Barber, Gooch Lead Bucs Defensive Effort
While his twin brother, Tiki, accumulates big numbers as a tailback for the New York Giants, Ronde Barber also has a knack for reaching the end zone. Barber led an inspired defensive effort Sunday as the Bucs edged New Orleans 20-17, limiting the Saints to 251 total yards. In grabbing the team touchdown lead with his second score of the season, Barber returned a Deuce McAllister fumble 18 yards to put the Bucs ahead 13-7 late in the opening half. ``I just put my arm in there, the ball came out and guess what, Ronde is always around,'' said defensive end Greg Spires, who stripped McAllister as he dashed around right end. ``Ronde has a knack for doing that all the time.''

Barber's eighth career touchdown moved him past Pro Bowl outside linebacker Derrick Brooks in their good- natured rivalry. ``It's a privilege to play with guys who play hard,'' said Barber, who also had a fumble return for a touchdown in the opener at Washington. ``Me and Derrick have had this competition for a couple of years ... I told him today that I'm leaving him behind now.''

Barber wasn't the only Buc defender to shine as Aaron Brooks was held to only 106 yards passing, his lowest total in 60 games as starting quarterback in New Orleans. Fellow corner Brian Kelly intercepted Aaron Brooks in the fourth quarter and reserve linebacker Jeff Gooch registered a game-high nine tackles after starting middle linebacker Shelton Quarles left with an early quad injury. ``I tell you, No. 20 [Barber] is going to find the ball, and when he does, he scores,'' said defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. ``And Gooch did a heck of a job. The guy's been an outside linebacker his whole life. We put him in the middle today and look at the job he turned in.''

Although McAllister rushed for 102 yards, the Saints failed to generate many big plays. Brooks faced a steady pass rush and no Saints wide receiver caught a pass until late in the second quarter. ``It's like that in football,'' Gooch said. ``Sometimes a guy goes down and you have to get the job done. I tried to keep the standard up to Shelton's play. I don't know if I did that, but I know I tried.''

Tampa Bay's only costly defensive breakdown came midway through the second quarter when Brooks found tight end Boo Williams open in the left corner for a 17-yard score. The Saints had only 52 offensive snaps in losing to a previously winless team for the second consecutive week. ``This was big for us, in terms of what was going on around here,'' said Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice, whose quickness prompted three penalties by left tackle Wayne Gandy. ``We planted a seed today. We've lost a lot of games this year because we didn't know how to get over the hump. This team has to learn how to win, and we took a step forward with this one.''

Despite the 1-4 start, Derrick Brooks already can feel the momentum starting to build. ``We're going back to work and we'll be ready to go to St. Louis,'' he said of the Oct. 18 Monday night game. ``I love matching up against those guys - it brings out the best in this defense.'' For one satisfying Sunday afternoon, so did the Saints.

Ira Kaufman The Tampa Tribune 11 October 2004