. Perhaps it says something about the Bucs defense that DT Albert Haynesworth, on the roster for all of four days, was one of the team's better defensive players Sunday. Haynesworth started at under tackle (alongside NT Brian Price) and created consistent disruption in the Texans' backfield. He finished with five tackles and a blocked extra point.
It's also telling that Haynesworth was a needed voice of reason in the Bucs' huddle. He said that, at one point in the game, he attempted to refocus his young teammates.
"(The mood) might have felt down or whatever," said Haynesworth, 30. "But this is the NFL. You play for 60 minutes, no matter what. I kind of said a little something, and from there on we went on and played. We played hard and tried to finish the game."
Haynesworth learned this is an area in which his new teammates need some work.
"I see the talent we have," he said. "But … we're a young team. Instead of letting a bad play go and wiping it out of your mind and going to play football, we let it pile on. We keep thinking about it, and the result is another bad play.
"Our head coach came in and said blame it on him, but he didn't play a snap of football. We have to take responsibility. We can't let one bad play keep us down."
Haynesworth certainly did not. He struggled from a conditioning standpoint having not played nearly as many snaps in New England, but Haynesworth was a factor throughout. Getting back to the role he played with the Titans three years ago, Haynesworth was charged with penetrating between the guard and tackle and did so consistently. He said his recall from the Titans defense helped him compensate for his lack of knowledge of the Tampa Bay scheme.
"I still believe in myself that I can play football," Haynesworth said. "Regardless of 4-3 or 3-4 (scheme), I think it's the same because it's football. But I think this team here fits me a little more."
Picking off Freeman
. Much has been said about QB Josh Freeman not taking care of the ball as well this season, and interceptions bit the Bucs' franchise quarterback once again Sunday. Freeman, who has 13 interceptions after tossing just six last year, threw three against the Texans' top-ranked defense. One interception bounced off the hands of WR Arrelious Benn, and another one was jarred loose from TE Kellen Winslow. But turnovers continue to be a thorn in Freeman's side. The Texans, who played a lot of man coverage, attributed some of the picks to pressure (sacking Freeman four times). "They came as advertised — a really good defense," Freeman said. "They generated some pass rush and really didn't allow us to get into any offensive rhythm." On Freeman's first interception, he appeared to complete a pass at the right hash to Winslow, but CB Johnathan Joseph knocked the ball loose with a big hit, and it deflected right to LB Brian Cushing. Joseph said they were in soft zone coverage, and he was able to step in. "It came right to me," Cushing said. "Kind of the right place, right time kind of thing."
The Bucs knew they had their hands full trying to slow Texans RBs Arian Foster and Ben Tate. But an unexpected third option came from a familiar face, former Bucs RB Derrick Ward. With the warmer weather in Tampa, and the Texans having built a big second-half lead, coach Gary Kubiak had Ward spell his two stars. Ward racked up 36 yards on 11 carries, including a 4-yard touchdown run in the third. • "We went with the three-headed monster," Ward said. "It felt good to get back out there and score a touchdown against a former team, that's always a plus." • Ward was a large disappointment in Tampa Bay, where he signed a four-year, $17 million free agent deal but was released after one season (409 yards in 2009). Ward said he had no extra motivation or emotion facing the Bucs. • "It's the NFL, you can't really think of it as a motivational thing when you're out there," he said. "I just did my job, was lucky enough to score a touchdown and help my team win." • Ward then smiled, and acknowledged, "But it felt good."
. With the Bucs trailing 6-0 and the Texans driving, the Bucs appeared to have come up with just the right solution. CB Aqib Talib picked off Matt Schaub at the 3-yard line, seemingly preventing the Texans from scoring.
But Houston coach Gary Kubiak challenged the call, arguing that Talib did not have possession of the ball, which was ripped out by WR Derrick Mason but recovered by Talib.
The replay official ruled that Talib did not have control before losing the ball, making the play an incomplete pass. The Texans, facing a fourth down, kicked a field goal on the next play for a 9-0 lead with 4:29 left in the first quarter.
But replays suggested that Talib made a football maneuver after the catch, which is usually the threshold for a catch.
Former NFL head referee Mike Pereira, now a member of the Fox broadcasting crew, disagreed.
During the broadcast he said, "Talib didn't possess the ball long enough to perform an act common to the game. … The ball came out right after his feet hit the ground. (He) didn't maintain control long enough."
