Which one of Aqib Talib's interceptions against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday was bigger, the one he returned for a first-half touchdown or the one that ended the Cardinals' last chance to win the game?
Together, the two picks were big enough to make Talib the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. That honor was announced Wednesday morning, three days after his performance helped the Buccaneers beat Arizona, 38-35, and improve their record to a conference-best 5-2.
Talib's outing against Arizona was the best so far in what is rapidly turning into a breakout season for the third-year defender. The former 2008 first-round pick already has five interceptions, second-most in the NFL, along with 27 tackles and five passes defensed. On Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium, he combined his two picks with a season-high seven tackles and two passes defensed.
Talib's first interception gave the Buccaneers a 21-14 lead, their first of the game, midway through the second quarter. On the play, Talib dashed around wide receiver Steve Breaston on the right sideline and leaped in front of him for the interception before racing 45 yards to the opposite end zone.
The Buccaneers eventually widened their lead to 31-14 before the Cardinals stormed back with three unanswered touchdowns in the second half. After the Buccaneers scored the game's final points on LeGarrette Blount's second touchdown of the game, Arizona drove into Buccaneer territory in the game's closing minutes. With 2:15 left in the game, Talib blanketed wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald on a slant near the goal line and intercepted Derek Anderson's pass at the Buccaneers' six. That turnover, the Bucs' fourth pick of the day, essentially sealed the victory as Arizona never got back into Tampa Bay territory.
Talib is the second Buccaneer to win a conference Player of the Week award in as many weeks, following quarterback Josh Freeman's offensive accolades last week. Talib is also the first Tampa Bay player to win the award on defense since Week 12 of the 2008 season, when Ronde Barber took that honor for the eighth time in his career.