Tim Rattay got his first start as a Buccaneer quarterback and led Tampa Bay to its fourth win of the season. But although the quarterback play was better with Rattay under center, the Bucs offense still struggled to convert opportunities inside the red zone and produced just 15 points despite racking up a season-high 355 yards of total offense.
But Tampa Bay’s offense was greatly aided by a command performance by its defense, which pitched a shutout (the Browns’ only points came on a fumble recovery on defense) in the Bucs’ 22-7 victory. For its effort and production, Tampa Bay’s defense is this week’s Pewter Report MVP.
The Bucs defense held the hapless Browns to just 187 yards of total offense, recorded three sacks, eight hurries and picked off quarterback Derek Anderson four times before he was knocked out of the game on a sack by nose tackle Chris Hovan. Hovan, a Cleveland native, had a sensational game with a team-high eight tackles and a sack. Hovan’s defensive linemate, end Greg Spires, got some revenge against his old team with a season-high two sacks.
Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks picked off Anderson in the fourth quarter and returned the pick 21 yards for a touchdown. Defensive end Dewayne White applied pressure on Anderson to force an errant throw. Safety Jermaine Phillips, who has come under fire for poor play this year, had his best effort of the season and finished with a career-high two interceptions. Phillip Buchanon got his second interception as a Buccaneer and nearly had another.
The Bucs also got their hands on seven Anderson throws, which helped the beleaguered Browns quarterback compile a 12.3 QB rating.
In a season in which Tampa Bay has failed to play great defense, Monte Kiffin’s crew put their best game together in Cleveland from a turnover and pass rush standpoint. The Bucs were also stout against the run, holding the Browns under 100 yards rushing.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org