TAMPA — Carlton Davis finally stopped backpedaling. There wasn’t any place to hide on the field against the Texans and nowhere to run from the questions in the locker room.
The Bucs cornerback, who gave up three touchdowns to the Houston Texans, including the game-winner with six seconds remaining, stood and faced a bank of cameras and microphones thrust in his face like bayonets Wednesday.
“The play happened, and it hurt,” Davis said of the 15-yard touchdown pass from Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud to receiver Tank Dell that sealed the Bucs’ 39-37 loss Sunday. “It’s like the worst thing that can happen to any corner, but you’ve got to move on. I can’t stay stuck in that moment. I can’t produce off that moment. I can’t allow it to affect me and affect this team even though I feel bad. Not just for me but for my team, for the fans, for the city of Tampa. ...
“I have to be better.”
It doesn’t help that the 26-year-old Davis, who is among the highest-paid defensive backs in the NFL (nearly $15 million per year), is part of a starting secondary that hasn’t had an interception this season.
The Bucs’ play Sunday even drew a strong rebuke from Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Ronde Barber, who said Davis and Co. “looked like the worst secondary in football.”
Davis didn’t disagree. The Bucs allowed Stroud to pass for 470 yards and five touchdowns, a rookie record for passing yardage in a game.
“It’s like a nightmare come true,” Davis said of Sunday’s game. “So anything concerning our performance negatively, (Barber’s) probably right. We watched the film together and we felt just so nasty. It was the worst to even watch. Like I didn’t even want to watch it. I almost wanted to close my eyes. But it’s part of life, it happened. You’ve got to own up to it and we’re not going to shy away from what happened.”
The Bucs won’t have to wait long to face another big-armed rookie quarterback. Will Levis, the second-round pick from Kentucky, has been named the Titans’ starter.
Bucs coach Todd Bowles said the Bucs had to exercise the “24-hour rule,” where they have one day to deal with the Houston loss before moving on to the Titans.
Davis, who is fast (he runs a 4.4 40-yard dash) and long (6-foot-1, 206-pounds) has thrived in press, man-to-man coverage. But the Bucs have only played it about 21% of the time this season and remained in a zone defense for the Texans’ entire game-winning drive. He said, however, that was no excuse for his poor play.
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“I don’t pride myself on only playing press. I pride myself on being an overall corner and being able to help my team win,” Davis said. “So regardless of whether I’m playing off or whether I’m playing press, I’m trying to do whatever I can to help this team get a W and that didn’t happen. I didn’t hold up my side of the bargain.”
The up-and-down world of an NFL cornerback is being displayed in real time with Davis. The same week he gave up three TDs, Bengals All-Pro receiver Ja’Marr Chase called Davis the best cornerback he has ever faced.
Davis said because this is his sixth year in the league, he knows how to bounce back.
“I’d probably talk to Lavonte David or something,” Davis said. “Probably give Ronde a call. Overall, it’s being that guy who is a veteran and knows how to bounce back. It’s something that I’ve just got to go through, have a couple conversations and just flush it out and move forward. ...
“We can’t let the fire burn us up. We’ve got to use it and channel our energy to being one of the best defenses that we can be.”
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