Defense Falls Short At Critical Juncture
It's the moment of a football game Monte Kiffin loves. The game is tied. The crowd is roaring. And his defense is on the field. That dream scenario played out Sunday, but ended in a nightmare as the New Orleans Saints marched down the field on the Bucs' defense for the winning score. ``The crowd was behind us,'' Kiffin said. ``Our offense had come together with two beautiful drives. We just needed to make a stop there and get the ball back.''
Unfortunately for the Bucs, the defense didn't make a stop - a stop the unit usually makes, especially against an offense such as the Saints that was struggling to move the ball. The defense contained New Orleans' offense for most of the day, holding it to seven points and forcing seven three-and-out series. Tampa Bay's offense evened the game by scoring 14 points in a little more than nine minutes. The Bucs' defense took the field with 2:00 remaining in the game and New Orleans on its 28-yard line.
The Saints had no timeouts remaining. Tampa Bay had all three. New Orleans quarterback Aaron Brooks, who was ineffective most of the game, hit two critical passing plays during the winning drive. Brooks picked up 41 of his 142 passing yards on the final drive. He completed 13 of 29 passes, with one touchdown and one interception for a 57.0 quarterback rating.
On third-and-one from the Saints' 37, Brooks connected with wide receiver Michael Lewis on a slant pattern for a 17-yard gain. The Bucs were playing bump-and-run. ``That was probably the best ball he threw all day,'' Kiffin said. ``He drilled it.''
The second big play was a 13-yard reception by tight end Boo Williams, with the Bucs blitzing, on second-and-eight from Tampa Bay's 44 that put the Saints in field goal range. ``[Derrick] Brooks was beating right down on [Aaron Brooks],'' Kiffin said. ``Brooks was coming off the left side free. But Aaron did a great job on that one too.''
New Orleans kicker John Carney, who had missed a 39-yard field goal attempt earlier in the fourth quarter, nailed a 47-yarder for the win. ``They just made plays,'' Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. ``That's what this game is always going to boil down to - making plays.''