Bucs Defense Doesn't Allow Dramatic Comeback This Time
The Tampa Tribune, published 25 November 2003

After watching three previous opponents put together dramatic game-winning drives on the Bucs defense, it's little wonder the crowd at Raymond James Stadium was on edge in the closing moments of Monday night's game with the New York Giants. Only time will tell if this is a case of too little too late this season, but the Bucs defense of not so long ago finally reappeared and iced a game.

Despite two possessions in the final four minutes and trailing only 17-13, the Giants were completely shut down by the Bucs. And it was three familiar faces - safeties John Lynch and Dwight Smith and defensive tackle Warren Sapp - who led the defensive resurrection.

With 3:43 to go, Lynch put a quick end to New York's first comeback attempt by picking off a deep and ill-advised Kerry Collins pass intended for wide receiver David Tyree. It was the second Collins pick, following one by Smith earlier in the game. And after the Bucs offense failed to cash in on the turnover, the defense found itself on the field once again in an even more pressure-packed situation.

This time, the Giants had 2:15 on the clock and one timeout to work with. True, they would have to travel 88 yards for a go-ahead touchdown on the Bucs. But considering the Packers marched 98 yards last week for the game winner and the Panthers flew 78 yards in 95 seconds, anything seemed possible, even with Collins at quarterback.

But Lynch wasn't having any part of that. ``I told our guys `Hey, this is where we want to be. We want to close someone out. This is where we do it,' '' Lynch said.

After two incompletions by Collins that were nowhere near their intended receivers, Sapp, the No. 99 guy who used to terrorize linemen and quarterbacks across the league, came up with his second sack of the night to force fourth down. The Giants decided to take the safety by snapping the ball out of the end zone; the game was essentially over when they failed to recover an onside kick.

The Bucs defense, which went from the dizzying heights of the Super Bowl to the brunt of talk radio jokes (Jim Rome: You know why no one compares you to the all-time great defenses? Because you're not), was, at least for one night, a force once more. ``These guys have been scrutinized a lot,'' said Jon Gruden of his defense. ``They did a great job when they needed to.''