Brooks' TD Return Is Bittersweet
The Tampa Tribune, published 21 October 2002

Derrick Brooks took another stride toward NFL history Sunday, even while the Bucs took a step back in the NFC South. With an opportunity to match a franchise-record six- game winning streak, the Bucs dropped a 20-10 decision to the Eagles despite another impressive defensive showing. Philadelphia converted only four of 14 third-down situations and Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb averaged a mere 5 yards per pass attempt. ``It was intense out there and give Philly credit,'' Brooks said. ``We're one game behind New Orleans now and we've got to play catch-up.''

Brooks provided Tampa Bay's only touchdown when he scooped up a McNabb fumble caused by defensive end Simeon Rice and returned it 11 yards for his fourth score, matching running back Mike Alstott for the team lead. The NFL record for most defensive scores in a season is five, set by Oilers defensive back Ken Houston in 1971, when he returned four interceptions and a fumble for touchdowns. ``I saw Sim coming around the corner and he made a great play,'' Brooks said. ``Warren [Sapp] bent down for it, but I ended up with the ball. All my other scores came in victories, so it's hard to celebrate this one. I'd trade that touchdown in for a win any day.''

The Bucs defense hadn't allowed a touchdown on the road through three games before McNabb and Todd Pinkston hooked up for a 42-yard score late in the second quarter. ``After Derrick's touchdown, we felt like it was our game if we don't let them score,'' said middle linebacker Shelton Quarles, who tied John Lynch with eight tackles. ``Our job isn't to contain McNabb, it's to stop him. They stretched our safeties on that long pass and we didn't get the job done. I'm sure we'll find a will and a way to bounce back next week.''

With the Bucs unable to sustain an offense, the Eagles kept testing the NFL's No. 1 defense. Eventually, Duce Staley found enough holes to run for 152 yards, sealing the decision with a 57-yard burst just before the two-minute warning. ``I think we were ready for the challenge today,'' Lynch said. ``But to beat a team like the Eagles, you need two or three units playing well and we didn't have that.''

Despite holding the Eagles to 13 points below their average, Tampa Bay fell to 5-2 heading into Sunday's matchup at slumping Carolina. ``We had such a good first half, but we didn't finish,'' Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. ``McNabb threw a heck of a ball on that touchdown, but still, we have to make that play. Overall, that was the best we played defensively against Philly in quite a while.''

Rice was disappointed, but not discouraged. ``This is only the beginning for us,'' he said. ``We've got charisma and we've got character and we were tested today. We played hard and I expect to see the Eagles again this year. We'll be ready.''