Tampa Bay Defense Smothers Upstart Cowboys
Big D took on a sinister meaning for Bill Parcells and his thoroughly beaten Cowboys on Sunday. Tampa Bay's defense, rated 11th in the league, upstaged Parcells' aggressive upstarts by limiting Dallas to nine first downs and 178 total yards. And as the final minutes ticked down in a methodical 16-0 victory, Bucs safety Dwight Smith turned to teammate Ronde Barber on the bench and noted that Parcells wasn't bothering to use his remaining timeouts. ``They're laying it down,'' Smith said with a sneer.
C'mon, Dwight. Can't keep the bus driver waiting. Even a pregame handshake from Parcells groupie Keyshawn Johnson couldn't bring the new Dallas coach any good fortune at Raymond James Stadium. The Big Tuna couldn't wait to head to the airport after the league's No. 4 offense was grounded. ``When the second quarter started, the Bucs raised their intensity level - and we didn't match them,'' Dallas owner Jerry Jones said. ``You can't play a team like that and lose the turnover battle like we did.''
The Bucs registered three takeaways while a Dallas defense ranked No. 1 overall failed to produce a turnover. The Cowboys (5-2) had been averaging 25 points and 359 yards per game, but they appeared spent after Billy Cundiff's errant 41-yard field goal attempt late in the opening quarter. ``This game should make all of us sick to our stomachs,'' Dallas tight end Dan Campbell said. ``They played well and we played like garbage.''
With his young team on a five-game winning streak, Parcells had warned all week that the Cowboys were about to be tested. ``We did not have a chance to win this game,'' said Parcells, who predictably received a rude greeting from Bucs fans when he was introduced. ``We cannot do what we did today and expect to beat the world champions.''
Dallas tried to establish the ground game early, but Tampa Bay's front seven shut down the running lanes. Quincy Carter, poised and confident during the winning streak, threw for only 140 yards and was picked off twice as Dallas averaged 3.5 yards per snap. ``We didn't give our defense much of a chance to regroup,'' said former Pasco High standout Troy Hambrick, who averaged 2.3 yards in his 11 carries. ``We kept going three-and-out. In a way, it will be good for us to get knocked back down like this.''
Cowboys linebacker Al Singleton, signed as a free agent after six seasons in Tam pa, found himself admiring his former colleagues from a distance. ``They played their game today,'' Singleton said. ``Playing defense like that and creating turnovers is Buc Ball. This was a tough day, but it was nice to be able to take the wraps off and hit some of these guys after practicing against them for all these years.''
The Dallas defense played well and the Bucs didn't convert a third-down situation until late in the third quarter. ``Tampa's defense prides itself on being No. 1 and we knew there would be a lot of punting in this game,'' said Cowboys linebacker Dexter Coakley. ``They only got into the end zone once, but they made some plays when they needed to and we didn't.''