The Rams’ defense was a hot topic in the Bucs’ locker room this week after it helped St. Louis complete an improbable comeback in Seattle...Tampa Bay players also discussed another QB change and more
Overheard, Week Six


Oct 17, 2004 - In 1999, it was the best-kept secret about a game that was billed as a battle between two elemental forces.

The ’99 NFC Championship Game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and St. Louis Rams was rightfully hyped for its combination of the NFL’s best scoring offense and best scoring defense. No need to remind you which team had which. What the Rams had difficulty getting anyone to notice, given their mesmerizing offense, was that they also had the league’s sixth-best defense. That, more than the Rams’ offensive firepower, made the conference championship game a mismatch on paper, because Tampa Bay’s offense ranked just 28th.

In the end, that game was no mismatch, as the Bucs proved by taking a 6-5 lead deep into the fourth quarter before losing, 11-6. That game bought the underdog Buccaneers a huge amount of respect and kicked off a memorable string of Monday-nighters, which continues this Monday in that same venue that held the aforementioned contest, the Edward Jones Dome.


Once again, the Rams are flying high on offense, ranking fourth in the NFL with an average of 386.4 yards per game. And sure enough, the Bucs can again counter with a highly-ranked defense, one that also ranks fourth with an average of 274.4 yards allowed per game. By this point, five seasons later, those things have almost come to be expected.


This time, however, the Rams’ defense is not statistically sneaking up on anybody. St. Louis stands 28th in the league on defense, allowing 372.2 yards per game. But just as the Rams’ defenders formed a secret weapon back in 1999, they are quietly a force to be reckoned with in this Monday’s game as well.

St. Louis is fresh off a showdown game against the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks. The Rams won the game in overtime, 33-27, after rallying from a 27-10 deficit in the last six minutes of regulation. Overall, St. Louis gave up 391 yards in the game; however, the Rams’ defense clearly found itself in the second half.

After the intermission, St. Louis allowed Seattle’s varied and potent attack to gain just 85 yards of offense, nearly half of it on one 41-yard run by Shaun Alexander. To hold Seattle to three second-half points, the Rams needed a string of big plays on defense, and they got them, a reminder that the once-again unheralded St. Louis defense has its share of big-time playmakers. There’s an elite pass-rusher in DE Leonard Little, a fast linebacking crew led by tackling machine Piso Tinoisamoa, a pair of first-rounders starting in the middle of the defensive line in Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis, and a head-hunting safety in Adam Archuleta. Safety Aeneas Williams is among the league’s all-time interceptions leaders.

In other words, say the Buccaneers, forget about the Rams’ ranking.

“I think they are playing well,” said QB Brian Griese, who will make his first start as a Buccaneer on Monday night. “They had a really big win last week and have a lot of momentum coming into this week. I expect them to be flying high. I’ve played in the dome there before and it gets pretty loud, so they should have their ears pinned back, and be looking forward to playing this game. We have to be on our toes and ready for their best shot.”

The Rams executed their big comeback against Seattle on the road, an even more impressive feat. As the Bucs know, the St. Louis defense, like its offense, is most effective at home, using its speed on an artificial surface conducive to it.

“I just think they are a solid defense,” said C John Wade. “I know they play hard and are fast on the turf. That’s part of it. We just need to come out and execute our game plan and see what they show us. When they do show us stuff, take advantage of it. Just execute.”

**

The St. Louis defense was just one of the topics on the minds of Buccaneer players this week. Below are additional sound bites overheard in Tampa Bay’s locker room this week.

C John Wade on the team’s confidence level after its first win:
“It’s got to be a little bit higher, but I am not ready to throw a party yet. I’m excited we won and enjoyed the win for a couple of days. But I’m thinking about the Rams and I’m sure everyone else is, too. We have something to build on, so we just need to build off of it.”

RB Michael Pittman on how the team moving to a third quarterback affects his approach:
“I’m going to prepare the same. We had Brad [Johnson], we had Chris and now we have Brian. I have confidence in all three of the guys. If Brad came back and stepped in, I have confidence in all of them. It’s unfortunate, Chris was playing really good, and he got hurt, but Brian stepped in and he’ll be ready to go and we’ll be right behind him and hopefully he can take us to a win.”

T Derrick Deese on Griese playing so well off the bench:
“I think we have three great quarterbacks to be honest with you. At any given point, I think any of them could come in and fill in. He came in and did a great job. Now he is coming in and he is going to be a starter this week. We’re ready to go out and play. It’s not really a big deal to us. We’re looking at it like we just have to do our job and that’s to pass protect.”

