DE Simeon Rice has always terrorized the Saints, and his two second-half sacks on Sunday were critical in the Bucs' victory
With the game on the line, the down marker reading "4" and the opposition driving for what could be the tying score late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, defensive end Simeon Rice shot around the left edge of the offensive line and sacked the quarterback for a loss of 12 yards. There ought to be an award for season-altering moments like that.
Oh, wait, there is.
On Wednesday, Rice was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his game-changing performance against the New Orleans Saints. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Saints, 27-13, to grab the NFC South title and earn a home game in the opening round of the playoffs.
Rice, who has made a career of late-game heroics and Saints-smothering, finished the game with two tackles and two sacks, both of them drive-killers. One New Orleans drive had reached the Saints' 40 when Rice tracked down a scrambling Todd Bouman and dropped him for a loss on third down. His second sack, late in the fourth quarter, might have been his biggest QB takedown of the season.
The Saints, playing with remarkable intensity at the end of a 3-13 campaign, were down 20-13 when they drove to the Bucs' 43 with four minutes to play. When a third-down pass failed, New Orleans, with nothing to lose, elected to go for it on fourth down. Bouman, who passed for 265 yards on the day, would never get a pass off as Rice tracked him down from behind.
Defensive end Dewayne White trumped Rice a few minutes later by sacking Bouman and forcing a fumble that White recovered and returned for the clinching touchdown. Both plays were huge and the Bucs believe White has many more big moments in his future.
Rice, of course, has already constructed a career of big moments, such as his two sacks in Super Bowl XXXVII (and a third that didn't officially count because it occurred on a two-point conversion attempt). He has also hurt the Saints like no other team on his sack docket. Amazingly, Sunday's game marked the fifth time in his career that Rice has had a multiple-sack game against New Orleans. His 16 sacks overall against the Saints is easily his best total against any NFL team.
Rice's hot finish – he also had two sacks in Week 16 against Atlanta – allowed him to finish third in the NFL in that category, just two off the lead pace set by Oakland's Derrick Burgess. Rice is the active NFL leader in double-digit sack campaigns, with eight, and he has averaged 13.5 sacks per season in his five years as a Buccaneer.
This is the second conference Player of the Week award for Rice, both coming during his stint with the Buccaneers. He was also selected after a four-sack performance against Washington in Week Six of 2003. Rice has also been named NFC Defensive Player of the Month twice during his Buc tenure, in December of 2001 and November of 2002.
Rice is the third Buccaneer to win Defensive Player of the Week honors this season. Linebacker Shelton Quarles was the choice in Week Two and cornerback Ronde Barber nabbed the award in Week 14. Tampa Bay defenders have won the award 17 times over the last seven years, including three times each in 2000, 2001 and 2005 and four times in 1999.