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  1. Bucs

Jones: Lavonte David is the best thing the Bucs have going for them

TAMPA — The Bucs won a football game Sunday. After losing five in a row, that's a pretty big deal.

And don't you dare take the air of it just because it was an ugly win against a second-rate Jets team with a third-rate Josh McCown at quarterback. Who cares? A win is a win. How they won and who they beat doesn't mean a darn thing.

But, okay, even if you're so inclined to poke holes and yawn over Tampa Bay's 15-10 victory, there is a bright spot that you can't possibly dismiss. It's the same rainbow that always seems to appear even during the Bucs' most severe storms.

Lavonte David.

You know, the best player on the team.

Is there any question that the sixth-year linebacker is the best thing the Bucs have going for them? Is there any question that he's the team's most valuable player?

"He's amazing,'' linebacker Kwon Alexander said. "Pro Bowl might not be enough. He's playing like a defensive player of the year. … I've looked up to him since I've been here. He taught me a lot. I'm just feeding off his energy right now.''

David led what was Tampa Bay's best defensive effort of the season, snuffing out a Jets offense that could only reach the end zone once and that came with 28 seconds left in the game.

"Up until then, our defense was lights out,'' Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said.

In fact, the defense played with such an attitude that a fight nearly broke out on the sidelines because it was so upset it gave up a touchdown.

The defense had six sacks, nearly matching the eight for the season it had coming into the game. They had an interception by, of course, Brent Grimes. After getting toasted pretty much all season, the defense showed some pride on Sunday. It showed fire.

And the spark came from David. It always does.

The guy is a ball magnet. If someone is carrying the football, David hones in on him and makes a tackle. He was in on a team-high eight tackles Sunday.

If someone puts the ball on the ground, David is there to pick it up. He recovered a fumble Sunday.

"We preach it in practice: get to the football,'' David said. "Everybody run to the football. Do your job. Make a tackle. Make a play. If the football is loose, be the first guy to get there.''

David usually is the first guy to get there. Sunday's fumble recovery was his fourth of the season, tops in the NFL and tied for most ever in a season by a Buccaneer. Not bad, considering all the great defensive players in Bucs history.

It also was his 10th fumble recovery since breaking into the league in 2012. Only Houston's J.J. Watt, with 11, has more in that span.

"It's always a great thing to give the ball back to the offense,'' David said.

The thing is, if you watch David play week-in and week-out, none of this is a surprise. On a team that had every reason to pack it in (long losing streak, a 2-6 record, playing a backup quarterback), David led the charge of team that shows it still has a little junk-yard dog in it.

"We showed a lot of pride,'' David said. "The main thing was we wanted to play for one another. Everybody had each other's backs today.''

"We were having fun,'' Alexander said. "Everyone did their job.''

Honestly, it was hard to predict which way this Bucs team was going to go. Yet the notion of a team lying down seemed almost absurd when you saw how hard the Bucs played Sunday. You can question their talent at the moment. But you couldn't question their want-to against the Jets.

"When it's Sunday and it's time to play, we're going to come play,'' Grimes said. "I didn't have any doubt today. Everyone is prideful. No one wants to put bad stuff on the field.''

Now, granted, we shouldn't get too carried away. The Bucs are still 3-6 and the victories have come against the Bears, Giants and Jets. If their offense plays the rest of the season like it did on Sunday, there probably won't be many more victories left.

But the defense showed some life Sunday. And the good news is they have Lavonte David. Even during a lost season, David is a winner.

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