CB Ronde Barber had reason to celebrate Sunday after joining a very exclusive club
When his three-interception game in Baton Rouge – one of only two in the conference this year – failed to attract any hardware, Ronde Barber might have wondered what he had to do to win NFC Player of the Week honors.
Well, it took only seven days for the answer to reveal itself. Thanks to a dynamic performance at Carolina that included an historic first for the NFL's record book, Barber is indeed your NFC Player of the Week…for Week 14.
Barber was a key figure in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 20-10 road victory over the Carolina Panthers, probably the team's biggest win of the year so far. As surely as his third interception the week before sealed the Bucs' win over the New Orleans Saints, Barber's fourth-quarter pick at Bank of America Stadium was the defensive play that preserved the team's fifth road triumph of the year.
That play occurred with 12 minutes left on the clock and the Panthers, trailing 13-3, close to pulling within a field goal. Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme tried to hit wide receiver Ricky Proehl at the Bucs' five-yard line, but Barber got a hand in front of the receiver and deflected the ball to himself, setting up a 35-yard return that positioned the visitors for their clinching touchdown drive.
The interception was the 29th of Barber's career, moving him into a tie for third on Tampa Bay's all-time list. Just a few minutes later, Barber made NFL history.
With Carolina again trying to get back into the game, Delhomme dropped back on a third-and-10 from the Bucs' 27. Tampa Bay ran a zone blitz, with defensive end Simeon Rice dropping into coverage and Barber shooting a gap on the right side of the Panthers' offensive line. Barber, one of the best blitzing defensive backs of the era, ran through untouched and dropped Delhomme for a 13-yard loss.
That stood as the 20th sack of Barber's career, making him the first cornerback in the history of the league to record at least 20 sacks and 20 interceptions. There are only six other players at any position who have achieved the same feat, and it is an illustrious list: Seth Joyner, Wilber Marshall, Ray Lewis, William Thomas, Rodney Harrison and LeRoy Butler.
In all, Barber finished the game with eight solo tackles, one sack, one interception and one pass defensed. He helped the Buccaneers hold Carolina's potent attack to just 276 yards of offense, including just 194 through the first 55 minutes of the game. The Panthers ran two lengthy drives against a prevent defense after the Bucs had built their 20-3 lead on the heels of Barber's interception.
A two-time Pro Bowl selection (2001 and 2004), Barber has now won five NFC Player of the Week awards, though this is his first since 2002. He was also selected for the honor in Week Two of 2000, Weeks Nine and 15 of 2001 and following the NFC Championship Game in 2002.
Buccaneer players as a whole have won four conference Player of the Week awards this season. Punter Josh Bidwell took special teams honors in Weeks Three and Six and linebacker Shelton Quarles was the defensive choice for Week Two. Bidwell was also the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for November.