TAMPA — They are the league's best pickpockets, the men of steal, the defense producing the most interceptions and most takeaways in the NFL.
So if you are looking behind the refrigerator for a way to explain why the Bucs have suddenly won four of their past five, start there.
They have Lavonte David, whom many consider the best linebacker on the planet and who stayed tighter to the football than white laces in Sunday's 27-6 win over the Bills before an announced 59,194 at Raymond James Stadium.
David had two of the Bucs' four interceptions and one of their seven sacks of rookie EJ Manuel while writing his name in the record book in only his second pro season.
Tampa Bay finished with five takeaways, including Dashon Goldson's second-quarter recovery of a muffed punt by Leodis McKelvin, marking the fourth straight game the Bucs have recorded at least two and giving it 29 overall. Cornerback Johnthan Banks and linebacker Mason Foster also had interceptions, giving the Bucs 21 overall.
"I don't think I've been in a defensive game like this where we made five turnovers and seven sacks," cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "Guys were playing lights-out and their hearts out. I think it was because everybody was upset about the Carolina (loss last week)."
David became only the fourth player in NFL history at any position with at least six sacks and five interceptions in a season and the first since Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs in 2004.
"I think he's the best linebacker in the league," said Revis, widely considered the best cornerback in the league. "There are some guys — no disrespect to (49ers linebacker) Patrick Willis and a number of guys that have been playing for a long time — but he's on my team.
"And when you pop on the film and watch our defense, Lavonte David is everywhere on the field. From sideline to sideline in the run defense, he's there. In the pass defense, he's there. Is he leading us in interceptions? Maybe we might move him to safety or something."
It was a good thing for the Bucs that their defense came to play four quarters because the offense did its usual disappearing act in the second half, limited to a field goal and dropping its season average in the second half from 5.6 points to 5.4.
As it turned out, the Bucs got all of the points they needed two plays into the game when Bobby Rainey took a handoff on a misdirection play, made linebacker Kiko Alonso miss and raced 80 yards for a touchdown — the longest run from scrimmage in team history. Rainey had only 47 yards over his other 21 carries.
"We knew they were going to play a lot of press coverage," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "Sometimes, if you can make that safety miss and get it to the second level, now it's a footrace. I didn't know if he was going to outrun everybody. I hadn't seen him in that position."
Meanwhile, rookie quarterback Mike Glennon struggled to complete 9 of 25 passes for 90 yards and two interceptions. Seventy of those yards went to Vincent Jackson on one first-quarter drive, including a 38-yard touchdown. It was one of Glennon's two touchdowns (the other to tight end Tim Wright 15 seconds before halftime).
But with the way the Bucs defense was playing, the 24-6 halftime lead was etched in concrete.
Manuel, who went 18-of-33 for 184 yards and a career-high four picks, played like he was stuck in the middle of a Call of Duty video game. Chaos swirled around him as the Bucs pressured the former Florida State star on nearly every play. Tampa Bay's seven sacks were as many as its past five games combined (though three off the team record set Sept. 9, 1979, against the Colts).
"I was sitting on the bench and thinking, 'This is what Sapp and Brooks and Lynch and Ronde and Quarles and those guys did,' " said Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who recorded his team-leading seventh sack. "This type of performance was what they did every week. It might not have been seven sacks, but it was five. It may not have been four interceptions, but it was two or three. It was something. We just have to keep it going."
Even Revis, blitzing from his position in the slot, sacked Manuel. He also was responsible for David's second interception, flattening receiver Robert Woods just as the ball arrived. Naturally, the omnipresent David was there to collect the football.
David was unaware he carved out a place in history with his sixth sack and team-leading fifth pick.
"I'm not aware until you mentioned it to me," he said. "It's great. I can't lie. It's humbling. All it does is inspire me to do more."
As if that were possible.
Rick Stroud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620.