Griese rewards Gruden’s confidence

We just saw why Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden felt comfortable enough to sit quarterback Jeff Garcia (calf) and replace him with Brian Griese, who hadn’t played since the team’s Week 5 loss at Denver. Griese completed 6 of 7 passes on a 67-yard touchdown drive just before halftime to pull Tampa Bay within three points, 10-7.

Griese, who had been bothered by an elbow injury, has carved up the Falcons for 172 yards. Griese was Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback against the Falcons in a Week 2 victory, which also seemingly factored into Gruden’s decision to start him over Luke McCown. Griese has only misfired on six of his 19 passes.

On the flip side, Tampa Bay’s defense seems to have regained its swagger after Atlanta tried to loosen up the Buccaneers defense by taking to the air –- a mistake. Matt Ryan‘s two interceptions on under-thrown balls on consecutive possessions allowed Tampa to regain some momentum and get back into a game that seemingly was getting away.

It should be interesting to see if the Buccaneers can ride the late wave of first-half success into the second half. Atlanta seems a little woozy, which is not a good sign against the Buccaneers trying to clinch a playoff berth.

Steve Wyche reporting from Atlanta.

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