For weeks, they have heard the criticism. They have watched the film. They have dealt with the reality of not getting to the quarterback.
For weeks, defensive line leader Warren Sapp has faced one unkind statistic: one sack.
Sunday, relief came in the form of a 20-17 victory over the Lions, in which the Bucs defensive line played its best game of the season and Sapp looked like the quarterback pillager of old.
Sapp, who twice brought down Lions quarterback Charlie Batch, led a charge that recorded five sacks and several more pressures.
"We don't rush for pressures. We don't rush for hurries. We rush for sacks," Sapp said. "I've always told you, just put your numbers up.
"We did the same thing we did every week. We just did it a little better on Sunday."
"They made some things happen," coach Tony Dungy said. "You get a sack on third down in the red zone (to take away) a touchdown, and instead, they have to kick a field goal. That ends up being a big play. It was good to see."
Dungy said Sunday's effort could be a springboard.
"I think it'll relieve a lot of frustration," he said. "The thing about the NFL is in a season, sometimes it's one play; one sack that can get you going.
"You don't know what that play that ignites you is. But hopefully we got one of those today, and we will continue to build off of it."
Chasing Batch and, briefly, backup Mike McMahon around the Silverdome was a team effort, and it produced solid results.
"We were getting after it today," said Marcus Jones, the starting left defensive end who played some on the right side. "We had a heart-to-heart during the week in our meeting room, and we knew it was all about us. We knew if we stop them, it helps out the whole team. Everybody had a great rush.
"(Defensive line coach) Rod (Marinelli) told us that in order for us to play well as a team, we can't play as individuals. We have to play as a unit. We can individually play well, but do it as a team. We did that today."
Defensive end Simeon Rice, who said last week he finally felt comfortable in the Bucs' two-gap system, said the unit is starting to come together.
"I think the chemistry is hitting, and the pass rush is coming because of the chemistry," said Rice, who had one sack and several hurries. "We have been working and working and working, and at some point, it was going to break. And I think this is the point.
"I think the pressure was coming, and things were happening for us. But we were fully aware of the situation. We had to have it. We had to have this one. We couldn't go back home 3-5. It wouldn't have been pleasurable."
Tackle James Cannida got his second start of the season (for injured Anthony McFarland) and played well.
And Ellis Wyms, Chartric Darby and Steve White provided rest for the starters.
"You have to look at the stats and say, "Yeah, we came up big. This was one of our best days,' " White said. "With all due respect to Batch, he's still a mobile quarterback but not quite as mobile as some of the guys we've played this season.
"He's a bit of a pocket passer. We have said all along that once we get to the pocket passer the numbers would come up. And they did."
White said the key was not allowing Batch to get outside the pocket.
"I think we filled all the rush lanes," White said. "This time we effectively contained them. The first guy didn't always sack them. But we had everyone running to the ball, and the second, third, sometimes fourth guy got him down."
Added Rice: "We were on the right page and are moving in the right direction. Big things are yet to come."