Defense makes no excuses
It's a painfully familiar refrain, but once again a quarterback's day made the difference for the Tampa Bay defense. Only this time, the quarterback was Craig Erickson. Bucs defenders did a pretty good job overcoming the Redskins offense Sunday; they just couldn't overcome three interceptions by Erickson in Washington's 23-17 victory. Tampa Bay's defense made big plays, and for the second time in three weeks, it made points. But when it came to blaming the offense, the Bucs (3-9) made no excuses.
"It's frustrating to see, but we made poor decisions, too," said Bucs defensive tackle Santana Dotson, asked about Erickson's crucial mistakes, which either accounted for or led to nine
Redskins points. "I mean, the defense gave up that 70-something yarder (78) to Reggie Brooks and we can't have plays like that. I'm looking for the day when we go out and play great
defense all day and win a game 3-0, or 7-0, something like that. It's great to have a good game and make plays here and there, but when it comes down to it, you want to be in the winning locker room. And there hasn't been enough of that so far this
As usual, Bucs defenders can point to bright spots. They just can't point to the scoreboard: The Redskins had 10 first downs and 63 yards passing, season-lows for a Tampa Bay opponent. Washington's 243 yards of offense represented the second-best effort by the defense, topped only by Minnesota's 235 yards in Tampa Bay's 23-10 win two weeks ago. Seventy-eight of the 243 yards came on one play - Brooks' third-quarter TD run.
After surrendering more than 32 points per game in a four-game span, the Bucs defense has rebounded to allow 10 points to Minnesota, 13 to Green Bay, and 17 of Washington's 23 points. Still, considering the final margin, the plays that lingered longest were Erickson's two interceptions to cornerback Darrell Green - one of which led to a 51-yard Chip Lohmiller field goal at the first-half gun - and Kurt Gouveia's 59-yard interception return for a touchdown. Gouveia's play, after the Bucs had cut Washington's 17-0 lead to 17-10 late in the third quarter, provided the winning points.
"It's tough to overcome adverse situations, turnovers and that, and then you don't win or have anything to show for it," said Bucs linebacker Hardy Nickerson, who had his usual team-high tackle total (11). "I hate to keep sounding the same every week, but this defense is getting better. We just can't let a team come in here at 2-9 and beat us, in our own backyard."
Tampa Bay's defense took one play off against the underdog Redskins, and it cost them. Trailing 10-0 at the half, the Bucs relaxed on the opening snap of the third quarter - and watched as Brooks went 78 yards for the longest run ever by a Tampa Bay opponent. "This game we blew it when we gave them that touchdown after the half," defensive coordinator Floyd Peters said. "They played hard and tough the rest of the game, but you can't give them that kind of run. It's 10-0, then 17-0 after one play. Our job is to go out and turn them away, and then go out there and turn them away again. Take out that 78-yard run that blew the stats out of kilter, and they're playing with pride. They're trying hard."
The defense's proudest moment came shortly thereafter, with Tampa Bay trailing 17-3. Dotson and defensive end Ray Seals teamed up for the second defensive TD in three weeks. On a
third-and-10 from the Redskins' 8, Dotson tipped quarterback Rich Gannon's pass, and Seals made a falling, juggling catch in the end zone. For the six-year veteran, one of two NFL players never to play at the collegiate level, it was his first NFL touchdown, and first score of any kind since his days with the semi-pro Syracuse Express. "It's been a long time, been waiting for it," Seals said.
Said Dotson: "We needed that touchdown and we got it. I saw it come down in Ray's arms and bounce on his chest. If you noticed I went and landed on top of him to make sure it wouldn't slide off."
Don Banks, The St.Petersburg Times 1993