Bucs defense is forcing the issue
John Romano, The St.Petersburg Times, published 25 September 1989

Good defense and turnovers are like the chicken and egg riddle. Which came first?

Turnovers certainly make a defense look good. But the defense has to be doing a good job to be in position for the turnovers. The Buccaneers played good defense Sunday and, sure enough, the turnovers were there when needed in Tampa Bay's 20-10 win over New Orleans. “The better defense you play, the more turnovers you force,” Bucs defensive coordinator Doug Graber said. “If you're doing everything you're supposed to do on defense, then you force the offense to make perfect plays to beat you. And they can't be perfect all of the time so you're going to get your share of turnovers.”

Safeties Harry Hamilton and Mark Robinson came up with two interceptions Sunday, giving the Buccaneers seven for the season. The Bucs had 21 interceptions all of last year. Robinson's interception in the third quarter led to Tampa Bay's winning touchdown. A pass by Saints quarterback John Fourcade was deflected into Robinson's hands and he returned it 16 yards to midfield. The Bucs scored a touchdown two minutes later. “That's what happens when you're playing good defense,” Robinson said. “It wasn't just me on that play. I'm sure somebody got in the quarterback's face on that play too. You make things happen when everybody's doing their job.”

Graber said turnovers are emphasized in Tampa Bay's defense, but the key is to force them without gambling. And that's done by playing well across the board on defense. “That's the one stat that never changes in this game,” Graber said. “The team that can force turnovers is going to win games.”

The Buccaneers' defense was not completely error-free Sunday. New Orleans took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards for the score. Not only did Tampa Bay fail to stop the drive, but the Bucs acted like escorts by providing penalties and blown assignments. “On that first series we made five unbelievable mistakes,” Graber said. “New Orleans did a good job, but we made some really dumb errors to help them along.”

Although the Buccaneers gave up 325 yards total offense, they kept New Orleans out of the end zone the rest of the way. “We bent a little but we never broke,” said Hamilton, who is tied with Robinson for the team lead in interceptions with three. “We didn't play as well as we could, but knuckled down and got the job done when we needed to do it.”

Going back to last season, the Bucs' defense has held opponents to 20 points or less in six out of seven games. In the other game, San Francisco scored 21. “We've been doing pretty well since the end of last season,” Graber said. “Are we really that good? I don't know. We'll find out as the season goes along.”