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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' defense keeps pressure on Cowboys

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 02:08 PM

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ARLINGTON, Texas -

Based on Sunday's performance, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy may have a promising future in the coaching profession.

After the Bucs yielded 510 passing yards against the Giants, McCoy led a small group of defensive players into a summit meeting with head coach Greg Schiano.

"The defensive leaders, me being one of them, went up to the coach and said, 'Give us an opportunity to go straight more instead of going sideways on all these stunts,' '' McCoy said after Tampa Bay's defensive line shined in a 16-10 loss to the Cowboys. "I said, 'If it don't work, then we'll go back to whatever … just give us an opportunity.'

"We did, and we took advantage.''

McCoy and defensive end Michael Bennett posted two sacks apiece and Tampa Bay pressured quarterback Tony Romo into three turnovers in a dynamic effort that left the Bucs offense in an apologetic mood.

"Our defense played its tails off today and gave us numerous opportunities that we didn't capitalize on,'' right tackle Demar Dotson said. "As an offense, we can't play like that.''

The Cowboys averaged only 1.7 yards per carry and, without a credible ground game, Romo was often under siege as Bennett and McCoy took turns collapsing the pocket.

"He (Romo) did get hit too much in this game,'' Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. "That's their style of defense – they're going to come after you.''

A week after surrendering a franchise-record 604 yards to the Giants, the Bucs defense kept the game close, registering 11 tackles for loss, forcing two Romo fumbles and intercepting him for the first time in four matchups.

"I thought we had our best pressure of the season,'' Schiano said. "We need to continue doing that. If we do, we will continue to play good pass defense.''

Bennett and McCoy each finished with four stops, two sacks, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble as they exploited a shaky offensive line that contributed heavily to 13 penalties against the Cowboys for 105 yards.

"I feel like we are making strides,'' Bennett said. "On any week, I feel like we have the best defense in the NFL, and I am never going to shy away from that. I believe in these guys.''

Replay officials ruled in favor of the Bucs twice on third-quarter sacks against Romo, overturning calls by replacement officials on the field to give Tampa Bay possession on fumble recoveries.

On the second overturn, Bennett forced a fumble that was grabbed by cornerback Eric Wright at the Cowboys 31 with a clear path to the end zone, but the play was whistled dead. On the ensuing possession, Tampa Bay could not grind out a first down.

"We went backwards with penalties and mistakes and good teams don't do that,'' Bucs center Jeremy Zuttah said. "Give our defense credit, they were exceptional today.''

Although the Cowboys averaged only 4.5 yards in 66 snaps, the Bucs fell to 1-2 heading into Sunday's home matchup against Washington and exciting rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.

"A loss is a loss and the Bucs lost today,'' said cornerback Aqib Talib, who intercepted Romo in the opening minute and added seven tackles. "We needed to make a couple more plays, but we've still got a chance to end up 14-2. That would be a great record, 14-2.''


ikaufman@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7833 Twitter: IKaufmanTrib

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