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Bucs Smith 'disappointed,' in defensive collapse

Lovie Smith hoped to put the D back into the Bucs' DNA by restoring the Tampa 2 and adding a few free agents to some pretty good pieces to the puzzle.

But after watching his team blow an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter to the Saints and be steamrolled in overtime of what became a 37-31 loss Sunday, he had to admit there's plenty of bad defense being played by the Bucs these days.

The Saints last five possessions Sunday resulted in a touchdown, touchdown, field goal, interception and game-winning touchdown.

"Well, disappointed, that's what's going on with it,'' Smith said of the Bucs' defense Monday. "We had some players out and missed some of those guys. But we have an 11-point lead and we lose it. On the road, at home, it really doesn't matter. You have an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter and you lose it. It's not a good thing, period. I think to a man we all realize that and we'll keep working to get it corrected.''

In two division games on the road, the Bucs have allowed 56 and 37 points. The result is a defense that ranks 30th in the NFL in total yards per game 30th (412.4). Only Jacksonville has surrendered more points than the 31.2 average per game hung on Tampa Bay.

While the Bucs' rejuvenated offense was piling up points behind quarterback Mike Glennon ("odds are Mike will start for us this week,' Smith said), the defense was coughing up an unacceptable number of yards (511) and third down conversions (6-of-13).

Among the reasons the Bucs defense is in the dumper?

--Too many missed tackles. The Saints made a living on screens, passes in the flat and toss sweeps because the Bucs took some matador approaches to bringing down ball carriers. The Saints ran the football with Khiry Robinson final four plays of overtime for 31 yards, including an 18-yard TD run to end the game.

"We didn't tackle well,'' Smith said. "We had some guys there. For the most part, right up until the last drive, we had opportunities to make tackles. That's why I was disappointed. We've had too many missed tackles.

--Penalties killed the Bucs, especially on third down. Smith disagreed with some of the flags, but he couldn't excuse 15 penalties for 113 yards. None were worse than the illegal use of hands penalty on cornerback Johnthan Banks after the Bucs appeared to have forced a punt in overtime.

"It's just something that hasn't been a big part of who we are, but it's become a trend and we need to stop it,'' Smith said. "I think we had 10 in the second half, critical penalties that kept drives going for them and stopped drives for us.''

--No consistent pass rush. Despite intercepting quarterback Drew Brees three times Sunday, with linebacker Danny Lansanah returning one for a touchdown, the Bucs failed to record a single sack in 57 pass attempts.

"I've talked to our team about turnover ratio forever and you normally win. I think we were plus two and we lost,'' Smith said. "Then you look a little bit deeper. Third down. I go back to the penalties on third down. There's critical situations where we're getting off the football field. You still have to win the turnover ratio along with some other smart play.''

Despite the mistakes, Smith made sure to single out the positives from the Bucs loss to the Saints, saying overall the team has improved.

"We're disappointed we had an 11-point lead, but you had to be a pretty good team to get an 11-point lead on the road like that, which we are,'' he said.
Smith took positives from the game, specifically mentioning players such as Vincent Jackson, who led the team with 8 catches for 144 yards; place-kicker Patrick Murray, who made a 55-yard field goal; Louis Murphy, who had a 20-yard TD catch; and Lansanah, who took another pick to the house.

His most effusive praise was reserved for Glennon. "I've been excited about everything he has done,'' Smith said.

"As a football team, we're getting better if that makes sense. It seems like each week we go out and we're putting out a better product on the football field. We're disappointed we (lost) an 11-point lead, but you have to be a pretty good team to get an 11-point lead on the road like that, which we are.''