Finally, the Bucs looked like a football team
Joe Henderson, The Tampa Tribune, published 21 December 2009

As Raheem Morris walked to the podium Sunday after the Bucs' second victory of the season, he quietly quipped, "I don't know what time it is, men, but whatever it is, that was a nice game. That was a good game by our football team."

It's funny that he'd talk about time. It's all about time, now. Time is running out in this season for the Bucs. Only the Glazer family can answer whether it's running out on Morris' tenure as a head coach as well.

The solid 24-7 win against the Seattle Seahawks didn't hurt his chances of staying beyond this season, but that doesn't mean the heat on Tampa Bay's young coach is significantly less this morning than it was 24 hours ago. I mean, even with a dose of feel-good three time zones away from home, the Bucs are still just 2-12.

He needed to show improvement in these final games of the season, though, and this was better. We should give him credit for that. If the result had gone the other way in foggy, drizzly Seattle, we'd have been looking for extra nails, a hammer and a coffin painted pewter. Oh, and Bill Cowher's cell phone number.

"That's what the whole end of the season is about for us," Morris said. "It's establishing, it's progressing, it's forming, it's getting these guys to believe. They saw it happen today, they saw it working. Hopefully that stimulates a little bit more belief in our players, our coaches, and our organization. That's where we need to go."

There's that time thing again. The defense, which Morris coordinates after taking over from Jim Bates a few weeks ago, had its most interesting game of the season; I mean that in a good way. It was the closest we've seen this defense take on the personality of its storied predecessors in a long time.

Seattle got 380 yards but the Bucs forced five turnovers. It was straight out of Monte Kiffin's playbook yards are OK, but points aren't. Morris called it "no ego" and said it was a point of emphasis all week. The players bought in, which obviously is important to Morris' future too.

If you doubt that, just drop by Ronde Barber's locker. When asked if the noticeably better defensive play in recent games is attributable to Morris, he quickly answered, "No doubt. Make them catch the ball in front of you and tackle them like we've always done," he said.

But Raheem is in charge of the whole team, not just the defense. So we assume his fingerprints are all over the decision to run 34 times Sunday. I mean that in a good way, too.

"I learn something about myself every day as a head coach," he said. "I definitely learned something about this football team today. You've got to have confidence in those guys and they'll bring it home for you. If they can't, we'll get our butts kicked, but we'll get our butts kicked together doing it our way."

All that running produced benefits far beyond the 134 yards that were gained. The threat of a running game kept Seattle from teeing off on quarterback Josh Freeman, and he responded with a fine game that included a pair of touchdown passes. The Bucs ran off 24 points after spotting the Seahawks an opening touchdown.

The defense made sure it held up. "I've been real happy since he took over the defensive coordinator duties because you see what he really is and that's a teacher," linebacker Barrett Ruud said.

"He always said that if he wasn't coaching, he'd be a teacher. He does a great job standing in front of the classroom explaining what he wants to get done. Guys are taking notes and they're detailed. I'm just really impressed how he presents his ideas to us."

Maybe the lessons from Morris, the teacher, are finally sinking in. Next week at New Orleans will surely be a good test of just how improved they really are. Morris took over the defense last month after the Saints pounded the Bucs in Tampa.

The Bucs were a physical, ball-hawking, power-running team against the Seahawks. They were the kind of team Morris said he wanted all along. Too bad it took 15 weeks to get here, but it is progress and that's what everyone needs to see. "It's been a long time since we played a game and everything worked out the way we wanted it to," Barber said.

No doubt about that. And in keeping with the theme of the day, it's about time.