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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs have NFL's best run defense, worst pass defense

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Published:   |   Updated: March 14, 2013 at 12:17 AM
TAMPA -

Even Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano admits the NFL's defensive statistics are particularly intriguing this week.

"It is odd,'' Schiano said.

Tampa Bay ranks No. 1 against the run and last against the pass.

"We should be better in our pass defense, and we will," Schiano said. "We're working our tails off. The flip side of that is I'm not apologizing for being No. 1 in rush defense, either. Our No. 1 goal in the room is to stop the run.

"I would be naïve to say it's any one thing. It's all of us. We've got to coach better, call better, play better and we'll get it going in the right direction. We have to.''

The Bucs enter Sunday's home matchup against San Diego yielding 321 yards per game through the air. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is a savvy veteran who shredded the Bucs for four touchdown passes in the last meeting, a 41-24 victory in 2008 that was part of Tampa Bay's late-season collapse.

"Rivers is definitely one of the top quarterbacks in the league,'' Bucs safety Ahmad Black said. "It's not his first rodeo and it'll be a good challenge for us.''

Rookie cornerback Leonard Johnson, an undrafted free agent signed shortly after the 2012 draft, has emerged as a major contributor the past two weeks. Johnson posted interceptions at Minnesota and at Oakland, taking on a prominent role after being relegated to special teams for much of September.

"I'm just coming out, doing my job and having fun,'' said Johnson, a Clearwater native who played at Largo High School. "I'm very hard on myself and I've always been that way. I'm my worst critic. It's been crazy, going from where I started, the bottom of the group, and now being able to take reps with the Ones.''

A week after facing a 61-pass onslaught from Carson Palmer of the Raiders, Tampa Bay's embattled secondary is bracing for Rivers, who is 41-8 as a starter when posting a passer rating of 100.0 or better.

"We've got to go out and do our job as a group,'' cornerback E.J. Biggers said. "You don't ever want to be ranked last in anything you do. When the ball's in the air, we've got to be better.''

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