CB Donnie Abraham celebrates his second TD in three weeks
Quick…name the one Buccaneer that has caught two passes and turned them into touchdowns over the last three weeks.
Jacquez Green spring to mind? Dave Moore? Maybe one of the Bucs' strong passcatching backs, Warrick Dunn or Mike Alstott.
Guess again. CB Donnie Abraham has turned two opponent passes into Buccaneer touchdowns over the past three weeks, each one a crucial play in a Buccaneers victory. While Tampa Bay's defense has taken its stinginess to a new level in recent weeks, the Buccaneer offense has just three touchdowns to its credit over the last three weeks, a span that includes home victories over Atlanta and Minnesota and a road win at Seattle.
Give Abraham a big chunk of that credit. Amazingly, Abraham has recorded five interceptions over the past three weeks, two of them returned for long-distance touchdowns. He now has a team and career-high six picks this season, not to mention an astounding 25 passes defensed in 12 games. In only one game has he failed to record a pass defensed, and he missed much of that Chicago game (10/24) after suffering a concussion. He has had at least three passes defensed in five different contests and lest you think he is seeing the benefits of gracious home scoring, consider that he has 11 passes defensed on the road and 14 at home.
Abraham's latest and greatest was a remarkable 55-yard interception return for a touchdown in Monday night's win over Minnesota. On the Vikings' third play from scrimmage, Abraham began a blitz from the right corner but turned it into a leap when QB Jeff George cocked to fire a pass to WR Jake Reed. Somehow, Abraham caught the bullet right at the line of scrimmage and was able to bring it all the way back for the opening score. His previous touchdown return was a 47-yarder at the end of the Atlanta game (11/21) which clinched a 19-10 Buc win. That effort won him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Abraham viewed Monday's interceptions (he had another later in the first half to squelch a Viking scoring threat) in a team sense. "I thought that first one was great," said Abraham, referring to the TD return. "It took the pressure off the offense, especially with a rookie QB. It was key to get the pressure off of him right away."
Abraham is now tied with San Francisco's Lance Schulters for the NFC lead with six interceptions. Only Miami CB Sam Madison has more in the NFL, with seven. No Buccaneer has ever led the NFL in interceptions.
Head Coach Tony Dungy enjoys the luxury of Abraham's mixture of steady play and occasional big-play breakthrough. "Donnie usually plays well for us every week," said Dungy after Monday's game. "The interception at the very beginning of the game really got us going. He got his hands on four or five other balls that he had a chance to catch. He just stays back there, plays solid and makes plays."
Abraham, in fact, has made enough plays to move into a tie for third place on the Bucs' all-time interception list, despite the fact that he has yet to complete his fourth NFL season. Abraham was the first Buccaneer ever to have at least five interceptions in each of his first two seasons and, after a one-interception downswing in 1998, has now added six this year for a total of 17. That's equal to the totals posted by Mark Cotney (1976-84), Harry Hamilton (1988-91) and Ricky Reynolds (1987-93). It's a big step to the next plateau: Cedric Brown is the team's all-time leader at 29 and Mike Washington is second at 28.
Of course, at the pace Abraham is on, that could be just around the corner.