Brooks' tackle performance in Minnesota might be one of the top five in team history
After a promising but incomplete debut for the Buccaneers' offense in Dallas on September 9, the squad's effort in Minnesota on Sunday represented a step forward, if not a quantum leap.
Among other things, Tampa Bay improved in total net yards gained (263 to 331), first downs (19 to 20), rushing yards (71 to 108), rushing average (2.2 to 6.8), net passing yards (192 to 223) and yards per play (3.8 to 6.5).
The most obvious difference, however, was how the Bucs picked up their yardage. While the chains moved bit by bit in Dallas, the offense was able to pick up big chunks of yardage in the Metrodome.
For the purposes of a statistical breakdown page, the team's communications department has for years classified 'big plays' as runs of over 10 yards or passes of over 20 yards. In Dallas, the Bucs managed just one big play, a 25-yard reception by WR Jacquez Green. The Bucs' lowest total in that category last year was three, and they hadn't managed as few as one since the fourth game of 1998 (at Detroit).
In Minnesota, however, Tampa Bay's offense had 10 such big plays, a higher total than what they put up in all but two games last season. The long gains were spread around, as well, as RB Warrick Dunn, FB Mike Alstott and QB Brad Johnson all had running big plays and WR Keyshawn Johnson, WR Jacquez Green and RB Aaron Stecker all had passing big plays.
It is still too early to turn any of the Bucs' individual numbers into full statistical projections for the season. Which numbers are anomalies (LB Derrick Brooks' four tackles in the season opener, for instance, or his 20 in Minnesota) and which are true indicators of the things to come (Dunn's nine receptions through two games, perhaps)? We're not ready to say.
That being said, it certainly seems significant that WR Keyshawn Johnson has now played two full games with new QB Brad Johnson, in new offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen's system, and has had seven receptions in each of them. Last year, Johnson had seven or more catches in just two of the Bucs' 16 regular-season games.
Overall, Johnson has 167 receiving yards through two games, many of them earned at the expense of hard hits immediately after the catch. If we were making projections – remember, we're not - we would note that Johnson's current totals would work out to 112 catches and 1,336 yards by season's end. His single-season career highs are 89 receptions and 1,170 yards, both set in 1999.
LB Derrick Brooks was credited with 20 tackles by the Minnesota stat crew, 16 solos and four assists. That, in addition to his diving interception in the first half, indicate how widespread Brooks' influence was on Sunday.
Of course, tackles are unofficial statistics and teams compile them in different ways. While some teams accept the press box totals, others like the Buccaneers go with the numbers recorded by the coaching staff when it does its video evaluation the next morning.
Therefore, it's possible Brooks will not end up with 20 tackles when the final stat line comes out. Of course, it's also possible that he'll have more than 20 stops, if that's what the video shows.
That could make the difference as to where Brooks' Minnesota performance ranks in the Bucs' record book. Currently, the team's single-game tackle record is 22, held in part by Brooks. There have been only five previous 20-tackle games in team history, two owned by Brooks. Here's the chart, without Brooks' most recent performance included:
|22||Derrick Brooks||vs. Buffalo, 11/26/00|
|22||Hardy Nickerson||at Chicago, 11/23/97|
|21||Broderick Thomas||vs. Philadelphia, 10/6/91|
|20||Derrick Brooks||vs. Carolina, 10/18/98|
|20||Hardy Nickerson||at Chicago, 10/26/97|