Bucs focusing on small things after third victory
Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris has a lot to savor after the Buccaneers' third straight victory of the season Monday night.
In the 24-17 win over the struggling Indianapolis Colts, the team overcame more than 100 yards in penalties, and showed the kind of late-game resolve they'll need to make a run to the playoffs.
The Buccaneers' schedule gets tough - including two games with co-NFC South leader New Orleans in the next month - and fixing lingering issues are just as much on their minds.
Offensively that means running the ball as well as they did Monday and eliminating penalties that take points off the scoreboard and could end up being costly in close games.
''Survive and advance. That's what we're after,'' Morris said. ''The thing you want to do is come out and run the football, control the game, and we did a nice job of that. ... The fact is you're 3-1. And you're very excited about it. Got a short week and we're going to San Francisco. Let's get to it.''
That same mood was prevalent in Tampa Bay's locker room.
The offensive line was pleased with the run game, underscored by LeGarrette Blount's first 100-yard effort this season.
When Blount is productive, Morris and his staff feel containing both him and quarterback Josh Freeman becomes difficult for opponents.
''I feel like I get stronger as the game goes on,'' Blount said. ''I feel like I wear a lot of teams down. As long as we're going to wear them down, as long as they're going to keep giving me the football, I think teams will get tired and get tired of tackling a 255-pound running back.''
Left tackle Donald Penn said Blount's steady improvement this season (he had just 15 yards rushing in the Bucs' season-opening loss to Detroit) is no coincidence.
He also said the offensive line recognizes what they have to do to help him be successful.
''We can run the ball,'' Penn said. ''It opens up so much for the offense. LeGarrette can do it. I wish you could see LeGarrette behind the scenes. He's working so hard to become a complete player. He's doing that and I'm so proud of him.
''It's only Week 4. We've got a long way to go. We're not going to sit on this.''
The Bucs know they can't keep counting on the offense to help the team overcome early deficits.
Tampa fell behind 10-0 on Monday night and the 14 penalties for 106 yards also slowed the team down.
Morris said he isn't as concerned as much about penalties as the situations that some of the mistakes came in.
Most notably against the Colts was one for too many players on the field that nullified a field goal at the end of the half.
''We talked about situational football, that's kind of the most important thing for us, and for us to make that mistake at that time, I didn't like,'' he said.
The Bucs' defense also showed improvement after allowing some big plays to the Colts. They had four sacks, two by defensive lineman Michael Bennett, to help take quarterback Curtis Painter out of an early groove.
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn also had one and is tied with teammate Mason Foster for third among rookies with two sacks this season.
''Absolutely, they stepped up,'' cornerback Ronde Barber said of the defensive line.
''Whenever they went into a five-step drop, it was a rush to the quarterback. These guys have talent. They're being coached as well as I've seen around here. They should be doing what they're doing.''
Penn said the goal now is to sustain that type of effort. He said they aren't shunning the spotlight that's now on them.
''They got a look at us on the world stage,'' Penn said.
''We've got a lot of work to do. There are still naysayers. Lot of people doubt Raheem. He's our leader. For him to keep all these young guys in check, that's a great job. He's a guy who motivates you when you're down. He's going to put some words in your ear that will make you do it.''