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Buccaneers struggle with big plays in Dallas Cowboys' win

12:34 AM CDT on Monday, September 14, 2009

By SCOTT PURKS / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

TAMPA, Fla. – Over and over, Tampa Bay's players kept answering – often tight-lipped and disgusted – about the three long Cowboys touchdown passes that all but killed the Buccaneers in Sunday's 34-21 loss.

The plays in question: A 42-yarder to Miles Austin with 46 seconds left in the first half; a 66-yarder to Roy Williams with 11:23 on the clock in the third quarter; and an 80-yard toss to Patrick Crayton with 12:43 remaining in the game, which also was Tony Romo's longest career completion.

On each occasion, Bucs players, particularly third-year strong safety Sabby Piscitelli, seemed in no man's land, giving hapless chase to streaking Cowboys.

Piscitelli talked about a "lack of communication" and repeated that "we have to clean things up."

Bucs defensive coordinator Jim Bates said he wasn't sure if it was a lack of communication as much as it was players simply failing to do their jobs.

"You just can't let [receivers] get behind you in this league," Bates said. "You won't win."

Bucs veteran cornerback Ronde Barber said, "Look, we know what to do. We've been through training camp. We've been over this."

Barber added that a stronger pass rush might have helped, but still said, "We simply didn't defend the pass."

The Cowboys' 353 passing yards weren't the most the Bucs have ever given up in regulation (they gave up 379 yards in 1985 against the New York Jets), but it did rank sixth for the team, and set a single-game record for Romo.

"It was, no doubt, a breakdown on our end," Bucks linebacker Barrett Ruud said.

Ruud also noted the Bucs' defensive meltdown had to be frustrating for the offense, which rang up 450 yards, 12 behind the Cowboys' total.

"But the encouraging thing is," Ruud said, "that all of this is correctable."

Bucs head coach Raheem Morris, a former defensive backs coach, voiced concern about the lack of a pass rush, which produced only one sack (by Barber early on).

Bates said personnel changes were not in order and there isn't reason to panic.

"We have some young players who are playing together for the first time and there are going to be some growing pains," Bates said. "But we'll be all right."

THEN AND NOW
Byron Leftwich opened the season against Dallas for the second time in four seasons. He beat them in 2006 with Jacksonville but lost Sunday.
Date Site Comp-Att-Yds-Int TD Result
Sept. 10, 2006 at Jacksonville 24-34-237-1 1 W, 24-17
Sept. 13, 2009 at Tampa Bay 25-41-276-0 1 L 34-21
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