Saints provide new Bucs secondary with first big test

Cornerback Darrelle Revis, front, safety Dashon Goldson, left, and safety Mark Barron welcome teams to Raymond James Stadium.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis, front, safety Dashon Goldson, left, and safety Mark Barron welcome teams to Raymond James Stadium.
Published Sept. 14, 2013

TAMPA — The ominous warning looms over the southwest corner of Raymond James Stadium.

No Fly Zone.

It's not meant as a beacon to aircraft approaching Tampa International Airport. It's a marketing campaign promoting what the Bucs believe has the makings of the best secondary in the NFL.

The dominant image of the oversized mural is three-time All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, his arms extended from his side as if signalling an incomplete pass. There are smaller images of safety Mark Barron extending to intercept a pass and All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson braced to make a tackle.

It's a bold campaign — considering the Bucs had the league's worst pass defense last season — and is, perhaps, intended as a warning to opposing receivers who might be accustomed to friendlier skies.

If you're looking for why the Bucs committed $137.25 million ($38 million guaranteed) to Revis and Goldson, today's game against the Saints provides a clue.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees sliced and diced the Bucs for eight touchdowns, 684 yards and a 69.7 completion percentage while being sacked only once over two wins last season.

Revis says the No Fly Zone will be strictly enforced.

"You're licking your chops for this type of game," Revis said. "New Orleans, they have a great passing attack. We know what we're going to face, and we just (have) to cover those guys, play tight coverage and make it difficult for Drew."

Revis, coming off last season's torn left ACL, did not play in the preseason. And he admitted he's still working himself back into shape after participating in 54 of 73 snaps in the season-opening loss to the Jets.

"I'm still dusting off the cobwebs," he said. I've got to get back to my comfort zone. People might have said I looked fine out there; that it looked easy for me.

"I've just got to keep on improving. That's just working hard every day in practice."

However, Revis still has made an impact.

"He's just so calm," Bucs cornerback Leonard Johnson said. "You watch him work, and you can't help but raise your level."

Brees has taken notice.

"They look really good," he said. "Mark Barron, obviously, was a rookie last year, so he's one more year a veteran. I thought he was a very good player last year. But he's only going to continue to become better and better, especially, I think, with the complement of the whole group.

"Dashon Goldson is one of the best free safeties in this league. He's been a solid player for a long time. Obviously, Revis is one of the best corners in the league."

Brees, 34, has explosive weapons at his disposal, including receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jimmy Graham. Revis is expected to match up with Colston. Barron likely will move closer to the line of scrimmage to shadow Graham.

"I think there are big opportunities for the secondary playing against elite quarterbacks like (Brees)," Revis said. "We know they're going to put the ball in the air."

The Bucs defense played well enough to win last week against the Jets, sacking rookie Geno Smith five times, forcing a fumble and snaring an interception.

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The rebuilt secondary, which also includes second-year pro Leonard Johnson and rookie Johnthan Banks, also left an imprint. Goldson was penalized and fined $30,000 for his hit on Jets tight end Jeff Cumberland, who received stitches under his chin. Barron drew a personal foul for a hit on receiver Jeremy Kerley, who sustained a concussion and missed Thursday's game at New England.

While the penalties extended drives and ultimately helped lead to an 18-17 loss, they did send a message.

"I don't want penalties nor do I want fines. I want us to play the games within the rules," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "I respect the game of football.

"Does it affect receivers? I think, if you're human, it does. Nobody wants to get crocked."

Facing the gunslinger

Drew Brees' games against the Bucs while with the Saints:

. Oct. 8, 2006, Saints 24, Bucs 21: 21-of-33, 171 yards, one TD, no INTs.

. Nov. 5, 2006, Saints 31, Bucs 14: 24-of-32, 314 yards, three TDs, no INTs.

. Sept. 16, 2007, Bucs 31, Saints 14: 26-of-44, 260 yards, one TD, one INT.

. Dec. 2, 2007, Bucs 27, Saints 23: 17-of-23, 179 yards, two TDs, no INTs.

. Sept 7, 2008, Saints 24, Bucs 20: 23-of-32, 343 yards, three TDs, one INT.

. Nov. 30, 2008, Bucs 23, Saints 20: 25-of-47, 296 yards, two TDs, three INTs.

. Nov. 22, 2009, Saints 38, Bucs 7: 19-of-29, 187 yards, three TDs, no INTs.

. Dec. 27, 2009: Bucs 20, Saints 17 (OT): 32-of-37, 258 yards, one TD, no INTs.

. Oct. 17, 2010, Saints 31, Bucs 7: 21-of-32, 263 yards, three TDs, one INT.

. Jan. 2, 2011, Bucs 23, Saints 13: 22-of-38, 196 yards, one TD, one INT.

. Oct. 16, 2011, Bucs 26, Saints 20: 29-of-45, 383 yards, one TD, three INTs.

. Nov. 6, 2011, Saints 27, Bucs 16: 27-of-36, 258 yards, two TDs, one INT.

. Oct. 21, 2012, Saints 35, Bucs 28: 27-of-37, 377 yards, four TDs, one INT.

. Dec. 16, 2012, Saints 41, Bucs 0: 26-of-39, 307 yards, four TDs, no INTs..