Bucs secondary has third-down trouble
The Buccaneers' defense knocked New Orleans quarterback Steve Walsh down on Sunday, but not out. On third down, Tampa Bay's stoppers turned to sieves - especially in the secondary. Walsh and the Saints converted 7 of 15 third downs, including three on which they needed 10 yards or more. "The way we played on third down was kind of preposterous," said Bucs rookie safety Tony Covington. "Blown assignments. Jumping short routes, shallow routes when it's third-and-16. Just little mistakes like that."
Cornerback Carl Carter got things started poorly for the Bucs when he draped himself all over Quinn Early on a pass from Walsh in the end zone. The 37-yard interference penalty set up the Saints' first touchdown - a 1-yard sprint by Gill Fenerty. Late in the half, Covington's interference sustained a drive to a field goal.
The Bucs' front four applied some heavy heat to Walsh all afternoon, knocking him down after nearly every throw. Two pressures resulted in interceptions by Carter and Darrell Fullington. But the Bucs failed to record a sack, and Walsh made them pay on third down. "The pressure was very decent," said Bucs defensive coordinator Floyd Peters. "But the sacks come from tight coverage. He's afraid to throw it. He has to cock and reload. That didn't happen today."
What did happen was the Bucs' secondary blew some assignments. On third-and-13 in the second quarter, Walsh completed a 14-yard pass over the middle to Early to sustain a drive that resulted in a field goal. Another third-and-13 situation resulted in a 22-yard completion to Floyd Turner. Walsh picked up 19 yards on another third-and-9 pass. His 8-yard touchdown pass to Eric Martin to seal the game in the fourth quarter came on third down.
"You play a three-deep zone, let them catch it in front and tackle them. End of discussion," Peters said. "But they jumped the underneath routes. Each time it was somebody different. You bite on the underneath route and they throw it in behind. That can't happen. It's a lack of what I call discipline. They've got to learn if they want to play with the big boys, they've got to do their job over and again."
Peters said the Bucs' mistakes were the result of the defense's frustration. "What happens is a ballplayer decides, `I'll save the day. I'll be the hero,' " Peters said. "That doesn't happen in pro ball. Discipline is an easy word to say but a hard word to do."
Walsh completed 19 of 31 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown. But according to Covington, that's more real estate than the Bucs' secondary should have yielded. "He just dropped it off on little short routes - dink and dunk," Covington said. "He looked like an All-Pro quarterback doing that. Stuff like that can be corrected. We're young and aggressive. Everybody wants to make a play to help the team. We've got to be a little more disciplined."
Rick Stroud, The St.Petersburg Times 1991