The Bucs looked like they were flying to the ball more on defense Sunday than they have all year and CB Aqib Talib said that's not a coincidence. He said the decision last week by Coach Raheem Morris to take over defensive leadership from former coordinator Jim Bates paid dividends right away.
"It was different schemes and the way (Morris) presents those schemes," Talib said. "It makes you believe in both."
Even with the last-minute loss to the Falcons, Talib said there is reason to think better days are ahead.
"We definitely took a step forward," he said. "We did a pretty good job on the run, pretty good job on the pass. We just have to make that last play."
LB Barrett Ruud said it may have looked like the defense was flying to the ball more than in the past, but that was a result of the switch in schemes to a more aggressive approach.
"We've never lacked effort in any of the games," he said. "We didn't lack effort last week (against New Orleans). We just got killed."
Of the new approach, Ruud said, "I just felt a lot more involved."
The Bucs continue to do special things on special teams this year. On Sunday they recorded their fifth blocked kick of the year when Corey Lynch blocked a punt at the end of the Falcons' first series of the second half.
The block allowed the Bucs to erase a trend of slow second-half starts. After taking over at the Falcons 8-yard line, the Bucs needed just two plays to capitalize on the block and take a 17-10 lead when Josh Freeman found Cadillac Williams with an 8-yard touchdown pass.
The Bucs have blocked two punts, two extra points and one field goal.
The Bucs went into the game healthier than they've been all year. They did not come out of the game that way.
Several players left the game and did not return: WR Michael Clayton with an injured left knee on the first play of the game, CB Torrie Cox with a sore hip, P Dirk Johnson with a sore hamstring and Talib with a sore hamstring.
Clayton's injury appears to be the most serious, though details were not available.
Johnson's injury, sustained on a fake punt attempt early in the fourth quarter, is to his non-kicking left leg, but it could be a while before he's able to punt again.
With Johnson hurt, PK Connor Barth filled in for one punt in the fourth quarter. Kicking from the Bucs' end zone, Barth boomed his first NFL punt 46 yards.
Talib said he'll be good to go Sunday against Carolina.
Bucs CB Ronde Barber recorded the 25th sack of his career, joining retired S Rodney Harrison as the only NFL players to have at least 25 sacks and 30 interceptions. Barber's 25 sacks lead active defensive backs and are the most all-time for a cornerback. Barber has 37 interceptions. Harrison finished with 30.5 sacks and 34 interceptions.
TE Kellen Winslow finished with a team-high seven receptions for 81 yards and eclipsed 3,000 career receiving yards. It was the ninth time in 11 games Winslow led or tied for the team lead in receptions. Winslow has the second-most receptions (54) and is tied for the sixth-most receiving yards (564) in a single season by a tight end in Buccaneers history.