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Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris 'having a ball' calling defense

TAMPA — Assuming he returns as Bucs coach — and there's no solid indication otherwise — Raheem Morris will still double as defensive coordinator next season.

"It is my decision," he said. "When I say I like doing it, it means I'm going to go back and look at the stats and look at the production and how helpful it really was. You want to evaluate yourself and look at these last (six) games.

"But I've got to be honest. It's a lot of fun. I'm having a ball."

The defense's improvement since Morris took over play-calling from defensive coordinator Jim Bates is startling. In the first 10 games, Tampa Bay allowed 29.4 points and 378.3 yards per game. In the past five games under Morris, the defense has allowed 17.2 points and 333.8 yards per game.

Morris says one of the biggest adjustments was returning to a one-gap system on the defensive front. But he still has the ability to mix coverages.

"It was a learning experience for me," Morris said. "Do I like calling it? There's no doubt. Do I look back and say should I have called it from the beginning? There's no doubt. Would I have been able to do as much as I do now without that learning experience? I don't know.

"It's been a lot of the same stuff we've done in the past just morphed into it. There's been some things we've been able to add we didn't have before."

The double-duty does put a little more pressure on his decisionmaking as the coach, but Morris says it isn't anything he can't handle.

"I've got to make the adjustments, come back, get on the headsets and hope I get back there for third down to figure out if I want to go for it on fourth down. … It's funny, because before this, my all-time dream was to be a defensive coordinator like Monte Kiffin … and die in my office."

Make a play: One of the Bucs' biggest disappointments has been S Sabby Piscitelli.

The third-year pro has played in 15 games this season, starting 14, and has one interception and three passes defensed. That's one more than DE Gaines Adams, who was traded to Chicago in October.

"It's tough to do. You've got to be in better position to make plays," Morris said. "You've got to do a better job of making plays. That's what we've got to find out this offseason. We've got to go back to the board with him and fix him and deal with (him)."

Last week at New Orleans, Piscitelli was so ineffective in supporting the run that the Bucs switched him with S Tanard Jackson in the second half.

Piscitelli could have been the goat when he went over the back of WR Robert Meachem after a short completion on third and 3 from the Tampa Bay 38-yard line. The missed tackle resulted in a 19-yard gain. But Saints K Garrett Hartley missed a 37-yard field goal that would've won the game in regulation.

"That was a bad decision," Morris said. "You can't do that. He was trying to knock the ball out, and he got bailed out by a bad kick."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris 'having a ball' calling defense 01/02/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 2, 2010 3:45pm]

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