Defense on ropes after 0-2 start

The Tampa Buccaneers dropped to 0-2 for the 2009 season with a 34-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Unlike years past, when the topic of discussion was about the offense, everyone is talking about the play of Jim Bates' new-look defense, which has allowed nearly 70 points in two games.

The Bucs are having more than a little trouble adjusting to the new scheme under defensive coordinator Jim Bates.

In the first week against the Cowboys, Tampa Bay gave up 34 points and four pass plays of 40 yards or more.

On Sunday at Buffalo, they gave up bombs of 32 yards to Lee Evans and 43 yards to Terrell Owens.

Worse yet, a defense geared to stop the run allowed Bills running back Freddie Jackson to rush for 163 yards on 28 carries.

"There are different things going on that are just not facilitating us being successful. It's not confusion or anything, it is familiarity," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "We've got to be familiar with how to make plays and win in this defense. We put a lot of work into what we're doing now. I think guys believe in it. We understand there are some stressful situations out there. We're going to have to make plays. Obviously, we haven't the first two weeks.

"I don't know if we'll change anything, but we've got to find a way to make plays in this system. That's the name of the game."

New coach Raheem Morris challenged his defense to stop the run with the front seven while trying to keep two safeties over the top to prevent big plays to Evans and Owens.

But Evans got things started by beating Barber in man coverage for a 32-yard touchdown in the first quarter. And Owens, who had been held to just two catches, electrified Ralph Wilson Stadium after hauling in a 43-yard bomb over Aqib Talib.

"We just have to play better, my gosh," said Bates. "And we will grow. We will grow. But these games, you can't get them back."

After two weeks under Bates, the Bucs defense is yielding 450 yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry.

"Our deal was we wanted to stop the run in the seven-man front and contain him," Bates said. "I'm not sure right now, but I can guarantee you at the end of the day, it's going to be missed tackles. It's just what it felt like. You can't allow anybody to run for 170 yards and expect to win."

It won't get any easier. The Bucs' next three games are against NFC East teams, beginning with Sunday's game against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium.

"We have to do a good job as far as just keep chopping wood," Bates said. "We've got to grow, we've got to grow and we've got to grow fast. We can't just continuously give up this many points."

LINEUP WATCH: With the lingering knee injury to WR Antonio Bryant, who missed Sunday's game at Buffalo, the Bucs will have to lean more on WR Maurice Stovall. The third-year player had three catches for 80 yards, setting up a touchdown with a 38-yarder. Bryant missed the preseason after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

TRENDING:: TE Kellen Winslow is going to become more of a focal point of the Bucs offense. Winslow caught just one pass during the preseason and didn't have much game work with QB Byron Leftwich. On Sunday at Buffalo, he led the Bucs with seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown and was thrown to 10 times.


-- S Jermaine Phillips suffered a left thumb injury. His status is unknown.

-- S Sabby Piscitelli had a bounce back game at Buffalo with an interception and a fumble return 72 yards to set up a touchdown.

-- QB Josh Johnson was used as a WR on many sets at Buffalo, but never had a ball thrown his direction.

-- CB Elbert Mack injured his shoulder trying to tackle Bills QB Trent Edwards.

-- C Sean Mahan started and played the entire game in place of injured starter Jeff Faine.

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