Peters says defense played like `amateurs'
Darrell Fry, The St.Petersburg Times, published 2 September 1991

Floyd Peters, the Bucs' new defensive coordinator, said his unit played like "young children" and "amateurs" in Tampa Bay's 16-13 loss against the New York Jets at Giants Stadium. However, some of the Bucs' defensive players said the Jets seemed to know their defensive strategies almost as well as they do themselves.

"They called a lot of our defenses when we came to the line of scrimmage. It was kind of frustrating to come to the line, and they knew exactly what we were in," Bucs defensive lineman Reuben Davis said. "They were basically setting us up and running away from our strengths. It happened about every play. They may not have known where we were going to stunt, but they knew what type of defense we were lined up in and the scheme of it."

And once the Jets identified the Bucs' defensive set, Davis said the Jets frequently would change their play at the line of scrimmage to one more likely to work. "They did a lot of audibilizing," Davis said.

Newly acquired defensive end Dexter Manley said the fact that Peters' attacking 4-3 defensive system has been seen around the league for years further eliminated any element of surprise the Bucs had banked on. Peters was the defensive coordinator at Minnesota from 1986-90, and for the first four of those years his secondary coach was Pete Carroll - now the Jets defensive coordinator.

Peters, of course, saw it differently. At first glance the Bucs' defensive ledger doesn't look that bad - the unit gave up just 271 total yards. But Peters said the other numbers, particularly the Jets' 53 percent third-down efficiency and zero turnovers - were not indicative of a defense ready for prime time. "It was just the age-old thing of teaching a young team how to play winning football," Peters said just before boarding the bus after the game.

"We didn't get any turnovers; we didn't make anything happen. They played like amateurs. We've got to make guys play the way they are capable of instead of playing like young children. I'll tell you they played like youngsters, that this was their first game that they ever showed up in pro ball. And that's wrong. I didn't have that many youngsters out there, although I did have a few."

Regardless of who is to blame, there was no disputing the Bucs defense, part of the youngest team in the NFL, was stung constantly by cutback runs - primarily by running back Blair Thomas (92 yards on 23 carries). It struggled to put pressure on quarterback Ken O'Brien. And in the Jets' game-winning drive, the Bucs offered little resistance to the Jets' nine-play, 48-yard march toward Pat Leahy's 40-yard clincher. "We were overpursuing a lot. I know I did at least three times," Bucs linebacker Kevin Murphy said. "We had them where we wanted them, like third-and-long, but we ended up letting them get (a sizeable gain)."

The Bucs didn't fare much better stopping the pass. O'Brien didn't set any passing records, but his modest yet efficient effort (16-of-25 for 176 yards) kept the Jets moving and the Bucs off-guard enough to help the running game work as well. The Bucs got to him just twice. Murphy dropped him for a 7-yard loss, and defensive end Keith McCants dumped him for 17 more. Davis and others hurried him on a couple of other occasions, but other than that O'Brien must have hardly known they were there.

Even the presence of Manley, known as a sack specialist, didn't add any fire to the Bucs' pass rush. In fact, Manley pressured Peters more than he did O'Brien. In anticipation of seeing his first action as a Buc, Manley hounded Peters along the sidelines like a youngster begging his father to let him go to the schoolyard and play with the other kids. He'd tug on Peters shirt sleeve as if to say "Hey, is it my time yet?" and sulk when Peters ignored him, which was usually the case. Once he even put his helmet on backward, seemingly in defiance. "I was telling him to let me play," said Manley, who finally got in with about four minutes to go in the first half. For all his eagerness, Manley was on the field for only six plays, always in passing situations and usually lining up wide on the left side.

Peters said he didn't play Manley, who came to camp Wednesday, because he was forced to put the Bucs in advanced defensive sets - ones Manley hadn't learned yet. "He'll play more next week (against Chicago)," Peters said. Speaking of next week, Manley said the Bucs defense will perform better than they did at Giants Stadium. "I promise," he said.