Fill-In Defense Up To The Task
Every element was in place for Tampa Bay's secondary to make Dallas quarterback Quincy Carter look like a reincarnation of Roger Staubach. Tim Wansley was making his first career start in place of the injured Brian Kelly. Jermaine Phillips started at free safety as Dwight Smith slid over to take injured Pro Bowler John Lynch's strong safety spot. Corner Ronde Barber missed practice this week with a right hamstring injury. But before Tampa Bay could say patch job, the Bucs suddenly looked like that dominating defense from last season. ``There's nothing patchwork about them,'' Barber said of Tampa Bay's reserves. ``They've just got great players in front of them. They got their opportunity today and they shined.''

Tampa Bay kept Carter under wraps, limiting him to 15 of 25 passing for 140 yards and two interceptions in the Bucs' 16-0 victory. Phillips and Barber had the interceptions, while Tampa Bay had six pass deflections and the front four recorded four sacks. ``The thing about us, when you become a Super Bowl champ and people begin looking at you as the No. 1 defense, you feel like you got it. When you feel like you got it, the game of football has a great way of humbling you,'' Smith said. ``We had our humbling. Now we're ready to get back to what made us become the top defense in the league. Running after the ball. Playing with fun. Maybe you need those young guys out there to bring that fun and excitement back to the game.''

The Bucs took the excitement away from the Cowboys' talented receiving trio of Joey Galloway, Antonio Bryant and Terry Glenn. Glenn finished with three receptions for 26 yards, while Galloway had two catches for 26 yards and Bryant none. ``They outplayed us. They schemed us real good,'' said Dallas running back Troy Hambrick, who had 11 carries for 25 yards and one catch for 11. ``[Tampa Bay] brought the safeties down at the right times and they capitalized on our mistakes and that's all we can say as a team.''

Several of Dallas' biggest mistakes involved not accounting for Barber. He stopped Hambrick on 3rd-and-1 in the first quarter, which led to kicker Billy Cundiff missing a 41-yard field goal. Barber added an interception in the third quarter. His 21-yard return set up Martin Gramatica's 26-yard field goal, giving Tampa Bay a 13-0 lead. Barber's fourth-quarter hit on Dallas running back Aveion Cason caused a fumble that Bucs linebacker Shelton Quarles recovered to solidify Tampa Bay's second shutout of the season. ``We looked pretty vulnerable at times this year, but that's not how we play,'' Barber said. ``We weren't embarrassed. It's just not what you want to put on film for the rest of the league to see. We proved we're better than that and we just have to step up and do it every week.''