Bucs defense gouged again in rout
The Tampa Tribune, published 17 December 2012

The Buccaneers defense continued to perform at a record-setting pace on Sunday. Of course, the record they're on pace to set is not the kind anyone will be proud of. After surrendering 307 passing yards to quarterback Drew Brees during a 41-0 loss to the Saints at the Superdome, the Bucs are on pace to become the most forgiving pass defense in NFL history.

The record for such futility was set just last season by the Green Bay Packers, who gave up 4,796 passing yards. After Sunday, the Bucs are allowing 310.6 yards per game, on pace to give up 4,970 yards. "Something has to change,'' said tackle and defensive captain Gerald McCoy, who believes the Bucs' inability to adequately change their defense contributed to their worst loss of the season.

"When (your offense) turns the ball over, you as a defense have to bow your neck and go out there and stop them, and we didn't do that when we needed to. We just didn't get it done.''

Led by quarterback Josh Freeman, who threw four interceptions and lost a fumble, the Bucs turned the ball over five times. The Saints turned those five turnovers into 27 points.

The first 10 came during the first half, when defensive assistant coach Bryan Cox and linebacker Adam Hayward got into a shouting and shoving match on the sideline. That incident had nothing to do with the defensive performance, McCoy said.

"I don't think anyone lost their composure in those moments,'' he said. "We just didn't change anything. We made adjustments, but we didn't change what was happening on the field.''

Certainly nothing changed from the Saints' perspective. They opened the game by driving 74 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead. They simply poured it on after that. "That opening drive, I really thought we were on it,'' Bucs coach Greg Schiano said of his defense. "There weren't really any egregious errors on our part there, they just outperformed us.

"And then we (force a field goal) after we turn it over and so we're hanging in there, but then'' the Saints score a touchdown off another turnover "and then it's 24-0 at halftime and that obviously is not good enough defensively.''

Like McCoy, left end Michael Bennett saw the problem as wasted opportunities to get the Saints off the field when they really needed to. The Bucs, he said, simply got outplayed when it mattered most. "We just didn't make the plays when we had the chance,'' Bennett said. "Our coaches do a good job of putting us into a position to make those plays, so we just have to do a better job of making them.''

Echoing a point made by Schiano, Hayward said the key to correcting the problems that have plagued the Bucs defense this season is to focus on individual responsibilities. "When we don't all play as 11, you're going to get beat,'' Hayward said. "It's a team game and it takes 11 people to do the job. When you don't play like that, things like this are what happen to you.''