LB Derrick Brooks was around the ball all day on Sunday
Has it really been 50 NFL weeks (including playoffs) since Derrick Brooks was last named NFC Defensive Player of the Week?
Given his hard-to-top and impossible-to-ignore performance on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons – a quintessential Brooks outing – it is surprising that he hadn't captured a single such award since Week Five of 2002. Quite simply one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL, Brooks is always a threat to throw down a monster game.
Well, start the count again at zero, because Brooks is the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 13.
With a nervous apology to Simeon Rice, who was a man possessed on Sunday, Brooks's manic play was the single biggest factor in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 27-0 dismantling of the first-place Falcons.
With Michael Vick at the helm, the Falcons are a threat to score from anywhere on the field, so shutting them out is an impressive feat, one that requires at least one performance like the one Brooks put on. The 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year totaled 12 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and two passes defensed, the first of which became an interception in the end zone.
What's more, those numbers don't even tell the full story.
"You've got to watch film to really realize what he did," said an appreciative Jon Gruden, Bucs' head coach. "He's all over the field. Forget about the sack, the fumble, the tipped pass on the interception – he makes a sideline-to-sideline pursuit play on Michael Vick that not many guys can make."
In retrospect, it's a bit surprising that Brooks won the Player of the Week award only once in 2002, when he put together a season for the ages. That year, he scored four touchdowns on turnovers, intercepted five passes and led the team with 170 tackles. In the playoffs, he added two more interceptions and another defensive touchdown.
Perhaps that year set the bar incredibly high for the 10th-year linebacker, because his 2003 and 2004 seasons appear to have been underappreciated up to this point. Perhaps we need a completely dominant outing like Sunday's game, one which we can't tear our eyes away from, to remind us how significantly Brooks has impacted games over his decade in the league, and still does.
Gruden, at least, had come under the impression that Brooks's value was being questioned of late. His unsolicited comments during press conferences on Sunday and Monday indicated that he had taken exception to a recent newspaper article suggesting there was a good chance Brooks would be playing elsewhere in 2005.
"He's been playing great all year," said Gruden. "I've just got to say, if I have to answer more questions about whether or not he'll be back on our team next year, once again I'll reiterate that he's a big part of our future. He's still just a great football player."
Brooks has now won five Player of the Week awards, tied for the most in team history with Ronde Barber (defense) and Martin Gramatica (special teams). Brooks won the award one time each during the 1999-2002 seasons. He was also the NFC Defensive Player of the Month in November of 2000 and October of 2002.
Brooks is only the second Buc to win a Player of the Week award this season. The first was running back Michael Pittman, who took NFC offensive honors after his 128-yard, three-touchdown day against Kansas City in Week Nine.