How did Tampa Bay's defense grade out in its performance against Dallas QB Tony Romo and the Cowboys? Did the Bucs secondary receive a passing grade? Get the answers in this Pewter Report analysis story.
Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds offers up his analysis on how Tampa Bay's
defense played against Dallas in the Cowboys' 16-10 victory over the Bucs, and dishes out the game grades for
each defensive unit and the Bucs special teams.
BUCCANEERS DEFENSIVE LINE
Defensive end Michael Bennett had a terrific game and finished with two sacks, which tied a career high, and a forced fumble to go along with four tackles, including two tackles for loss. Bennett also broke up a pass at the line of scrimmage and was incredibly productive. He is tied for the team lead with three sacks and leads Tampa Bay with two forced fumbles this season.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had a similar stat line like Bennett: four tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. The third overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft was incredibly productive and had three hits on the quarterback. McCoy is tied with Bennett for the team lead in sacks with three on the season and is emerging as a playmaking force for Tampa Bay this season. His three sacks in 2012 already ties the most McCoy has ever recorded in a season (2010) and there are 13 games left.
After defensive end Adrian Clayborn started the season with just one tackle in the first two games of the season, he had a more productive outing against Dallas before leaving the game in the third quarter with a serious knee injury after McCoy sacked Romo for the second time. Clayborn, who had a knee brace on after the game, could be lost for the season, which would be a huge blow to Tampa Bay’s defensive line if that’s the case. He finished the game with several quarterback pressures and a tackle for loss.
Nose tackle Roy Miller had three tackles, including a tackle and played a big role in limiting running back DeMarco Murray to just 38 yards on 18 carries (2.1 avg.). Miller was active and probably played one of his best games as a Buccaneer.
Reserve defensive tackle Corvey Irvin had one tackle in spot duty and backup nose tackle Gary Gibson recovered a Romo fumble forced by McCoy. Daniel Te’o-Neisham also played a bit in relief of Bennett and Clayborn at defensive end.
The defensive line shut down the run and collectively produced six tackles for loss, including four sacks against the pass. This was a nice bounce-back effort for Tampa Bay’s defensive line after getting shut out in the sack department a week ago in New York. GAME GRADE = A-BUCCANEERS LINEBACKERS
Middle linebacker Mason Foster was tied for the team’s lead with seven tackles, including two for a loss. Foster made six solo tackles and was very aggressive against the run. He also made a touchdown-saving tackle on special teams on Dez Bryant’s 44-yard punt return. Foster is off to a sensational start to the 2012 season.
Lavonte David made five solo tackles and had a tackle for a loss. The rookie weakside linebacker was a force against the run, holding Dallas to 38 yards rushing on 23 carries (1.7 avg.).
Strongside linebacker Quincy Black did a decent job in pass coverage, but did not record a tackle on defense.
The Cowboys used a lot of three wide receiver formations, which meant more playing time for David and Foster and not as much for Black. The Bucs linebackers collectively had 12 tackles, three tackles for loss and played a big role in shutting down Dallas’ running game. The linebackers might be the most improved unit in Tampa Bay this year.GAME GRADE = B+BUCCANEERS SECONDARY
Free safety Ronde Barber finished with four tackles against Dallas, but didn’t make any splash plays. He overran Murray on his 11-yard touchdown run in the first half and had an average performance.
Rookie strong safety Mark Barron finished with six solo stops and broke up a pass. It wasn’t a dominating effort as he has produced in his first NFL games, but it was a very solid showing.
Cornerback Aqib Talib rebounded from last week’s schooling by Hakeem Nicks to record his first interception of the season in the first quarter against Dallas. That set up Tampa Bay’s first and only touchdown of the game. Talib was solid, but not spectacular against the run as he finished tied with Foster for the team lead with seven tackles in Dallas. Talib also had a pass breakup and a tackle for loss.
Cornerback Eric Wright had five tackles against Dallas and did a decent job in pass coverage, even on a 48-yard reception by Miles Austin in which he was in good position but couldn’t stop a perfect throw by Romo. Wright also recovered a Romo fumble after a sack by Bennett, but his scoop and score was negated by the refs, who blew the whistle too early.
Nickel cornerback Brandon McDonald had three tackles and a tackle for loss
After surrendering 510 yards passing to Eli Manning, 10 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown to Nicks and 11 catches for 179 yards and a score to Victor Cruz last week in New York, Tampa Bay’s secondary played much better against Romo and the Cowboys receivers. Dez Bryant was held to 62 yards on six catches, while Austin produced 107 yards on five catches. Kevin Olgetree also contributed 57 yards on five catches. Not a great showing by the defensive backs, but a vast improvement over a week ago.GAME GRADE = C+SPECIAL TEAMS GRADES
Outside of a 28-yard field goal by Connor Barth, which was his 22nd in a row dating back to last year, there wasn’t anything special about Tampa Bay’s special teams. Dekoda Watson missed an easy punt block opportunity and was penalized 15 yards. Cornerback Myron Lewis threw a punch at a Cowboys player and was flagged for a 9-yard personal foul that backed Tampa Bay up to its own 9-yard line.
Jordan Shipley returned three punts for an average of 3.3 yards and muffed a punt, which led to a Dallas field goal. Arrelious Benn had one kickoff return for just 15 yards.
The Bucs allowed Dez Bryant to return a punt 44 yards in the fourth quarter down to the Tampa Bay 6. That set up Dallas’ final field goal of the game.
Punter Michael Koenen averaged 41.4 yards on eight punts with a net of just 31 yards. While he had two punts downed inside the 20, Koenen also had two touchbacks, which was disappointing.GAME GRADE = D-
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