LB Shelton Quarles forces Bills QB J.P. Losman out of the end zone for a safety in Sunday's 19-3 Buccaneer victory
He's been a Pro Bowl selection, a Super Bowl champion and even one of the NFL's "Unsung Heroes." But Shelton Quarles has never been an NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
On Wednesday, the NFL bestowed that honor upon Quarles in recognition of his efforts in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 19-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Quarles is the first Buccaneer to win a conference Player of the Week award since Derrick Brooks won defensive honors in Week 13 of last year.
Quarles led a dominant defensive effort against the Bills and second-year quarterback J.P. Losman, recording a team-high 10 tackles, one sack and the game's most crucial defensive play, a safety in the second quarter that ignited the scoring.
The Bucs and Bills were locked in a scoreless field-position battle well into the second quarter until cornerback Juran Bolden downed a Josh Bidwell punt at the Buffalo one-yard line. Two plays later, on third down from the four, Quarles and safety Jermaine Phillips came at Losman on a blitz. Losman scrambled backwards and away from Phillips, but he couldn't get past Quarles, who forced him out of the back of the end zone as he tried to get off a throw. The official immediately whistled the play dead and called a safety.
That gave the Bucs a 2-0 lead and the ball back on the ensuing free kick. Tampa Bay's offense took that possession 69 yards for a touchdown and a 9-0 lead that would be all the advantage they would need.
Through two games, Quarles has 17 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, one pass defensed and one safety for the NFL's top-ranked defense.
Dating back to last season, Quarles has reached double digits in tackles in eight of the Bucs' last ten games. During that span, he has averaged 11.5 stops per contest. Over the last three years, since his move from strongside to middle linebacker, Quarles has averaged 144 tackles per season despite missing the first five games of 2003.
This is actually Quarles' second Player of the Week, as he won the honors on special teams during his first season with the Bucs in 1997. In a 31-10 win at Atlanta on November 9, 1997, Quarles set up two touchdowns by recovering a pair of fumbled punts.
The eight years between Quarles' first and second Player of the Week awards marks the longest span for any Buccaneer between two such honors.
Though Quarles, a 2002 Pro Bowl selection, had not previously won the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award, it has been a common accolade for members of the Buccaneers' defense in recent seasons. From 1999 through the first two weeks of 2005, Tampa Bay players have been chosen for that award 15 times, led by five for Brooks and three for cornerback Ronde Barber.