TAMPA — When Ronde Barber called the coin toss correctly in overtime at Chicago two weeks ago, it might have been the quarter he has played the best in several weeks.
The four-time Pro Bowl cornerback is suffering through his worst four-game stretch since his rookie year, having been beaten for long touchdown passes in three games this season.
"It is what it is," Barber said. "I played the plays. They happened. You know, to be quite honest, it could happen any of the 60 or 70 plays you play every week. I understand it happened. It doesn't happen to me often.
"Greatness is forged in the fires of adversity. I know my teammates support me. I'll be back out of it. I'm not worried about it at all."
Considering all the enormous plays Barber has made, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
A closer inspection of those touchdowns reveals some bad luck, as well. Against the Saints, Gaines Adams jumped offside, giving quarterback Drew Brees essentially a free down to toss an 84-yard touchdown to Devery Henderson. Barber appeared to slip on the play.
At Chicago, Bears receiver Brandon Lloyd caught six passes for 124 yards, many of them on Barber, including a 19-yard touchdown he took off Barber's helmet. Finally, last week, Barber fell to the grass on the first possession trying to cover the Packers' Greg Jennings, gift-wrapping a 25-yard touchdown pass.
"When you play corner in this league, especially as long as he has, it's going to happen," defensive backs coach Raheem Morris said. "He hasn't had to deal with it. That's probably one of his worst quarters as a professional athlete, as far as what happened. Giving up two touchdowns like that, giving up a couple of big plays. But his ability to bounce back, especially in the Green Bay game, to go out there and not even think about it and not let another pass go down on him, it's always good.
"He's given up big catches before. Somebody has snatched one off the top of his head before. … For (No.) 20, there's no way one play is ever going to decide his fate in this game. It's already written. I think he thinks he's going to get two touchdowns this week."
Barber has always excelled as the slot cover, shadowing the inside receiver when teams go three or four wide. It's a position where he can blitz, bait and cover. He is the only player to record at least 20 interceptions and 20 sacks.
All the scores Barber has yielded have come from his right cornerback spot. Today, he will have his hands full with Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall and rookie Eddie Royal.
"In this league, they keep throwing at you until you stand up," Morris said.
Of course, nobody in the Bucs locker room is concerned about Barber. It's similar to when Derrick Brooks was beaten on a play in the season opener last year at Seattle — then went on to have one of his best years.
"It's one of those things. He's facing adversity," linebacker Barrett Ruud said. "And since I've been here, he really hasn't had to face it. He's been the guy making every play. In a way, maybe it's good for him. Maybe he'll buckle down even more than he does. … When you're a player of his caliber, he's going to have a couple huge games to follow this one."