TAMPA - After two straight defeats, the Cleveland Browns need to put the pieces back together.
"Right now they have the league's best special teams," Browns coach Butch Davis said. "They've had one of the top defensive teams for several years. Offensively, they've added a significant number of impact players over the last few years."
The Browns could use a win after dropping to 2-3 with a 26-21 loss to Baltimore last Sunday. Quarterback Tim Couch stirred controversy after the game by criticizing fans that cheered when he suffered a mild concussion early in the fourth quarter.
Couch didn't back down from his comments later in the week. At the same time, he'd like to put what happened against Baltimore behind him and look to the future.
"I'm really looking forward to just getting back on the field," Couch said. "I always try to turn a negative thing into a positive thing."
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp won't make it easy for Couch and the rest of the offense. Sapp had a not-so-subtle message to Couch.
"I like all quarterbacks," Sapp said. "I like getting around them. I like getting on top of them. I like smelling them."
The Browns will need to find a way to move the ball on the ground, which won't be easy against a defense that's yielding 81.2 rushing yards a game. The Bucs are 0-11 since 1998 when allowing a 100-yard rusher.
"We need this win bad to be 3-3 and beat a team like Tampa," receiver Quincy Morgan said. "I think it's a good situation. We've got our backs against the wall, and we're playing a good team. I'm almost ready to sell my soul right now for a win. I guess we'll see what we are made of."
Tampa Bay has struggled at times on offense. Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson will face a defense that will be without strong safety Robert Griffith, who's out with a broken bone in his right shoulder. Griffith is leading the Browns in tackles with 44.
"We feel like we're doing some pretty good things on offense," Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said. "We're not statistically as good as some of the other teams. We have to get our running game going better, but I think you'd admit that one of the hardest things to do in this league is run the football consistently.
"Our quarterback is playing well, but we've had a number of injuries to the offensive line. The offense has contributed to four victories also, but at the same time we realize there's room for improvement."
Davis continues to believe that the team is making progress, despite what happened the last two weeks.
"When you look back on the first few games, even the losses, I think we're getting better," Davis said. "We are light years ahead of what we're capable of doing on special teams compared to last year. Offensively, last year there were games when we didn't know if we would make first downs mush less score points. I think we've made significant strides."