Defense shows a flash of its old, beastly self
By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
Published October 11, 2004


[Times photo: Brendan Fitterer]
Buc DBs Ronde Barber and Dwight Smith put wraps on scrambling Saints QB Aaron Brooks in the final quarter.

[Times photo: Bill Serne]
Bucs WRs Charles Lee and Michael Clayton celebrate the team's first victory of the season.
Photo gallery

Main story
'Wefense' asserts itself with big plays
Defense shows a flash of its old, beastly self
Receivers play big part in win
Barber takes career, season scoring lead

John Romano: Gimme Five
Gary Shelton: The present is Griese's, if only for one week

NEW ORLEANS - There were moments when this thing looked eerily similar to what it once was, to what the Bucs need it to be.

Defensive end Simeon Rice chasing down a quarterback. Linebacker Derrick Brooks cleaning up underneath. Cornerback Brian Kelly picking the ball out of the air. Oh, and Ronde Barber scooping up a fumble and returning it 18 yards for a touchdown.

That's Bucs defense and that's how they win.

"When you look back at this season right now, we're always that one big play away," Kelly said. "(Sunday), we made those plays to close out the game and not make it a situation where we sit there and wonder what was going to happen. We closed the game out."

In the four losses this season, the defense had respectable moments but failed to put away opponents. While Sunday's 20-17 win over the Saints wasn't a masterpiece, it wasn't a smear job either.

The Bucs gave up 145 yards on the ground, but held quarterback Aaron Brooks to 11-for-23 passing for 106 yards. They gave up two touchdowns, but forced two turnovers, scored on a return and chased Brooks all around the Superdome.

"Our past transgressions kind of set a bad tone for us and we had to learn to win games," Rice said. "We're still a good team, and we just lost a lot of belief from the onlookers. We've done it, set the foundation and we're trying to move forward. The situations occurred like this in previous weeks and we didn't capitalize on it. This week, we really capitalized on it and really controlled the whole game."

Not surprisingly, it began at the line of scrimmage, where the defensive line looked as active as it has all season.

"We knew, going into the game, that (Aaron Brooks) creates his own time by stepping out and rolling out of the pocket," defensive end Greg Spires said. "There were a couple of times I should have contained him, and if I did Sim would have had the sack. I messed it up. But we had a lot of pressure on (the quarterback)."

The Bucs were not able to sack Brooks, but Rice and company routinely chased him out of the pocket and forced him into throws that hit the turf or someone on the sideline. And to solve the problem, the Saints resorted to false starts and holding.

"You want to get the stats and you want it to show up, but I think it did in the overall energy," Rice said. "It (shows up) when you see the (interceptions) coming, when you see the balls being batted up in the air and the potential plays that we were making. We played a dominant defensive effort and really showed up. It starts with myself. The better I become, getting my rhythm, the better we'll be as a whole defensively. I think you saw that, in particular with the plays we made, the stops we had, the false starts, the holdings, things like that."

Spires, who had his right shoulder X-rayed at the end of the game but doesn't appear in danger of missing the Oct.18 game in St. Louis, continued to have an impact. It was his tackle on running back Deuce McAllister that forced the fumble that Barber returned for a touchdown.

"To tell you the truth, I was just trying to tackle him," Spires said. "I just put my arm in there. The person who's always there to pick it up? Ronde, Johnny on the spot. I don't understand how he has the knack for doing that."

And when it wasn't Barber, it was Kelly timing an underthrown pass from Brooks to Joe Horn and making a critical interception early in the fourth quarter.

"It's something we've talked about coming into this game," tackle Ellis Wyms said. "We've been playing pretty solid on defense but the sack-fumbles, the interceptions and the scoring, the things we've been doing in the past, we haven't been doing as much this season.

"So, it was definitely a big focal point coming into this game, splash plays where you're really impacting the game more than just doing your job."

[Last modified October 11, 2004, 04:23:07]