LB Derrick Brooks and the Bucs defense want to dictate the action against Green Bay
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense found out last Sunday that Minnesota's offense has patience to spare.
Consequently, the Bucs have lost theirs.
From the comments in the Buccaneers' locker room on Wednesday, it's apparent that the defense took a much different approach than usual in Minnesota, laying back throughout the day in order to take extra precautions against the big play. It was thought that the Vikings would be unwilling or unable to succeed almost solely on underneath action.
That was the strategy. It almost worked. Almost.
It won't be seen again anytime soon.
"We were giving them the check-downs and they took them and drove the field on us," said Pro Bowl safety John Lynch. "I think we need to get back in our attack mode. We kind of sat back and our plan was not let them beat us deep. They did on a couple occasions, but we let them check it down on us. This week, we're looking forward to getting in someone's face and challenging them."
'This week' is the Green Bay Packers, another team that can get the ball downfield on you in a hurry, thanks mostly to the otherworldly talents of quarterback Brett Favre. Despite the distinct possibility of big play's from one of the league's top-ranked offenses, the Bucs expect to attack this weekend. Tampa Bay believes that's what they do best and, in retrospect, are a bit peeved that they got away from it.
"I don't think 'angry' might be the word," said Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp. "I think we're more (upset) that we went into a ballgame and didn't play our style and got beat. We can go out and play our style and get beat, and we can live with that because that's just the way we play ball. We didn't play our style last week, and we're eager to get back to how we play the game – in your face and coming at you."
Basically, the Bucs' defense was an 11-man group brought to a banquet and not allowed to eat. Thus, they are doubly hungry this week – at least, that was the word being tossed around the team's locker room on Wednesday, during lunch, no less.
"We licked our wounds," said Pro Bowl defensive end Simeon Rice. "We were humble from the situation this week. Now we're hungry and we're going to go get them. That's the only resolve we should have and that's the only resolve we can have. This week is going to be big for us as well as them, but I think a lot more factors are going to play into our factors to win this game.
"Right now, we're thirsty and we're hungry. With those two factors alone, the elements get ugly. It's going to be all good. I think we're going to have the resolve to get this thing turned around for us.
"With the resolve that we have on this team, we're going to come out this week on fire and it's going to be sensational."
Of course, the Buccaneers' defense would be fired up for any game against the archrival Packers, but there is a sense of lost time around this particular week. After smothering the Dallas Cowboys in the opening week, the Bucs then had three weeks off before facing the Vikings, and they hardly came out of the break with the aggressive approach to which they're accustomed. The Bucs won't be kept away from the feast this week.
"We're looking forward to challenging someone this week," said Lynch. "That's what we do best, we rattle people's cages and we dictate to them what we want them to do. If anything, last week, we let them dictate to us. That's forgotten, but it reinforces to us that we have to dictate to our opponent what they can do."
So, does that mean a wider variety of looks and attacking schemes against the Packers, who have proven many times in the past that they are quite adept at check downs on offense?
"You might be on to something," said Sapp, slyly. "We're going to go back to Buc ball. That's what we do. We mix it and we do our thing. We blitz a little bit, we play eight-man (fronts), we play seven-man. We give you something to look at. We make you go through your progression and reads, and that's going to take some time."
Most important, the Bucs' confidence was not smudged by the 402-yard outing allowed to the Vikings, or the temporary departure from their usual style. Tampa Bay feels confident that it will make a successful return to the style that has made it one of the league's top-ranked defenses the past four seasons.
"We still feel we're the best in the league," said Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks, "and we're going to go out there and prove it on Sunday."