Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Title Bout

A battle between two heavyweight defenses has Buccaneer defenders like Marcus Jones fired up

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DE Marcus Jones thinks the Bucs are going to have to slug it out against Miami

Florida is the state for defenses and we don't mean legally, current political situation aside.

Whether you measure it by fewest points or fewest yards allowed, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have owned the league's best defense since 1996. The Bucs' defense is fearsome again in 2000, but contenders like Baltimore, Tennessee, Buffalo and, particularly, Miami have been equally strong this season.

Miami, in fact, has a better ranking (sixth) than the Bucs (ninth) this season, and has been every bit as stingy as their neighbors from just upstate. The Dolphins, at 10-3, also have a much more solid hold on a playoff spot and, perhaps, a higher profile than the Buccaneers right now. You can almost feel the tension in the Tampa Bay locker room among the defensive players.

"It's not that we don't like them or anything, but they're a good team, we're a good team and we're pretty close to each other," said DE Marcus Jones. "And, it's a must-win situation for us.

"We pride ourselves on defense and we want to go down there and show them what we're capable of. By the same token, they do what we do well. We both do the same things well. They stop the run and they can rush the ball at will, basically."

What has Jones and the Bucs defense fired up is that Sunday's game in Miami is almost sure to be a slugfest. Neither team is disguising its intentions, and both teams want to prove they have the best defense in the state.

"They're playing very well right now, playing great defense," said Jones. "It's one of those things were we know what they're going to do and they know what we're going to do. It's not going to be us tricking them or vice versa. It's going to be a battle of wills."

Which means the Buccaneers are going to have to perform even better than they have in recent weeks, according to Jones.

"I don't think we're playing our best defense right now," he said. "What we're doing right now is basically hustling to the ball and making up for mistakes with effort. We're doing a pretty good job of that, but we've yet to bring our A game."

Don't misunderstand. Jones isn't conceding the title of best defense to the Dolphins. Some have suggested that Miami plays a more physical brand of defense than do the Bucs, but Jones won't have it.

"I'm going to have to disagree, because I don't think anybody's more physical than we are," said Jones. "We will prove it. We go out and prove it every week. A lot of people think that because we're an undersized defense that we don't bring it. Take one glance at John Lynch and you wouldn't think he can hit as hard as he does, but he puts on the pads and goes out there and kills people. It's one of those things where we're just going to have to go out there and show them what we're capable of."

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