Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Defense Struggles Early, Finishes Strong Vs. Browns
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After the Buccaneers’ 17-14 win over the Browns in Sunday’s season opener, head coach Raheem Morris praised his defense for bending, but not breaking as they overcame a slow start to shut down the Browns' offense late, holding them to just 123 yards in the second half and forcing four punts and two turnovers.
Ronde Barber setup the Buccaneers first touchdown by returning an interception inside the Browns’ five-yard line toward the end of the second quarter, as the Buccaneers went into the locker room at halftime trailing 14-10.
“It’s Ronde Barber” said Morris. “He’s been doing it for years around here. He’s a consummate pro. He is my leader, and all our guys rally around him. And when he’s able to do that—his 34-year-old legs wouldn’t let him get into the end zone like they used to, but he got us far enough so he could set up a score for our offense.”
E.J. Biggers, filling in for the suspended Aqib Talib, also had an interception.
“He responded well in the fourth quarter," said Morris. “He was able to get the big pick. He was victimized early, he and (Tanard Jackson) back there, and I like the way they responded to being victimized.”
Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme split Biggers and Jackson in the first quarter, hitting Mohamed Massaquoi for a 41-yard touchdown strike.
Biggers’ late interception was a product of pressure on Delhomme, something that Buccaneers lacked in the first half.
“We got ahead, they started to throw the ball a little bit,” said Morris, “and we were able to heat the pass rush up with a little bit of Quincy Black, a little bit of Gerald McCoy, a little bit of Mr. (Brian) Price... We were able to get back there and cause some disruption and make them throw some errant throws.”
While shutting down a perennially shoddy offense like the Browns is hardly a feat, it will serve as something for a young defense to build upon as they travel to Carolina to face the Panthers next Sunday at 1 p.m. EDT.
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