Smith's preaching about takeaways pays off
The Sports Xchange
NFL Team Report - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - INSIDE SLANT
Buffalo Bills Saturday typified what head coach Lovie Smith has been preaching since being hired in January.
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn sacked Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel, defensive end Michael Johnson stripped him of the football and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald scooped it up and ran 17 yards with the fumble return for a touchdown.
Three of the four starting defensive linemen were involved in the takeaway and touchdown. The other - defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, created the one-on-one opportunity for Clayborn by drawing the double-team.
"Adrian Clayborn starts the tackle," Smith said. "Michael Johnson comes back in. Michael could've been satisfied with it, but what did he do? It wasn't a turnover, it was a takeaway because Michael yanked the ball out. And then from there, the ball is on the ground. You see us in practice? When the ball is on the ground, we want to pick it up and score. And that was exactly what Clinton McDonald did. He picked it up right away. Now every exchange of the ball, you can't block below the waist. Guys did what they were supposed to do. Touchdown. It changed the outcome of the game.
"We want that to be in our DNA. We want players to think that always."
Prior to Saturday, the Bucs defense had produced only one turnover in the first two preseason games. But against the Bills, they forced three turnovers in the first half in which they allowed 82 total yards.
Safety Dashon Goldson got it started by intercepting Manuel. Then linebacker Lavonte David caused Bills running back C.J. Spiller to fumble, which was recovered by linebacker Mason Foster. That play set up Doug Martin's 1-yard touchdown run.
Finally, there was the sack/strip/score on the fumble by Manuel.
"That's exactly what it's supposed to look like," said McDonald, who was a key part of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks defensive line a year ago. "It feels good out there when everybody is balling."
It was the first defensive touchdown of the preseason for the Bucs under Smith, who has challenged his team to have no turnovers on offense and three or more takeaways on defense each game.
"The pressure is on us," quarterback Josh McCown said. "We know it's not just about taking the football away for our defense, it's about scoring. They preach that. For us, it was, 'Oh, we can't let these guys out-score us.' We were all having a laugh about that."
NFL Team Report - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Bucs released 12 players, including receivers Eric Page, Skye Dawson and Tommy Streeter.
"It's always tough when you've been with a group of men, most of them through the offseason and of course through training camp, but eventually the roster has to get down to 53 with 10 practice-squad guys," coach Lovie Smith said. "It's just kind of part of this business."
Page had both the punt and kickoff return jobs last season, which now look to be taken by undrafted rookie Solomon Patton. Streeter had a touchdown in the preseason opener but his size is something the Bucs already have at the position.
At long snapper, the Bucs will be going with unproven Andrew DePaola, who hasn't played in a regular-season NFL game, over veteran Jeremy Cain, who was cut Sunday. Cain, 34, had 83 career games, including playing under Smith in Chicago in 2004-05.