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December 21, 2009 @ 9:24 am
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Morris Credits Players For Defense's Improvement

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris is encouraged with the performance of his defense. After the 24-7 victory at Seattle on Sunday, Morris sees a lot of improved play and gives the credit to the players. Tampa Bay held the Seattle Seahawks to seven points, the lowest point total allowed in a game this season.
Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris credited his players for the improved play of the Bucs defense a day after Tampa Bay defeated the Seattle Seahawks 24-7. On Sunday Morris' unit held the Seahawks to the lowest point total the defense has allowed all season.

"It's about the core beliefs," said Morris. "They were flying around on the field yesterday. Seattle came out with a great plan and a high-tempo offense. They had us on our heels early. Our guys were able to settle down. We have a great leader in [middle linebacker] Barrett Ruud. We got to the spots we needed to get to and we were able to stop them, which was great. That's how you want to go and how you have to be. We've done a better job on defense. It's all about these guys going out and hustling and hitting and responding to the challenge from their head coach and defensive coordinator. I'm proud of those guys and what they've been able to do. We just need to continue over these final two games."

The Seahawks had only 20 yards of offense in the third quarter, and the Buccaneers forced five turnovers. Tampa Bay cornerback Elbert Mack had two interceptions while safety Tanard Jackson and linebacker Geno Hayes contributed an interception each. Hayes also recovered a fumble by Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. The Buccaneers defense has improved mightily since Morris took over as defensive coordinator.

"I refuse to take credit for what any of those men are doing on defense," said Morris. "Those guys are going out and playing harder, faster and better. I don't want to take anything away from what these guys have been able to do together. That includes Geno [Hayes], and Barrett Ruud has completely picked up his game. Guys like Aqib Talib and Tanard Jackson are playing at an even higher level. It's fun to watch a guy like Quincy Black go out and absolutely dominate a tight end. We're seeing different guys come out and play like Dre Moore and Kyle Moore and Adam Hayward. All those guys are contributing and getting the opportunity to play. It's really more about what they've been able to do and not as much about myself. If you want to give anybody credit give the coaches credit. Those guys have really picked up their games as well."

Morris took over the defense after a 38-7 loss to the visiting New Orleans Saints in Week 11. Defensive coordinator Jim Bates was demoted, and since then Bates has assisted Morris in watching film and game planning for the Bucs opponents. While many assumed that Morris was returning the Buccaneers to the Tampa 2 defensive system, he maintains that the Bucs defense is running a variety of schemes.

"We called a bunch of different defenses yesterday," said Morris. "The Tampa 2 was one of them. We called some Quarters, some 3-4 and some other things. We want to be known as a team that plays fast and hard. If we can do that you can call it whatever coverage you want to. You guys know my roots and background. I'll be whatever you want to call me if we can get wins like that."

After the victory over the Seahawks, the Bucs improved to the 25th rated defense in the NFL. The Buccaneers are the eighth rated pass defense and are 30th against the run. They entered the game at Seattle with the 26th ranked defense overall, 31st again the run and seventh against the pass.

Tampa Bay will be able to gauge their defensive improvement when they travel to New Orleans this Sunday. The Saints have the number one rated offense in the NFL. They have the fifth rated rushing attack and the third rated passing offense. The Saints though are coming off their first loss of the season. New Orleans was aiming to go undefeated in the regular season after a 13-0 start. Saturday night the Saints lost at home to the Dallas Cowboys 24-7. Morris was asked if the loss would cause the Saints to view the game against the Bucs differently.

"I don't think it [changes the dynamic of the upcoming game]," said Morris. "I don't think [Saints head coach] Sean Payton is the type of guy to rest people. He's all about staying hot. [Quarterback] Drew Brees is probably the same type of guy. Those guys want to stay in a rhythm going into the playoffs. I think they're going to want to take it out on us. They might be a little more angry. We'll have to deal with an angry Saints team. We'll go in there and be ready to go. We look forward to that challenge. If you want to define yourself and see how well you're playing on defense you go play the Saints and they'll let you know pretty quickly. There is no doubt in my mind they're going to have more yardage on us than we expect. We just have to keep them out of the end zone."
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