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Griese, Simms solid in battle for No. 2 QB job

HOUSTON (AP) -- Mission accomplished Thursday night for the Tampa
Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans: Both sides came out of the
preseason finale mostly healthy.

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.

Game notes
The game began in the open air before approaching
showers forced the closure of half-full Reliant Stadium's roof. It
was the first time in the building's brief history the roof has
closed after a game has begun. ... Texans QB Tony Banks and RB Tony
Hollings botched a handoff exchange for the second time in
preseason. ... Many on the Tampa Bay side were thinking about
conditions back home, where the entire state of Florida was on
alert for Hurricane Frances. "My heart goes out to everyone back
in Florida," coach Jon Gruden said. "We've got to hang in there
and deal with this hurricane." ... Tampa Bay was 10-of-16 on
third-down conversions. The Texans, meanwhile, were 3-of-11. ...
The Texans surprised the Bucs with an onside kick in the third
quarter. Houston S Glenn Earl recovered.