TAMPA — Raheem Morris calls them mad plays, make-a-difference plays. And the lack of them by linebackers Quincy Black and Geno Hayes last week was a little infuriating to the Bucs coach.
Morris remembers when he was a defensive backs coach and cornerback Ronde Barber made the maddest plays of all.
"He caught the ball. He caused fumbles. He got sacks," Morris said. "He made 'factor' plays."
Expectations at linebacker have been very high for the Bucs, where players such as Derrick Brooks, Hardy Nickerson and Shelton Quarles set the standard.
But after last week's 27-20 loss to the Lions, Morris called out Hayes and Black, saying his "studs" on defense needed to step up.
That certainly will be the case today when the Bucs try to pump the brakes on Vikings All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson.
Middle linebacker Mason Foster got a pass from Morris after last week's game for two reasons: It was his first game, and he was on the field for only 29 plays and still managed six tackles. When the Bucs move to their nickel package for passing downs, Foster heads to the bench, Black moves to middle linebacker and Hayes remains on the field.
Hayes and Black had eight tackles, and Black also forced a fumble. That wasn't good enough for Morris.
"When we talk about those guys not playing well, that's what I'm talking about," he said. "Not the percentage grade, where it is plus-minus and you end up with 97 percent. That's awesome. That just means that your coach told you what to do the right way.
"Sometimes, you get into the game (and something) makes you blink. Sometimes, it's the opponent. Sometimes, you have a mental lapse. Whatever those things are, you have to fight your own demons and try to find a way to make those factor opportunities."
Black, 27, a fifth-year pro who re-signed for $29 million over five years during the offseason, had never played in third-down passing situations until Sunday. He used to play only in the 4-3 base defensive package. This season, he stays on the field, makes all the calls in the huddle and wears the helmet transmitter.
"I have my standards, regardless of what anyone else thinks," Black said. "I have my own standard, and it's mine. I'm not going to try to explain it to (the media) or the reason I think the way I do. It wouldn't do it justice.
"Raheem is a credible source. Good and bad, your play speaks for itself, and you are what you put on film. It's never as good or bad as you think it is, but you are what you put on film. You try not to get too up. You try not to get too down. We lost a game. That didn't stop me from coming to work on Monday."
Hayes, 24, was a 2008 sixth-round pick out of Florida State and had enormous cleats to fill when he took over for Brooks, who was released in a veteran purge when Morris and general manager Mark Dominik took over in 2009. Hayes has always made his share of factor plays, but Morris believes he could be a star in the league if he can become more consistent.
"It's good we have those expectations from people around us because inside One Buc, we already do," Hayes said. "Trust me, it's high. That's why we grade so tough on technique and things of that nature."
Morris says he deserves some criticism as well for not playing Foster more.
"The first game, it seemed like a great idea (to take him out)," Morris said. "But you go back and look at it in hindsight, you may want to play Mason a little more. Twenty-nine plays and (six) tackles. He's dynamic. I didn't know he would be this good that fast. You can smack me on the wrist and say, 'Your fault.'
"Another thing he brings is that thump. If he tackles you, you go down. We watched him do that last week. I look for him doing that again."
As for the tough love for Hayes and Black from Morris?
"I think it's the brutal honesty," the coach said. "Geno wouldn't be on the field if I didn't think he was a good football player. Quincy Black wouldn't be put in the position to be a (middle linebacker on passing downs) if I didn't think he was a great player. If I didn't think Mason Foster wasn't ready to go, I wouldn't put him out there.
"They've got to understand that first before you can talk the way we talk."