ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Bucs' defense is so focused on getting takeaways and turning them into points that tackle Clinton McDonald said the key to his fumble recovery for a touchdown Saturday was … beating his teammates to the loose ball.
"I happened to beat Lavonte (David) to the ball for the first time, so I decided to go get it," McDonald said after the Bucs' 27-14 win over the Bills. "Lavonte ran up on me and said, 'Get up! Get up! Go!' So I got up and went and scored a touchdown."
Defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Michael Johnson had sacked quarterback E.J. Manuel and stripped the ball. McDonald picked it up and rumbled 17 yards for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead in the second quarter.
The 297-pound McDonald said his last touchdown came at Jacksonville High School in Arkansas, where he was a linebacker and a tight end.
"I was just a small part of what was going on out there," he said. "This is a great dress rehearsal for us all to see on defense what we're doing right, what we're doing wrong and how we can get better as a defense."
Coach Lovie Smith has preached the importance of takeaways and of scoring off turnovers, and he was pleased to see the Bucs force three turnovers in the first half, most notably on McDonald's touchdown.
"We talk about stripping the ball," Smith said. "Heads-up play for him. The ball was out, he saw it, and you can't just be satisfied with getting the takeaway. Of course you want to score. So heads-up for him to get it in the end zone."
McDonald, signed in the spring from the Super Bowl champion Seahawks to start at nose tackle, got two tackles in the Bills' first seven plays and finished with five as part of a defense that allowed 82 yards and zero points in the first half.
"It's 11 guys out there playing defense as one. That's how you get balls back, and that's how you become a dominant defense," he said.
McDonald gave some grief to rookie receiver Mike Evans, whose first touchdown came minutes after McDonald found the end zone.
"It's not just taking the ball away for them. It's about scoring the football, and they preach that," quarterback Josh McCown said. "For (the offense), it was like, 'Man, we can't let these guys outscore us.' … But that's … a good problem to have, to feel where you need to match your defense. Hats off to those guys."