Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib takes on a familiar foe in Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith

TAMPA

CB Aqib Talib has played his best back-to-back games this season, first limiting Packers WR Greg Jennings to two catches for 6 yards then returning an interception for a touchdown last week against the Titans (only his second interception of the season).

The challenge gets even tougher today when Talib is locked up with the Panthers' Steve Smith, who has 59 receptions (tied for seventh in the league) for 1,060 yards (second) and five touchdowns.

Since becoming a starter in 2009 (he played mostly nickel as a rookie in 2008), Talib has gotten the best of Smith in one-on-one battles, not allowing more than three receptions in any game. Of course, some of that says more about the Panthers' quarterbacks than Talib's coverage, but it has been a premier matchup he has won.

"Steve Smith will talk to me. Aqib's not a big talker in games," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "Off the field, (Talib) is the biggest yapper there is. He's got asthma. He's too concerned with breathing in the game."

Big-play defense: Here's something else that has left the Bucs defense — particularly their secondary — breathless. Tampa Bay has given up nine passes of more than 40 yards this season — as many as it did all of last season.

For a franchise that branded the Tampa 2, a two-deep zone coverage designed to limit big passing plays — but largely abandoned — that reads like a misprint.

"You can point the finger right at me," said Morris, who doubles as defensive coordinator. "We've played a lot more man (coverage) than we've normally played. But we've had to do some different things there because of some missing people. We're always going to talk about filling in holes and doing what we need to do to win football games.

"We've been in a couple of them. We've lost a couple. But we've got to go out there and compete. We've got to try to win football games. No different than we did at the end of that Green Bay game. We didn't want to go out there and play soft. We wanted to play ferocious and play to finish."

While it's true quarterbacks such as the Saints' Drew Brees, Packers' Aaron Rodgers and Patriots' Tom Brady will carve up teams that sit in zone coverage, there's something to be said for limiting big plays.

What's more, the aggressive style has produced only 11 interceptions, nine by defensive backs.

Talib, CB Ronde Barber and S Tanard Jackson share the club lead with two.

Meanwhile, on the other side: As bad as the defense has played this season under Morris — they rank 31st overall and 30th in sacks with 17 — you get the feeling offensive coordinator Greg Olson is under more pressure for these final five games.

Tampa Bay has failed to score an offensive touchdown in the first quarter this season. And its red zone production is ranked 29th in the league with 12 touchdowns among 29 trips inside the opponents' 20. They also have 10 field goals.

That means seven times they failed to score at all.

Penalties and, lately, turnovers have been the culprit. But the slow starts have been mind-numbing.

"Last weekend, we fumbled on the second play of the game," Olson said. "We fumbled on our first two series of the second half, and you can't start halves like that. The second series, we had a decent drive down there. But we did not execute on a couple of plays there on first and second down and didn't get enough on third down and ended up settling for a field goal there.

"If there is one thing, I think you would pinpoint and work on it. We've got a number of different issues, and we've just got to clean it up overall."

Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud@tampabay.com.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib takes on a familiar foe in Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith 12/03/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 3, 2011 3:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Friday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  2. Good news for Rays on Steven Souza Jr. as MRI shows 'no damage' to hip

    Blogs

    The Rays got good news today on RF Steven Souza Jr., as an MRI showed "no damage" to his left hip.

    Steven Souza Jr. #20 of the Tampa Bay Rays holds his leg after hurting himself trying to steal second base in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on July 19, 2017 in Oakland, California.
  3. Bucs raise prices for single tickets to marquee games

    Blogs

    The Bucs will have single-game tickets for 2017 home games on sale July 28, with a new wrinkle: the best games will cost more for fans.

    Bucs fans cheer Jameis Winston after a victory in their final home game of the 2016 season. Individual tickets for the Bucs' three most coveted home games (against the Patriots, Bears and Giants) will cost more in 2017.
  4. RHP Alex Cobb feeling safer as Rays make playoff push

    The Heater

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing in the fourth inning of the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Tampa Bay Rays at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla. on Tuesday, March 21, 2017.
  5. HomeTeam 100: Players 61-70

    Footballpreps

    Jefferson wide receiver Dontavius Smith during the game between Jefferson High School and Jesuit High School at Jesuit on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, in Tampa, Fla.