First Look at the Competition

The Bucs used to win with defense. Not they win in spite of it. For the third straight game, Tampa Bay's defense looked vulnerable in a 30-27 win over the Falcons.

Tampa Bay had already given up 34 points in a loss to Carolina and 35 in a win over the Redskins.

"The only stat in this game that matters is W's and L's," defensive tackle Anthony McFarland said. "Right now, we've got a couple W's in a row and we're 7-3. When you can continue to get that stat right, that's big.

"We don't like shootouts, but we like W's. If we can have shootouts and get a W, I'll take that every week."

Of course he will. But the Bucs have problems on defense, particularly in the secondary.

Free safety Will Allen is out with a knee injury, and former Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson missed his fourth game with a hamstring injury. Against the Falcons, the Bucs allowed a season high 443 yards of total offense and 306 yards passing.

"I can't remember a time when we've given up about 100 points in three games," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "You never want to say it's a shift in philosophy or even the way we're playing. We'll still hold our standards on this side of the ball. It's just nice knowing when we don't live up to them, the offense will go out and make some plays for us."

The Bucs still believe their defense will get better. Defensive end Simeon Rice has had three sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception in his last two games, and Anthony McFarland is doing a good job against the run.

But coach Jon Gruden isn't satisfied.

"I'm not going to make any excuses," Gruden said. "We've got to play better overall on defense. Our third-down ratio was ridiculous today."

"We did do some good things at times. We started brilliantly. Their penalties assisted us."

Still it was linebacker Derrick Brooks who forced Falcons quarterback Michael Vick to fumble with just over a minute left in the game. The turnover set up Matt Bryant's 45-yard game winning field goal.

Brooks, who saves some of his best performances for Vick, had faked that blitz on several occasions Sunday but waited until the weary Bucs defense needed to be rescued late in the fourth quarter.

Cadillac Williams had just tied the game at 27 on a 9-yard touchdown run with 1:55 remaining.

But that appeared to be too much time left for Vick and the Falcons.

Timing the snap count and leaping over Falcons running back Warrick Dunn, Brooks was able to jar the ball loose from Vick, and Shelton Quarles recovered at the Atlanta 34-yard line.


  • RB Cadillac Williams rushed for 116 yards against the Falcons -- just 2 yards shy of his total in his last four games combined. His first carry of the game was a 30-yard gain.

  • WR Joey Galloway, who entered the Falcons game third in the league in receiving yards and touchdowns, was held without a catch for the second time this season.

  • DT Anthony McFarland recorded the first touchdown of his career when he recovered a Matt Schaub fumble in the end zone.

  • DE Simeon Rice sacked Falcons backup QB Matt Shaub, forcing a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by Anthony McFarland.

  • QB Chris Simms led the Bucs to a game-tying touchdown for the second time in as many weeks in the fourth quarter Sunday. Simms went 11-of-19 passing for 118 yards and an interception against Atlanta.

  • S Kalvin Pearson made his first NFL start at safety for the Bucs, who gave up 306 yards passing Sunday.

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