-Lavonte David got recognition. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Insert The Office "It's happening!'.gif. For the first time in David's nine-year career, he won NFC Defensive Player of the Month.
What was wild about the whole thing is even I got a little surprised. David had just been his regular, productive, consistent self. Well, I proved my own point that the veteran inside linebacker is a victim of his own consistency. It turns out after looking at his stats, David registered 24 tackles, two tackles for loss, a quarterback hit, an interception, two passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. In three games. He is now the only player in the NFL this season who has already recorded 20 or more tackles with at least one interception, pass defensed, forced fumble, fumble recovery, tackle for loss and quarterback hit. The seven-time team captain wouldn't even take credit, either.
"The thing that has enabled me is just the confidence that I have in the guys that are out there with me. Understanding and knowing everybody's going to be where they're supposed to be and everybody's going to play with an intensity level that helps me level my play. That was the main thing these first couple of games defensively."
Oh captain, my captain.
-David wasn't alone in the monthly accolades, either. Nope. Safety sensation Antoine Winfield Jr. was named the NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month, too. But I think we all saw that coming. Winfield Jr. has taken the NFL rookie conversation by storm, gaining recognition across the league for the big plays he makes and how often he's around the ball. So far this season he's recorded 23 tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hits, one tackle for loss, two passes defensed and a forced fumble. In his first three NFL games ever. That's nuts. He's currently second in sacks among rookies, tied for second in tackles among rookies and tied for first in forced fumbles among rookies. And the Buccaneers got him in the second round. Think about that.
-Though David deflected on his individual success, he spoke highly of the defense as a whole and the success they've seen *so far. He attributes it mostly to being more comfortable in the system and understanding the expectations from Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles.
"I think the confidence level," David said about the biggest difference from this time last year and now. "Guys understanding what Coach [Todd Bowles] wants out of us. It's like it was laid out already. We kind of had pretty good performances toward the end of last season, but now we want it to roll over to this season. That's just what we're trying to put out there and put on tape. [We are] understanding what coach wants us to do as far as the job and understanding what's expected from us when we're out there on the field. Just holding everybody accountable and making sure that guys know what they're supposed to be doing and [that] guys know where they're supposed to line up. Also, with the communication aspect of it – when guys talk, we can be the best defense out there. When we're talking and when we're flying around, it makes everything easier and it makes everybody's job easier. When you overcommunicate and when you talk and have confidence in the guy next to you, it gives everybody an opportunity to just play fast, have trust in the guy next to you, knowing what they've got [and] that he's going to do his job in the correct way. It does bring your confidence level a little higher."
Bowles had a nearly identical sentiment. It's like these guys spend a lot of time together and are on the same page or something.
"I think it's just their second year in the system and them trusting each other on the field," said Bowles. "I think as coaches, it's our job to put try to put them in the best positions possible for them to make a play. Believe me, we're no masterminds over here at all. We just try to coach good football and good football players. We work hard every week. Sometimes you have a good gameplan and it sucks, and sometimes you have a bad gameplan and it works out well. We're just going to keep grinding and working. We have a lot of kinks to still work out. We try to win while doing it."
P.S. PLEASE watch for no other reason than Bowles' laugh.
Winning is the name of the game and people like quarterback Tom Brady treat winning as if it's their job. No, really. You've heard that quarterbacks never get too high or too low, but Brady is on a whole other very even-keel level. And that means no time to dwell – win or lose.
"I like to move on pretty quick for sure," said Brady. "Yes you're thinking about the wins and the losses, but you're also thinking about improvement, how it felt, what we need to do better, what I can do better and how I need to communicate better. The win is a win or the loss is a loss. You probably think about the loss more than you think about the win. The win is probably more of a relief than a joyful feeling. You feel like, 'OK, I'm glad we won. Let's start making improvements.' I get after it pretty quick, and my mind is [moved] on pretty quick. I kind of know how I did as soon as I did it, so even watching the film, I feel like I pretty much [know]. Two hours after the game, I'll watch the film [or] on the flight home I'll watch the game. I'll watch it a few times and then move on from there."
And in order to get that sense of relief, Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich says the Bucs largely just need to cut down on the offensive penalties and play more consistently.
"It's just constant execution and what you said – it's really happening early in games," said Leftwich. "We all know each football game comes with 50, 60, 70 plays and you've got to be able to execute consistently down in and down out. I think we've done a great job of that coming into football games. I think we did a good job of that, really, training to execute in the second half. I think what's happened is the third quarter has been a big quarter for us when we've gotten a lot of penalties and we're in a lot of second-and-20s, first-and-20s. In this league, that's going to always put you in third-and-long, and you try your best to stay out of those situations because obviously you're not going to convert a high percentage of those. We're just trying to be smarter on first and second down to put us in a better position for third down, so we aren't in so many third-and-longs. That's what was killing us in the second half of last week – really, in the second half of the week before. The penalties that we've gotten in the second half just put us in bad positions."
Bucs Tweet of the Day: