a good way to start the game," Griese said. "We came out focused. We had a great opportunity to play against a great team and execute our offense, and we did pretty well."

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