Published October 11, 2004


NEW ORLEANS - Cornerback Ronde Barber traversed some familiar terrain Sunday, helping boost the Bucs to their first victory of the season and running into the record book.

Barber's 18-yard return of a Deuce McAllister fumble in the second quarter not only gave Tampa Bay the momentum with a 13-7 lead, it marked the seventh time in the regular season (and eighth overall) No.20 has been seen racing into the end zone with a defensive touchdown.

Barber also leads the Bucs this season with two touchdowns. Tim Brown , Bill Schroeder , Michael Clayton and Ken Dilger have one.

Sunday's touchdown, triggered when end Greg Spires stripped the ball, also moved Barber one ahead of linebacker Derrick Brooks for the franchise record.

"Me and Derrick have had a running competition for a couple of years now, and we keep saying to stay even with each other," Barber said. "But I told him I'm leaving him (behind) now."

Across the locker room, Brooks wasn't buying it.

"It's like that old rabbit and turtle," he said. "You jump out of there. And before you know it, you take a rest, and that turtle is going to catch you." But he added with a smile, "As long as we're scoring them, that's all that matters."

Barber agrees.

Last week, he talked about the lack of big plays by the defense. But that changed Sunday with pivotal plays such as Brian Kelly 's interception at the Bucs 17 that squelched a fourth-quarter drive with Tampa Bay guarding a 20-14 lead.

"Whatever it takes," said Barber, who returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown against New Orleans on Dec.23, 2001. "I'm just proud of how we all hung in and got a win."

STEPPING UP: Linebacker Jeff Gooch was thrust into action when leading tackler Shelton Quarles left the game in the first quarter with a quadriceps strain. But Gooch picked up where Quarles left off, leading the Bucs with nine tackles.

"We count on Shelton Quarles to do a lot in this defense," Gooch said. "And when I came in, I didn't want there to be a drop-off at all.

"I wanted it to seem like Shelton was not even missed."

Gooch is no stranger to the Bucs, having played for them from 1996-01 then spending the previous two seasons with Detroit.

"It makes you feel good to be a big part of a big win," he said. "It feels really good especially because I was here before and part of building this team. Any time you get a chance to come back and help out again, that's huge."

LONG DISTANCE: Martin Gramatica equaled his third-longest field goal of his career with a 53-yarder during the second quarter. It was his 15th field goal of 50 or more yards.

LONG STREAK: Brown caught one pass for 6 yards, extending his streak to 177 games with a catch. It is the longest active streak in the league, ties him with former Seahawk Steve Largent for the third-longest all-time and leaves him five behind Art Monk .

Last week, he caught one pass for 3 yards.

THE SACKS WILL COME: The Bucs entered with only six sacks, and Simeon Rice , 93 in eight previous seasons, had only one. Tampa Bay didn't get to Aaron Brooks but did make his life miserable.

"Yes, in the big picture, we want the sacks," Spires said. "But in the big picture, we want the win, and that's more important."

Brooks was hurried into a number of bad throws, and left tackle Wayne Gandy was flagged for a false start and two holdings. .

"We appreciate those holding calls, but the thing is we have to get them on the ground," defensive end Ellis Wyms said. "We'll keep rushing, keep coming, and eventually they'll fall for us."

LOVE FOR THE OFFENSE: The defense heaped praise on the offense, particularly for getting two first downs and running out the clock on the last possession.

Spires pointed to Michael Pittman ' s 10-yard run on third and 5, which iced the game.

"Pittman's play was the biggest play on offense of the day," he said. "The offense did a great job running the clock out. They won it. I give them all the credit, a lot of credit for this win."

Pittman got the other first down with a 14-yard catch on third and 5.

INJURY REPORT: The Bucs came away with four injuries: quarterback Chris Simms (left shoulder), Quarles (right quadriceps strain), fullback Mike Alstott (right hamstring) and Spires (right shoulder sprain).

Simms' status is unknown. The others are day to day.

[Last modified October 11, 2004, 10:07:00]