TAMPA — Bucs coach Jon Gruden found a lot to like in Sunday's 19-13 win over Minnesota — including two age-defying 35-year-old defenders.
LB Derrick Brooks and DE Kevin Carter earned high praise for their efforts, which included key second-half plays.
With the score tied at 13, Brooks broke up a pass to Vikings RB Adrian Peterson on fourth and 1 with 5:58 left in the third quarter, preventing a likely touchdown. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Carter raced across the field to sack QB Gus Frerotte on third and 19 from the Bucs 38, forcing a punt.
"You know, I'm going to pass out game balls … I have five tackles, two assists, a pass broken up, a key stop on fourth and 1, a tackle for a loss and 11 factor grades for Derrick Brooks. So, way to go Brooks," Gruden said. "I mean, he's something else. He's the heart and soul of our team."
A factor grade, explained Gruden, "is an in-depth look at your performance … how many plays did you disrupt and where you were a real factor on. And he was a force (Sunday)."
Carter, who also had two tackles and an assist, continued to be a major presence. "He's getting better," Gruden said. "We showed him pictures of (former Vikings great) Jim Marshall before the game. … I told him that Jim Marshall played better at 34 than he did at 24, played better at 35 than he did at 25. Kevin Carter … is playing his heart out. And I think he has a lot to do with the playmaking and energy as a whole on that defensive line. He's such a great leader. And he's really playing good, hard-nosed, physical football for us."
Different view: Vikings DE Ray Edwards could be fined for his late hit on QB Jeff Garcia, deemed a personal foul during the game. But Minnesota coach Brad Childress had a much different take.
"My general thought on that is … football is a full-speed game and it happens at full speed and you're trying to make snap judgments at full speed," he said. "I thought on that particular play, (Garcia) had come back into the pocket, and I actually felt like that was intentional grounding. If you look at exactly where it happened, it happened right dead between the hash marks and the ball was thrown out of the back of the end zone to try to avoid a sack."
Gruden didn't take a position, saying only league officials "will do what they deem is fair. I believe that's what they do a good job of in New York City."
Miscellany: RB Earnest Graham's serious ankle injury wasn't the only bad news for the Bucs. Gruden said LB Geno Hayes suffered a knee injury, putting his season in jeopardy. … The Vikings had only 20 offensive snaps in the second half, to 39 for the Bucs — with Peterson carrying only six times for 14 yards (compared with 13 for 71 in the first half). Gruden credited not just the Bucs defense but the offense: "I thought the offense did extremely well, limiting his opportunities. That's the best way to shut him down: leave him on the sideline … possessing the ball as long as they did."