Depleted Secondary Finds Way To Get The Job Done
The Tampa Tribune, published 13 October 2003

Judging by the look of the Bucs' starting secondary, you would have sworn that their encounter with the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Sunday was a preseason game. Opening in the nickel defense - with Ronde Barber in the slot and John Lynch at free safety - were third-teamer Corey Ivy at left cornerback, Dwight Smith at right cornerback and backup Jermaine Phillips at Smith's usual free safety spot. And for a while, the results no doubt had many Bucs followers wishing this was a preseason game.

Beating an array of blitzes designed to help the shaken-up secondary, Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey completed 14 of his first 21 passes to stake Washington to an early lead. The Bucs believed, though, that penalties and a substandard pass rush had more to do with the deficit than their secondary, so they never thought of changing up their defensive backfield.

Not that they could have made many changes anyway. With starting left cornerback Brian Kelly on the sideline nursing a torn chest muscle and second-teamer Tim Wansley in the dog house, the Bucs had to stick with Plan C and hope. ``We had to find a way to do things, and eventually we did,'' Lynch said. ``Guys stepped up and made plays.''

Smith made one of the biggest. Intercepting a Ramsey pass two plays after the Bucs had taken their first lead of the game, Smith sparked a three-score surge that helped derail the Redskins and carry the Bucs to a 35-13 victory. ``You've really got to give [defensive backs coach] Mike Tomlin credit,'' Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. ``He did a great job getting those guys in the secondary ready.''

Though he was beaten twice during the Redskins' first scoring drive, Ivy bounced back and finished the game with seven tackles and a pass defensed. Smith, who was beaten on the third-down play that preceded Washington's only touchdown, also had seven tackles and added two pass breakups.

Even Phillips, who Darnerien McCants beat to score the lone Washington TD, turned in a solid game, recording four tackles and a pass defensed in his first NFL start. ``The young guys in the secondary responded in a big way today,'' linebacker Derrick Brooks said. ``They didn't look for excuses; they just got the job done.''