Coming off a 16-13 upset win over the division-rival Atlanta Falcons, Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris was understandably excited when addressing the media Monday afternoon at One Buccaneer Place.
Although Matt Ryan ended up 26 of 47 for 330 yards and one touchdown, Morris said he was pleased with Tampa Bay’s ability to challenge the receiving duo of Roddy White and rookie Julio Jones.
“I am. We put those guys in their assignments and for the most part we put Aqib Talib on Julio and those man-to-man situations, which he won just about every single one of them,” Morris said. “The couple passes that Julio got us caught in zones, he did a nice job of reading through zones, he did a nice job of reading through that one zone with Corey Lynch down there at the end for the big one. He caught the one big pass [49 yards] through a zone, so he did a nice job with that. We matched up Biggers with Roddy a lot and Roddy caught a couple of balls on him. They were highly contested balls, but at the end of the day, Bigs won and he knocked a couple of passes down at the end and got off the grass in the red zone and that’s what it’s about. That was a great effort by all parties involved.”
Morris went on to talk about the cast of defenders he used to slow down the Falcons' potent passing attack.
“You’re taking about Aqib Talib, about Bigs, about Ronde [Barber] having his challenge over there with Gonzalez,” Morris said. “We’re talking about [Elbert] Mack coming in sometimes and taking a challenge with [Erc] Weems, talking about Geno [Hayes] when he was in there covering a back. All those guys stepping up in a lot of man-to-man coverages and it’s fun to watch. I thought Ronde couldn’t play man. That’s what they say around the league, but he did yesterday. He had five knock-down passes, a fumble recovery, a bunch of tackles, He played lights out for an old guy."
Morris was asked if there were risks involved when the Buccaneers’ secondary went to man coverage.
“The guys I just mentioned -- Aqib Talib, E.J. Biggers, Ronde Barber -- I have a lot of confidence in those guys,” Morris said. “You get them out there and give them a chance and get some guys up in the box to stop Michael Turner or contain him. They did a nice job of stopping the run yesterday. That’s kind of why I say every week that stats are for losers. It’s all what you plan on, what you want to do, or how you want to go out there and slow somebody down. Yesterday that was our plan and they did a nice job. It was a fun game for us."
The Bucs third-year coach also commented on the play of his defensive line and the pressure they were able to get (two sacks, nine tackles), which allowed the Buccaneers to play more man-coverage.
"You always need a pass rush when you use man-to-man coverage. [Adrian] Clayborn’s big sack came in a man-to-man coverage, something we’ve been calling here for years, good old Under China. Adrian makes a nice move up and under. Matt [Ryan] didn’t have time to set his feet, the kind of stuff you want from Adrian Clayborn – a vicious, hard sack, as legal as can be, right below the neck in the chest area. It’s awesome.
Playing with a lead something the Buccaneers’ coaches and players have been hoping to do since the beginning of the regular season. Sunday, against Atlanta, with a 16-3 second half advantage, the Buccaneers' pass rush showed more about whom they are than seen in the first two games according to their head coach.
“We had a lead, and they got a chance to hunt,” Morris said. “To pin their ears back. We were stopping the run on first down. They had a bunch of second-down-and-longs. A bunch of third-down-and-longs. It was all about situational football. The first couple of weeks we have been down, behind. We have been playing the guessing game.
“The games we are going to thrive in are games are games we get an early lead in. That’s why you guys make a big deal of fast starts. Then we will really have a chance to pin our ears back, and hunt and play coverage and do all the things we like to do.
“That was the only thing different was the situation. Those guys have really been giving us good effort. I told you the pass rush has been there. But the ball came out quick with Detroit. Nice job with the tempo with those guys. And last week we were in four-minute mode trying to stop Adrian Peterson. We had two opportunities to rush last week, this week we had a lot more opportunities.”