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[Bucs] Defense shows a flash of its old, beastly self

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  • [Bucs] Defense shows a flash of its old, beastly self

    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]

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  • DJRamFan
    [Bucs] Barber takes career, season scoring lead
    by DJRamFan
    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...
    -10-11-2004, 01:25 PM
  • DJRamFan
    [Bucs] It's A Start
    by DJRamFan
    By ROY CUMMINGS [email protected]
    Published: Oct 11, 2004

    NEW ORLEANS - For the first time since December, a scoreboard clock wound down to zero with the Bucs holding a lead Sunday.
    You wouldn't have known it from walking through their locker room.

    The Bucs' 20-17 victory against the Saints produced the season's first collection of postgame smiles, but some frowns remained.

    ``It's hard to celebrate right now,'' linebacker Derrick Brooks said. ``There definitely are some heavy hearts in here.''

    The heaviest belonged to quarterback Chris Simms, who couldn't finish his first pro start after spraining his throwing shoulder on a first-quarter sack.

    As of late Sunday, no one was sure just when the left- handed Simms would be able to make his second pro start.

    Simms was saying he could return to face the Rams next Monday, but he still wasn't able to lift his left arm over his head when he said that.

    ``Do I think I'm going to be out a month? No, I don't think so,'' Simms said. ``With some heavy massage, I should be able to play next week.''

    Bucs coach Jon Gruden wasn't ready to rule Simms out of next week's game, either.

    ``He's day-to-day,'' Gruden said. ``That's really just about all I can say on the matter right now.''

    The good news is that X-rays came up negative. An MRI is scheduled for today to confirm the nature of the injury.

    The better news is that just about everything backup quarterback Brian Griese did after taking over for Simms was positive.

    In his first regular-season action as a Buc, Griese completed 16 of 19 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown and helped Tampa Bay (1-4) break a six-game losing streak. The Bucs won on the road for the first time since their last visit to New Orleans on Dec. 7.

    ``He did a heck of a job out there,'' Gruden said of Griese. ``He should be the story today.''

    He's certainly a big part of it. But so too is Jeff Gooch, the backup middle linebacker who did a credible job as a fill-in himself.

    Gooch replaced starter Shelton Quarles, who left the game in the first quarter with a quad strain, and led the defense with nine tackles.

    ``You really have to appreciate the work of guys like Brian Griese and Jeff Gooch,'' Brooks said. ``We had guys make some attitude plays today.''

    Cornerback Ronde Barber made one. He picked up a second-quarter Deuce McAllister fumble and carried it into the end zone for the Bucs' first touchdown.

    Fellow cornerback Brian Kelly, who picked off an Aaron Brooks pass to snuff out a late New Orleans drive, also had one of those plays. And so did running back Michael Pittman.

    On third-and-5 just before the two-minute warning, Pittman eluded three would-be...
    -10-11-2004, 01:09 PM
  • DJRamFan
    [Bucs] Son of a Gun
    by DJRamFan
    The Bucs get their first victory behind a strong-armed, Super Bowl winning QB's kid, but not the one expected.
    By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
    Published October 11, 2004


    NEW ORLEANS - It was the kind of introduction every quarterback dreams of.

    The Bucs had a new voice in the huddle Sunday that dripped with confidence, a new arm that zipped crisper passes and a new leader for the first victory of the season.

    He was that breath of fresh air for a stale season, the son of a famous NFL quarterback who missed only three receivers all day.

    After throwing the winning touchdown to defeat the Saints 20-17, he is almost certain to be the starter Oct.18 at St. Louis.

    It is his time, his moment, except for this:

    He is Brian Griese, not Chris Simms.

    Simms' first NFL start ended after 19 plays when he was sacked by end Will Smith near the end of the first quarter and strained his left (throwing) shoulder. X-rays did not show any structural damage. He was scheduled for an MRI exam this morning but is day to day.

    Griese entered with the Bucs trailing 7-3 and completed 16 of 19 passes for 194 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown to tight end Ken Dilger on the first series of the second half.

