Christmas came a little early for Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber this year as he collected three presents - in the form of interceptions - as the Buccaneers beat New Orleans 10-3 at LSU's Tiger Stadium. Yes, Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks, an old college chum of Barber's at Virginia, was certainly in the giving mood, allowing Barber to tie his career high for interceptions in a game and become this week's PewterReport.com Pewter Player of the Game.
Barber's interceptions came at the most critical of times, thwarting two potential New Orleans scoring opportunities, and setting up a Tampa Bay scoring drive. Barber's first pick came with 3:09 left in the first quarter when he hauled in a pass intended for New Orleans receiver Joe Horn at the Bucs' 16-yard line.
Barber's second pick came with 7:30 remaining in the first half as he stepped in front of Saints tight end Zach Hilton at the Tampa Bay 34. That turnover would propel the Bucs offense on a five-play, 64-yard scoring drive that would end with a 30-yard touchdown catch by Joey Galloway.
The next opportunity for Barber to snare an errant Brooks pass came with 6:50 left in the third quarter. Brooks was trying to find Horn in Tampa Bay's end zone for a touchdown, but Barber stepped in to tip it up and then a tug of war for the ball ensued between he and free safety Dexter Jackson, who ultimately won and returned the ball 21 yards to the Bucs' 19.
While Barber was happy to share that pick with Jackson, the next one, which was the most important, was all his. With Tampa Bay leading 10-3 with 3:56 remaining in regulation, New Orleans embarked on its final possession of the game. Just after Barber had made three of his eight tackles on the day during that drive, he once again stepped in front of Horn and recorded his third interception of the game at the Tampa Bay goal line with 1:20 left in the fourth quarter. Once Barber secured the ball and raced 26 yards before being tackled, the game was over and the Buccaneers had won their eighth game of the season.
Aside from his three interceptions and eight tackles, Barber also swatted away three other passes.
Barber now has 27 interceptions in his career, and four interceptions on the year, which ties him with fellow cornerback Brian Kelly for the team lead.
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