. Near the end of the first half, Connor Barth made a career-long 55-yard field goal into the wind, cutting the Texans' lead to 16-3. Barth's previous best was a 54-yarder in 2009 against the Dolphins, and he's now 5-for-9 from 50-plus yards. But the big kick was little solace in the big loss.
"I was just trying to get points on the board when we can," Barth said. "And, like I said, we just did not come out with a win today. I don't really have much to (add) to that."
The kick tied for the third longest in team history, and the longest since Matt Bryant's franchise-best 62-yard field goal on Oct. 22, 2006, against Philadelphia. Michael Husted kicked a 57-yarder against the L.A. Raiders in 1993.
The Bucs defense had one of its worst games of the season, and no two plays were more representative of the unit's performance than the Texans' 80- and 78-yard touchdowns. Both plays were marked by equally poor execution and tackling from the Bucs. The first, an 80-yard bomb from QB Matt Schaub to WR Jacoby Jones, came on the game's first play from scrimmage. The Texans went with a hard play-action, with Schaub running a bootleg to his right. With the entire defense biting on the run fake, Jones was left wide open and safeties Tanard Jackson and Sean Jones out of position. • The two nearly collided when attempting to recover. Jackson overran the receiver, and Sean Jones made a poor effort to bring him down from behind. Once Jacoby Jones turned inside, it was over. • "They got us," Jackson said. "Give credit to them. … We were definitely in position (for the tackle). I have to make that play. I'm the last line of defense. I have to keep that play to a minimum." • Sean Jones, along with CB Aqib Talib, was a culprit on RB Arian Foster's 78-yard play in the second quarter. With his receivers covered downfield, Schaub dumped the ball to Foster in the left flat, a play Foster labeled "routine." • He weaved through a gap, got to the sideline and made Talib miss in the open field. Jones took a poor angle a few yards later and no one else came close. • "I'd say nine times out of 10, I'd make that tackle," Jones said. "But we have to have everybody (getting) to the ball. We can't have one missed tackle and have it become a touchdown. We're all angry right now."
Texans not impressed
. The Bucs were a young team on the rise last season — finishing 10-6 and nearly making the playoffs — while the Texans fell to a disappointing 6-10 with one of the league's worst defenses. It would seem as though after Tampa Bay's 37-9 loss to Houston on Sunday the roles have been reversed.
The Texans (7-3) said they could sense frustration from the Bucs, knowing that Tampa Bay had some discipline issues with penalties that Houston could take advantage of.
"Yeah, they were a 10-win team last year, and you can see they have a lot of young guys," Texans CB Johnathan Joseph said. "And sometimes when you have a lot of young guys, things can go either way. For them, they're struggling a bit right now."
Houston RB Arian Foster believed the Bucs continued to play hard, giving more credit to his team's top-ranked "dominating defense" for the win. But LB Brooks Reed acknowledged he could sense something different in the Bucs' body language.
"We knew they had some issues with penalties that can change the tide of the game," Reed said. "You could tell, even in the beginning of the second half, they were getting frustrated." RB Derrick Ward thought the Texans might have worn down Tampa Bay with their running game. "You could see them, they were making mistakes," Ward said. "They were doing some things that weren't disciplined and sound."
. Considering Sunday was the Bucs' first home game in nearly a month, there was some pregame excitement. But Tampa Bay didn't provide much to cheer about, and fans were quick to boo — even in the first half. G Davin Joseph understood where the crowd was coming from.
"I can't get mad at them," Joseph said. "It's frustrating to watch us, such a talented team, go out and just not put things together to help ourselves. So (booing) is going to happen. But hopefully we'll give them something to cheer about."
Bucs plagued by penalties again
. The Bucs were flagged six times, an improvement from some of their recent performances in that regard. But, once again, most of the penalties were for the sorts of violations that coach Raheem Morris has called "avoidable." And, again, most came at inopportune moments. DE Adrian Clayborn, right, had two offside penalties — on the same series. One was declined , but the second came on third and goal from the Bucs 9. DT Albert Haynesworth was called for offside in the second quarter, while G Jeremy Zuttah was flagged for a false start and for holding on consecutive plays. Even G Davin Joseph, rarely called for penalties, was called for holding. "Something that's really hurting us right now is the penalties," Joseph said. "We can't keep hurting ourselves with those. We're not going to get every single call, but our job is to go out and play solid football."