KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As coach Raheem Morris knows, sometimes you just have to let the babies grow up.
That will be the Bucs' approach again this season, especially on defense.
Sure, they might fall down, the way rookie linebacker Mason Foster pounced on a fumbled snap on his second series Friday.
They will run into things, the way rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn kept bumping Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko out of the pocket.
Of course, there are safety concerns.
Just ask the Chiefs after the Bucs' 25-0 win at Arrowhead Stadium.
Tampa Bay's young and hungry ("Youngry," as Morris puts it) defense produced two fumble recoveries and a safety (all during the first half) and flew around the field like it had been doing it for years.
It also limited the Chiefs to 137 yards and 1 of 10 third-down conversions while recording six sacks, two by end Kyle Moore.
"It's early, of course, but the early returns are good," 36-year-old cornerback Ronde Barber said. "You don't get the offseason. You've got two weeks of training camp, and you really don't know what you've got. So this was a good first opportunity to look at all of our young guys.
"All you've got is what you put on film, and we put some good stuff on film."
Start with Foster, the third-round pick from Washington who became the first rookie to start at middle linebacker for the Bucs in nearly a decade. Morris spoon-fed Foster by putting the sideline radio in the helmet of linebacker Quincy Black.
Foster responded by recovering a fumbled snap by quarterback Matt Cassel at the Kansas City 9 on the Chiefs' second series. That set up Josh Freeman's 5-yard touchdown run two plays later.
On the next defensive series, Chiefs running back Jackie Battle was hit by tackle Al Woods and coughed up the ball, which was recovered by safety Sean Jones. The turnover led to the first of two field goals by Connor Barth.
In addition to the fumble recovery, Foster leveled Palko near the Tampa Bay sideline on third and 4, 2 yards shy of a first down.
"The fumble was just seeing the ball on the ground and going to get it as fast as I can," Foster said. "The third-down play was just hustling. I came across the field and tried to make a play for the team."
The defense also changed the scoreboard. Palko was sacked by end Michael Bennett and linebacker Dekoda Watson for a safety to give the Bucs a 15-0 lead with 4:56 left in the first half.
Even more impressive, the Bucs played without defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (shoulder) and cornerback Aqib Talib (hip), who were held out for precautionary reasons. (Though Kansas City has barely worked out in pads and not scrimmaged in an attempt to avoid injuries.)
The Bucs, who were next-to-last in the NFL in sacks last season with 26, looked quick and disruptive on the line led by Clayborn, the first-round pick from Iowa.
"I'm really encouraged by up front, everybody, all the way down to Kyle Moore, who I think everybody was down on before," Barber said. "He went out and played his butt off. They've got great coaching right now, and they're freed up to get after the quarterback. That's what we need."
In fact, the defense upstaged Freeman, playing in his hometown before 350 friends and family members. He was 9-of-13 for 73 yards, though Morris wasn't totally happy.
"I don't know if he was out of rhythm. He just missed a couple throws out there I expect him to make," Morris said. "I've got high expectations for Free. I don't want him to miss anything. By Freeman's standards, he was out of rhythm. I thought he had one more touchdown left in him."
Dezmon Briscoe, a second-year pro from Kansas who played in the final game last season, led the Bucs with four catches for 60 yards, all in the first half.
With Freeman putting on a ball cap early in the second quarter, the game turned into the Josh Johnson show. In addition to completing 7 of 12 passes for 108 yards, including a touchdown to Micheal Spurlock, Johnson led the Bucs with 57 yards on five carries.