TAMPA — While statistics don't tell the whole tale, the Bucs' defensive numbers against the run tell an ugly story.
Tampa Bay allows 167.3 rushing yards per game (third worst in the league) and 4.9 yards per carry (tied for second worst). After Sunday's game, in which the Dolphins rushed for 199 yards — including a 45-yarder by RB Ronnie Brown that was the longest against the Bucs this season — coach Raheem Morris was grilled, leading to what seemed like a surprising admission.
"We're just not made right now to knock people back," Morris said. "That's not how we're cut. We don't have big, intimidating linebackers or big, intimidating linemen. We have to hit you. We have to be perfect."
At the very least, that's a suggestion the Bucs aren't built to play the aggressive two-gap style of defense they employ, one that requires defenders to make physical plays at the point of attack.
"We don't have the big people, the big personnel that you need to knock out runs, the physical person up front that absolutely dominates the block and gets the tackle for loss," Morris said. " … We'll get there, or we'll find those guys. But we have to play with the guys that we have."
When pressed as to why the Bucs didn't do a better job of stacking the roster with personnel that could perform such tasks, Morris said the team won't decide until the offseason who does and doesn't fit.
"We'll have to make a decision at the end of the season, but right now, they have to get better," Morris said. "We have to go out there and get better with technique. We have to go out there and see somebody make a splash play."
Familiar turf: K Connor Barth earned Morris' confidence Sunday, even after a poor week of practice, with accurate pregame warmups.
Morris watched Barth kick on the same field where he played in the preseason, when he was battling Dan Carpenter to win the Dolphins' job. Barth lost, and the Bucs picked him up Nov. 3.
"He was out there in pregame and told (special teams coach) Rich Bisaccia where he was good from," Morris said. "I kind of went against the grain one time. I kind of just wanted to ride the hot man. We kicked into the wind (on) the 54-yarder. That was kind of a decision I kind of just pulled out and said, 'Hey, make me look good.' Good job by him."
Barth kicked three field goals of 50 yards or longer, just the fourth time a kicker has done that in the league.
"I don't know if I'm going to ask him to do that every week," Morris said. "But it's sure nice to know that he can."
Bad timing: The Bucs committed nine penalties for 77 yards Sunday, many very ill-timed. The Bucs had averaged less than six penalties per game.
"It was just like, 'Can you guys make this any harder on Josh Freeman?' " Morris cracked. "Those things happen. That's what you have to clean up."
Insult to injury: LBs coach Joe Barry often gets pretty involved with his players in warmups. But what happened Sunday was unusual, even for him. Barry broke a hand before kickoff and had to be attended to by trainers. He rejoined the team in time for kickoff with a heavily bandaged left hand.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]