TE Dave Moore says the Bucs are ready to play out in the cold again next Sunday
There are not many players in the league that would more difficult to replace than Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks. The four-time Pro Bowler has such remarkable speed and skills for his position that very few NFL players would seem to be an adequate substitute.
That made the job turned in by the Buccaneers' defense on Sunday all the more remarkable. Without Brooks for roughly three-quarters of the game, the Bucs held the suddenly potent Green Bay offense to 17 points, only seven in quarters two through four. A mix-and-match substitution strategy employing Don Davis – in his first extended action of the season – Jeff Gooch, Nate Webster and Shelton Quarles helped the Bucs make up for Brooks' absence.
However, that's not something the team hopes to have to cope with a week from Sunday, when they'll be back on the field, back on the road in a cold, hostile stadium. The Bucs' playoff-opening game at Philadelphia has been set for 4:15 p.m. on Sunday, December 31.
The team learned that piece of information shortly before taking off from the airport in Green Bay. During the ensuing flight, Buccaneers.com learned from the team's training staff that Brooks is likely to be ready to play by then.
Brooks suffered a right shoulder strain in the first half in Green Bay and did not return because the injury made his right arm too weak to play. An aggressive week of stretching and ice treatments, combined with Brooks' notable toughness – he has yet to miss a game in six NFL seasons, should put him back on the field in Philadelphia.
The Bucs also learned during their flight home that Minnesota had lost its third consecutive game later on Sunday, dropping to 11-5. The significance of that was simple: had the Buccaneers beaten Green Bay, they would have been division champions and would have had a bye for the opening round of the playoffs.
That was fairly meaningless by that point. In fact, the Bucs coped with the loss of that opportunity immediately after their own defeat. Following are some of thoughts from inside the team's locker room at Lambeau Field.
TE Dave Moore on the team's desire to win in Green Bay:
"We wanted to get this one to put the pressure on Minnesota, then see what they did.
"As a collective group, I don't think there's anybody here that's won here before, and that's something we wanted to take care of. We were looking to eliminate that whole under-40-degrees thing, and just get some momentum going into the playoffs. We had our opportunities, like many of our other trips up here, we just couldn't get it done."
Moore on the Bucs' shortcomings on Sunday: "We just didn't finish drives. We had a lot of third-down situations that we didn't take advantage of. There were plays there to be made at the end, and we just didn't connect. And that's pretty much offense, defense and special teams."
Moore on the upcoming game: "We just got to play in the cold today, so we'll just go up there and play in it again. Actually, the conditions, footing-wise will probably be a lot better up in Philly because of the turf, and I think that's to our advantage with the speed we have to the outside."
Keyshawn Johnson on the Bucs' playoff berth: "I'm excited about it. We're getting the opportunity to stay alive in this thing, this race. We've won games on the road before, and now we just have to get ready to go play at Philadelphia. I don't know if it's going to be Saturday or Sunday, but we've just got to be prepared and ready to go."
John Lynch on the team's spirited comeback: "At halftime, I sensed that this was a game where we were going to need some turnovers to get back in it, especially after they went up 14-0 in the third quarter. We started getting them and we did a good job of doing that and giving ourselves a chance."
Warren Sapp on the loss: "It's not the end of our season.
"We've just got to win the football game. We did everything we could do in the ballgame except win it. If it's going to boil down to my kicker, the best kicker in the game, to line up and win it, I'll take my chances with that every time."
Sapp on what teammates can say to Martin Gramatica: "He's a big enough of a professional – he knows what he's got to do. We might go to Philly and have it boil down to the same thing. Just kick the ball."
Sapp on the near comeback: "We made a lot of plays, and one of our biggest playmakers was out for a long time. We didn't wait around for him to come back. We just kept making plays and got us some turnovers. Then King moved us down the field when he had to and got us in a position to win the football game. We just didn't get it done."