Hayes sparks superb effort
Geno Hayes certainly made up for lost time. After sitting out Tampa Bay's first two defensive series because he was late for the team bus Sunday morning, the former FSU standout led a powerful second-half effort by a Bucs unit that continues to surge since head coach Raheem Morris assumed control.

Hayes led the Bucs with 10 tackles, including two for losses, and his fourth-quarter hit against Saints WR Marques Colston after a 16-yard gain caused a fumble scooped up by CB Ronde Barber at midfield. "No excuses, I just missed the bus," said Hayes, who played a key role as New Orleans was outscored 20-3 after the opening quarter. "No excuses at all."

Hayes, a second-year OLB with rare quickness, also didn't start against Dallas in Week 1 because he was late arriving at Raymond James Stadium. Poor tackling hurt the Bucs early as New Orleans ran effectively, but the Saints were limited to only 28 yards rushing after intermission.

"We changed some of our fits and the Saints weren't able to adjust," DT Chris Hovan said. "Our coaches did a heck of a job on the sidelines and I think we confused Drew Brees, one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league. As a defense, we're back to what we're used to around here ... the difference shows."

In the five outings since Morris demoted defensive coordinator Jim Bates following a 38-7 home loss to New Orleans, the Bucs have yielded an average of 17 points per game, compared to 29 points per game before the change.

"The first 15 or 20 plays, we didn't tackle at all," Barber said. "Then we tightened up and it made all the difference. We like our defensive weapons here a lot better since Raheem has taken over."

After New Orleans scored 17 points in its first three possessions Sunday, the league's No. 1 offense punted four times, lost a fumble and missed a field goal try the rest of the way.

Ira Kaufman, The Tampa Tribune 29 December 2009