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MISSED TACKLES BIG ISSUE FOR BUCS

Defensive struggles could worsen with Phillips lost to injury.

Bucs coach Raheem Morris called the 24 missed tackles during Sunday's 33-20 loss to the Bills the "worst tackling performance of this whole new regime."

Now the Bucs' beleaguered defense will be missing one of its best tacklers. Safety Jermaine Phillips broke his left thumb in the second half against the Bills and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.

It's another blow for the NFL's 31st-ranked defense, which has allowed 33.5 points and 450 yards per game.

"Missed tackles are definitely the frustration issue, more than just getting beat physically," Morris said Monday. "A missed tackle is a technique, it's a want-to, it's a will. It's the stuff that has nothing to do with talent.

"It's the hustle, it's the hit, the capoff. You've got to have all of that stuff going. And (Sunday), we had a bunch of missed tackles. We looked at the tape, and it's going to be clear enough for those guys today when they watch it."

What the Bucs players watched was Bills running back Freddie Jackson rush 28 times for 163 yards. Tampa Bay's defense is allowing a league-worst 7.5 yards per play.

The Bucs secondary also yielded two more long touchdown passes - a 32-yarder to Lee Evans (over Ronde Barber) and a 43-yarder to Terrell Owens (over Aqib Talib).

Morris was particularly critical of defensive end Gaines Adams, who had three tackles Sunday but has no sacks in two games.

"He hasn't (played well). And I think Gaines knows that," Morris said. "Gaines is one of those guys who knows that he's judged on whether he touches the quarterback or not. Right now, he's not getting the production - the tackles, the sacks - he's not getting none of that. He's holding himself accountable. We have to hold him accountable and it's tough right now. He is not getting done. There's no excuses, there's no explanations.

"Last year, when he started off the season, the whole thing was he played hard. He played harder than everybody he played against. Right now, I just don't see that fire. ... If we don't get that back, it's going to be a long season for Gaines and us."

Morris continued to support the new defensive system under Jim Bates. But he indicated the plan against the Bills was to try to stop the run with the front safety while playing two deep safeties to contain Evans and Owens.

Morris took the blame for leaving Barber and Talib in man coverage on Buffalo's touchdowns.

"We gave up the two big plays, one on Ronde - I'll take that one," Morris said. "We were taking an opportunity down there. And that last one to Aqib, when he's right there, we probably wouldn't have called that one if we had (converted) the fourth and 1. When you don't get the fourth and 1 on offense with about eight minutes left, you've got to take a shot there. You can't play scared. What difference does it make if you lose by three or 10 at that point? You're trying to win the football game.

"It's a brand new defense. But forget the scheme and all that stuff. It wasn't about that. We played Tampa 2 a bunch. We played a bunch of quarters. The plan was to get that running back to beat us. They outplayed us up front."

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