    He also completed two third-down passes during the fourth quarter, one during the final drive to help ice the game, and finished with a passer rating of 126.8.

    "It's an unfortunate situation for Chris, and I really feel for him," Griese said. "He's so excited. He was so ready to play. And then for this to happen to him, it hurts him. It hurts the team. A lot of guys feel for him, and hopefully, he can come back as soon as possible.

    "He's a great kid, and he's going to be a great player for a long time. But for me, personally, it's a great situation to get an opportunity to come out and prove I can lead the offense. I don't know what the future holds, but I'm going to continue to get ready like I have been."

    Simms said his left arm was in an awkward position when Smith landed on him but doesn't believe the injury will force him to miss more than a week. He said it was similar to an earlier injury.

    "I feel like I'm going to be fine," said Simms, the son of former Giants Super Bowl quarterback Phil Simms. "I didn't feel anything weird. It felt just like it did my senior year with my right arm down in Texas. I told them right away. I think it just stretched out.

    "I've just got a little bit of a heavy heart just because I wanted to be out there with the guys. I wanted to be out there and have that feeling of winning the game. But that's football. I can remember my dad going through things like these."

    -10-11-2004, 01:20 PM
  • RamDez
    Buc locker room
    by RamDez
    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
    -10-17-2004, 10:38 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Bucs] Bucs Report Card
    by DJRamFan
    Each week after the Bucs game, fans can compare their grades to those of Tribune Bucs beat writer Roy Cummings. Here's Roy's grades for the Bucs' 20-17 win against the New Orleans Saints:

    UNIT Roy's Grades
    Quarterbacks A-
    Running Backs C
    Receivers B+
    Offensive Line C
    Defensive Line C
    Linebackers B
    Secondary B
    Special Teams C
    Coaching B

    Quarterbacks: Before his blindside protection broke down, Chris Simms was giving the Bucs the best QB play they've had all season. Then Brian Griese took over and outplayed him. Griese completed nine of his first 10 throws and was virtually flawless, hitting on big plays, finding the end zone and making few mistakes.

    Running Backs: Mike Alstott got some work at tailback early and was somewhat effective until the Bucs gave up on him. Michael Pittman, who ran 15 times and caught five passes for a total of 80 yards, has had better days, but his late run for a first down was big. FB Greg Comella caught a big pass that helped set up an early score.

    Receivers: Charles Lee and Michael Clayton were outstanding. Lee made a lot of yards after the catch and for all his big receptions, Clayton's best plays may have come in the running game, where he gained 15 yards on one play and 9 on the other. Tight ends Ken Dilger and Will Heller were more involved, with Dilger catching three balls, one for a touchdown.

    Offensive Line: Todd Steussie was beaten badly on the sack-fumble that forced Simms out of the game. Kenyatta Walker got beaten for a sack as well on a day when the pass protection was only adequate. The running backs had some holes to run through but this unit still has to play better.

    Defensive Line: This unit gave up some big plays against the run and didn't get anywhere near enough pressure on Saints QB Aaron Brooks. Greg Spires knocked down an important pass late in the third quarter and led this group with two tackles. A better effort here and the Bucs blow the Saints out.

    Linebackers: Jeff Gooch, whose team-leading nine tackles included two big goal-lines stops, did an outstanding job filling in for starter Shelton Quarles at MLB. Derrick Brooks had eight tackles and Ian Gold was effective coming off the edge against the run.

    Secondary: This group suffered some costly breakdowns but Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly came up with two of the biggest plays of the game. Barber returned a fumble for a touchdown and Kelly helped preserve the victory by picking off a Brooks pass early in the fourth quarter.

    Special Teams: Martin Gramatica made a 54-yard field goal but failed to seal the victory when he missed a 41-yard try. Tim Brown was a nonfactor as a punt returner and penalties became a real problem. They made a bad situation worse on a punt early in the second quarter and ruined an otherwise great...
    -10-11-2004, 01:11 PM