The defense gets a sound pounding
The Bucs defense starts with stopping the run, but on Sunday, it never got started. The Raiders, with the AFC's top rushing tandem in Tyrone Wheatley and Napoleon Kaufman, rushed for a whopping 262 yards against Tampa Bay's defense, ranked second in the NFL. That's the most rushing yards allowed by the Bucs under coach Tony Dungy and it represents the fifth-worst performance defending the run in franchise history.
How much is 262 yards? It's more than three times the average number of yards the Bucs were allowing this season (81.2), and it now represents 19.7 percent of the total number of rushing yards (1,324) allowed by Tampa Bay. Was it an aberration? "I'd like to think so," strong safety John Lynch said. "They took it to us. They pounded it in the second half. They came out and did nothing but run the ball and ran it right down our throat. The thing with our scheme is it can be very good if we're on, but if we're off a little bit - and there's not that much difference between being on and off - we get gashed."
The Bucs haven't struggled against the run like this since Detroit produced 259 yards in 1997, but future Hall of Famer Barry Sanders accounted for 162 of those yards on two runs. The efforts by Kaufman (122 yards) and Wheatley (111 yards) were more of a steady pounding. The two became the first tandem to have 100-yard performances against the Bucs since the Packers' Eddie Lee Ivery (109 yards) and Gerry Ellis (101 yards) did it in 1985. "We're always going into the game thinking we can run like that," Kaufman said. "This is nothing out of the ordinary. It's just a matter of executing. "I just felt playing against a defense like this, we just had to run right at them."
The Raiders ran right at them over and over, scoring four rushing touchdowns, twice as many as the Bucs had allowed all season. Kaufman capped off the day with a 75-yard fourth-quarter run, breaking tackles near the line of scrimmage, then reversing field to outrun the rest of the Tampa Bay defenders. He also had a 17-yard touchdown run; Wheatley had scoring runs of 30 and 3 yards. Coming into the game, the longest run the Bucs had allowed was a 45-yard jaunt by Detroit's Greg Hill in Week 9.
"We just did not play well," said defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who blamed himself for Wheatley's run. "I missed a gap that Tyrone Wheatley ran right down the middle of our defense. It had nothing to do with being tired, it's just that we did not execute today and they did. "The nightmare is a reality now."
Beyond blaming poor tackling and missed assignments, the Bucs were at a loss to explain what went wrong with their defense. "I can bet you to a man, when we watch that film we're going to see some things we didn't do well as far as tackling and holding our gaps, things you usually don't see out of the Buccaneers defense," linebacker Derrick Brooks. "So we're going to give them credit for now, but after we watch the film we're going to see some things we need to tighten down on."
Defensive tackle Brad Culpepper said the unit will have to study what they did wrong as well as what the Raiders did right. "More importantly, I think, than what we did, I think we'll have to see what they did because other teams are going to copy. But . . . I don't think it was anything they really did. I think it was more what we didn't do. "Both those guys are good backs and they just exploited us. I don't really have much of an answer."
The Bucs didn't have an answer all day.
Ernest Hooper , The St.Petersburg Times 1999