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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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It wasn't pretty, but it did the trick
The Bucs defense allows 279 yards and 16 first downs, but locks down when it counts.
By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published December 5, 2005
[Times photo: Bill Serne]
Anthony McFarland pressures Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks, who was harassed much of the game and threw four interceptions. Photo gallery | Bucs forum Bucs hotline: 866-371-9605 What did you think of the Bucs' performance?
BATON ROUGE, La. - Too often, this Bucs defense has seen valiant efforts go to waste. Too often, its sparkling performances have not resulted in victory when the offense failed to hold up its end.
On this day, Bucs defenders were determined that history would not repeat itself. Riding waves of game-changing plays, the defense stifled the Saints' efforts to reach the end zone in a 10-3 victory Sunday at Tiger Stadium.
"If you give up three points, you expect to win," cornerback Juran Bolden said. "The only way you don't is if you pretty much get shut out."
The story of the defense's dominance was not apparent in the numbers, with the Saints producing 279 total yards and more first downs (16) than the Bucs (14). The method was not pretty. The results were indisputable.
"We're trying to get to the show," defensive tackle Anthony McFarland said , referring to the playoffs. "We don't care how we get there. Once you get to the show, it's winner take all."
The Bucs disarmed the Saints largely by foiling drives with turnovers. Tampa Bay had four interceptions, including three from Ronde Barber, tying his franchise record, and Dexter Jackson's first this season.
But they weren't just interceptions. They were deflating daggers that came with the Saints within striking distance of the end zone. Jackson's and Barber's final picks were actually made in the end zone. In effect, the turnovers negated precious scoring chances in a game where there were few.
"It was smash-mouth football," cornerback Brian Kelly said. "Every play was crucial. Kicks are important, tackling is important, third downs are important."
Said Saints receiver Joe Horn: "My hat's off to Tampa. They're the best defense in the league. We had a chance to put 21 points on them in the first half."
Instead, the Bucs turned those New Orleans opportunities into chances of their own. And a big reason for that was the ability to contain quarterback Aaron Brooks. Brooks has shown flashes recently of his playmaking skills. Against the Patriots on Nov.20, he passed for 343 yards and three touchdowns. Last week against the Jets, he had only six incompletions in 23 attempts.
The Bucs are no strangers to Brooks' play, either.
"Aaron Brooks is a good quarterback," McFarland said. "He's had some hellacious games against us. We just had to get some heat on him and any time he threw it up, No.20 (Barber) was there."
Brooks was sacked just twice, but he was forced to scramble and hurry throws throughout, and that led to mistakes. It also limited the Saints to a handful of big plays, something that had plagued the Bucs in recent weeks. But Sunday, aside from Aaron Stecker's 41-yard reception out of the backfield - a play that appeared to be the result of a missed assignment - the Bucs held firm. Horn also reeled in a 25-yard pass, giving New Orleans its only other notable big play.
For the defense, the big plays kept coming.
"We had a great push and great coverage," defensive tackle Chris Hovan said. "When afforded the opportunity, we made plays."