It wasn't necessarily the script he would have written for his Tampa Bay Buccaneers debut, but Albert Haynesworth offered fans a glimpse of his prodigious skills in an otherwise forgettable game.
Haynesworth started at defensive tackle Sunday against the Texans, only four days after he was claimed off waivers from New England, and finished with five tackles in a 37-9 loss that dropped the Bucs to 4-5.
"I was a little bit tired, but that was the most plays I've played all year,'' said the former Pro Bowl lineman, who also blocked an extra-point attempt 12 seconds into the game. "When I was in New England, it was hard. You play like three or four plays and then you sit for a quarter. It was hard to get into a rhythm.''
Early in the second quarter, Haynesworth was involved in two plays that showcased both his potential and his rustiness.
On first down, Haynesworth reached out with his right hand and slammed RB Arian Foster to the turf for a 1-yard gain. On the next snap, Haynesworth was flagged for a neutral zone infraction.
"It's hard to evaluate our new D-tackle,'' head coach Raheem Morris said. "He made a couple of plays. I saw that. We've got to get a chance to look at him on tape, but I know he showed up a little bit and made a couple of plays for us.''
Before Haynesworth had even lined up Sunday, ESPN broadcasters weighed in on his chances of succeeding with the Bucs.
"He has become the poster child for the guy who gets paid and then doesn't play,'' analyst Tom Jackson said on ESPN's "NFL Countdown.''
Herm Edwards, a former Bucs assistant, also has his doubts about Haynesworth.
"Hello! He doesn't like football,'' Edwards said. "That's the problem. You have to be available. He's never available, and when he is available, his motor runs on idle.''
Former Bucs RB Derrick Ward, a free-agent disappointment in 2009, enjoyed his return to Tampa and even got into the scoring column with a 4-yard run late in the third quarter.
"I guess I didn't land badly at all,'' said Ward, who was signed by Houston in 2010 after the Bucs released him. "We're 7-3 going into the bye week and we've got a heck of a team. It felt kind of different coming into this stadium. I don't know what's going on with the crowds here, but there was no animosity. I got to see some of the guys and it was all good.''
Ward, 31, plays sparingly behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate, who combined for 147 yards on the ground Sunday.
"I've got my two little brothers on either side of me here, my little Thundercats,'' Ward said. "I'm just trying to teach these guys a few things. I guess I'm the old veteran now.''
Nothing is free
A week after being gouged by Saints RB Darren Sproles, the Bucs faced another highly-regarded free agent who was available this summer.
CB Johnathan Joseph, signed as an unrestricted free agent from Cincinnati, continued his stellar season with the Texans as Houston limited Tampa Bay to 231 yards.
"The Bucs actually called me early in free agency, but they were just poking around,'' said Joseph, who has three interceptions this year. "I was very open-minded about where I would go in free agency, but Tampa Bay didn't seem all that serious. I'm in a good situation here, with a bunch of good young guys, and we're doing all this without (injured WR) Andre Johnson.
"All in all, I can't complain about where I ended up.''
During their three-game losing streak, the Bucs have failed to convert with any consistency on the NFL's "money down'' early in the game.
Against Chicago, New Orleans and Houston, the Bucs are a combined 4-for-22 on third down before intermission.
"As a group, we didn't do anything today to help each other,'' said G Davin Joseph. "As an offense, we've got to keep sustaining our drives and that's been a problem recently. This is the NFL and nobody said it's going to be easy. We've got to understand that in this league, the reality is if you're not on your 'A' game, it could be a long day. Everyone needs to look at himself because we have enough talent and chemistry in this room to win football games.''
The game, blacked out locally, drew an announced paid attendance of 56,037, but Raymond James Stadium appeared half-empty at kickoff. …The Bucs have allowed touchdown catches of 78, 80 and 87 yards this season. …For the ninth time in as many games, Tampa Bay failed to score an offensive touchdown in the opening quarter. The Bucs offense also has gone 63 consecutive games without scoring more than seven points in the first quarter. …Helped by three interceptions and a fumble recovery, Houston's average start for 13 possessions was the Texans 40-yard line. …Texans LB Brian Cushing, the leading tackler on the Texans, was all over the stat sheet with eight solo stops, one sack, one tackle for loss, a quarterback hit, an interception and one pass defended. …In the previous two seasons, only the 2009 Jets made the playoffs out of the nine clubs that opened with a 4-5 record.