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NO PANIC, BUT SPECIAL TEAMS AN ISSUE

When looking for areas to address after the Bucs' season-opening loss to the Cowboys, coach Raheem Morris found more than the obvious defensive lapses.

The Bucs' not-so-stellar special teams performance didn't help, either. A perfect storm of mistakes and failures each had some direct or indirect impact.

Regarding K Mike Nugent, who missed a field goal and had another blocked, Morris said he wouldn't panic. The block appeared to be the fault of TE Jerramy Stevens, who allowed S Gerald Sensabaugh to slip inside rather than be blocked outside and away from the kick.

Regarding Nugent's next attempt - a 46-yard miss at the end of the first half - Morris had no defense.

"We kicked the field goal, and we missed it," Morris said. "It kind of deflates you a little bit. There you have his two opportunities to make a difference."

The Bucs' biggest special teams weapon, returner Clifton Smith, was rendered harmless by Cowboys K David Buehler and P Mat McBriar. McBriar had a 63-yarder among his four punts.

"That may be the best kicker combination in the league," Morris said. "The ball was consistently (kicked) in the end zone. Completely took out one of our biggest weapons in (Smith). When he got a chance to return a kickoff, he got back to the 22, 23. But when you have a kicker that gets it to him on the 5 and he gets to the 30-yard line or the 40-yard line, it's a big difference. So, kudos to Dallas for that."

And in an example of how small miscues on special teams can lead to big problems, SS Sabby Piscitelli's 5-yard running into the kicker infraction for knocking over McBriar in the second quarter gave the Cowboys a first down and sustained a drive, though the Bucs later forced a punt.

Dallas milked more than three minutes and moved the ball 18 more yards. That allowed the Cowboys to pin the Bucs deep on the ensuing drive, drastically changing the field position and setting up Dallas' subsequent touchdown.

"We've talked about it being a field-position game," Morris said. "There is no secret. We're not making any excuses. We have to be better.

"Did we lose the kicking game phase? Yes. Did we lose defensive phase? Yes. We won offense. We have to get the phases together. You have a chance to win if you win two of the three."

Team first: Wonder why RB Earnest Graham got one carry Sunday? When Graham was approached by Morris, who told him it was his turn to play a series, Graham declined and deferred to Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward.

"That's what this team has got to become," Morris said. "We've got to become this way across the board. If I could just copy that running back room and put it throughout my team and change the body types, I would. ... That's got to be contagious."

Transactions:The Bucs signed DE Tim Crowder and C/G Sean Mahan and released CB Kyle Arrington and DE Maurice Evans while releasing P A.J. Trapasso from the practice squad as well. Crowder entered the NFL as a 2007 second-round (56th overall) pick of the Broncos in the 2007 draft. He has appeared in 19 career games with one start. Mahan was released by Tampa Bay on Sept. 2. He has 88 career games with 52 starts with Tampa Bay (2003-06, 2008) and the Steelers (2007).

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