WR Tim Brown on Brian Griese building expectations with his performance in New Orleans:
“He came in and played great. It was incredible to see him really be flawless. The only bad thing is now you almost expect that every week and realistically, I think it’s impossible for him to go out and play as well as he played last week. But, certainly, he can go out and play just as good and just as good would be good enough to win this game. So, we’re looking forward to him going out and playing good football.”

QB Brian Griese on how spending some time as a backup has changed his approach:
“Having the time to step back and watch the game from the sidelines, you do have a different perspective. When you are out there, there is a lot of pressure to perform each and every week. For me to step back and take a look from the sidelines, I kind of realize a quarterback doesn’t always have to win every game. From my standpoint, I have to go out there and be efficient, make the plays when they are there and lead your team down the field. You don’t always have to put all of the pressure on yourself to win. There are a lot of guys around you that can perform and make plays. A lot of times a quarterback’s job is just to get them the ball. That’s kind of the attitude that I am going to take.”

Brown on whether Griese’s playing style opens up the Bucs’ offense:
“He is a guy that is used to throwing the ball down the field but I think that the most important thing that you get with him is experience. The guy started a whole bunch of games in this league, has played well, has been a Pro-Bowl player in this league and that’s what you get with him. It’s not a matter of changing the game plan when he’s in there, it’s just a matter of knowing that whatever you call he’s going to be very comfortable in executing.”

Griese on feeling relaxed during the New Orleans game:
“I had prepared myself during the week and learned what we wanted to do as far as our game plan was concerned. Let the game come to me and make plays when they are there. That’s been the biggest difference between the first four games and last week. We had some plays in the third-down category that we had to make to win the game. They are not necessarily big, flashy plays but they get the job done and that’s what we did last week.”

QB Chris Simms on leaving his first start with an injury in the first quarter:
“It was frustrating. I just looked forward to it for so long and when it finally got here to have something like this happen. It’s just annoying more than anything.”

Deese on what Griese is like in the huddle:
“He’s loose. He’s laid back. When he came in, it was like he had started the whole game. He had confidence, good poise and everything else. He was confident the whole way through.”

Griese on whether he felt everything was on his shoulders when he started in Denver:
“It was tough. We had won the Super Bowl the year before and every expectation was that we were going to go back and win. Me coming in as a rookie, I made a lot of mistakes. I made some plays as well, but it was definitely a learning experience for me. I think the strong survive. Hopefully, I learned my lessons then and can apply them to what I am trying to do now.”

QB Jason Garrett on not hesitating when the Bucs called him to come back:
“It was an interesting deal for me. I saw a lot of guys before the game and after Chris [Simms] got hurt, I saw a lot of guys after the game and the circumstance had changed. They were looking for another quarterback. It was really an interesting set of circumstances and I didn’t hesitate; I knew I wanted to come back and play.”

S Dwight Smith on the possibility of the Rams’ offense focusing on the pass:
“Everybody around the NFL knows that is our strength and that when we make a team drop back and pass the ball, we let Simeon Rice rush up front and we drop and QB key, we are tough to beat. So, if they want to come out and do that…that’s the best plan.”

DE Greg Spires on what’s missing in the Bucs’ run defense:
“I am not sure what’s missing. I just know we have to stop the run, put them in passing situations and get sacks. I think we are doing okay on the run. I just think we need to get off the field on third down and not give up four, five, or six yards on first down on the run. If we can do that, we’ll be alright.”

Spires on the Rams’ offense:
“I can guarantee you they are going to play four quarters. It’s going to be a 60-minute game. It’s going to be a four quarter game. I don’t think they are going to give up.”

WR Charles Lee on the Bucs’ last Monday night performance:
“Hopefully, we can repeat it. Hopefully, a couple more catches; a couple more yards. I’m just looking to go out and have fun. Hopefully, we can secure another victory.”

Lee on whether it’s added incentive to playing against a team noted for its receivers:
“Definitely. Any time I step on the football field, I want to have at least something to say about who is the best receiver on the field. I always feel like I am that guy. It’s just about opportunity and getting the chance to make the plays. I am pretty sure we’ll go up there and that will be extra incentive.”

Deese on whether there is anything more exciting than Monday Night Football:
“No, not at all. Everybody gets to watch, so you have to bring your ‘A’ game.”