The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell to the New Orleans Saints on a late field goal Sunday evening, and that comes with an 0-2 record and continued speculation about the future of Josh Freeman as the quarterback of the franchise.
But amid the doom and gloom, there was a massive positive observation to be made about the 2013 iteration of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This defense is really, really good.
Let’s break it down by every level, and see just how good the Tampa Bay defense was on Sunday.
Gerald McCoy is a one-man wrecking crew in the middle of the Bucs defense, and his continued health and positive play will be huge force for the team. He’s just better than everyone he goes up against, including the highly-touted (and rightfully so) New Orleans interior linemen. Other than the NFC West powerhouses the Bucs face later in the year, McCoy won’t face better linemen than he did today, and he came out on top of the matchup.
Adrian Clayborn was also impressive, especially in his versatility. He defended passes, stopped the run, and got after the passer while lining up in different places. It’s clear that having Clayborn back is a big deal for this defense, and he’s one of the main reasons the Bucs moved on from Michael Bennett.
There’s not enough I can say about how good these guys were tonight.
Mason Foster was fantastic for the second straight week, moving well laterally to find and fill gaps against the run, including stuffing the run during the key goal-line stand sequence. He also made the play of the season for the Buccaneers, fooling Drew Brees and baiting him into an interception which he brought to the house with a rumbling return.
Lavonte David was also incredible, showing improved pass rushing skills to go with continued dominance as a run stopper. If Luke Kuechly is the next great inside linebacker, Lavonte David is the next great outside linebacker who will be constantly compared against Kuechly as both continue towards great, accolade-filled careers.
And even Dekoda Watson got in on the act, showing up with an interception and otherwise solidifying an “A+” day for the Bucs’ linebackers.
Mark Barron showed today that he’s not perfect, but he’s still a very good, very active football player who is dripping with potential. Barron led the team in tackles, roaming all over the field in different roles and matchups. He chipped in with a shared sack and a great pass breakup while covering Jimmy Graham, showing just how incredibly vast his talents are. Barron is a special player who is still getting used to going up against the best quarterbacks and receivers in the world, but he’s getting there.
Darrelle Revis makes a huge impact on the game, and he’s also completely willing to chip in and commit to stopping the run. It’s so encouraging to see Revis charging in to get stops on running backs and screen plays. And the Saints did not test him today, opting to throw more than half of their passes to tight ends and running backs. Get used to that, folks.
And when Dashon Goldson isn’t getting flagged for using his head as a weapon, he’s a very hard-nosed, smart player who doesn’t give up and finishes plays. Consider what would have happened if he just let Jimmy Graham waltz into the end zone at the end of the first half, rather than dragging him down at the one. That’s a huge shift in the game. So while Goldson isn’t perfect, and he probably shouldn’t be lined up against Jimmy Graham 1-on-1, he showed why he’s important. He’s a hard worker in a defense full of talented guys who seem to have the talent and work ethic to be special this season.
And after the year we had last year, let’s just consider how great it is to have so many positive things to say about the defense. They were a blown coverage on an audible away from potentially keeping Drew Brees out of the end zone. The same Drew Brees who dropped eight touchdowns on the Bucs last year.