Saints aim to jump-start offense against Brooks-led Bucs defense Print
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Thursday, 13 September 2007 12:32
NFL Headline News

 TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -Derrick Brooks detests the questions.
With the New Orleans Saints and their potent offense coming to town, the leader of the Tampa Bay defense would much rather talk about what the Buccaneers have to do to contain Drew Brees, Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush than respond to critics of his play.
The 10-time Pro Bowl linebacker made a couple of crucial errors during the Bucs' season-opening loss to the Seattle Seahawks, once again fueling suspicions that - at 34 years old - he's lost a step.
Brooks scoffs at the notion he's approaching the twilight of his career. The next opportunity to state his argument on the field is Sunday against the Saints, who also are answering a lot of questions after sputtering through a lopsided loss to Super Bowl champion Indianapolis.
``For every bad thing that people say, I can turn around and give them two or three good (plays) that I had,'' Brooks said, reflecting on his performance during the Bucs' 20-6 loss to the Seahawks. ``But that's not going to get us anywhere. That's not going to get us a win.''
The Saints, coming off a dramatic turnaround that saw them go from 3-13 two years ago to a division title and NFC championship game appearance last season, fizzled during a 41-10 loss to the Colts.
Brees struggled, throwing two interceptions and failing to produce any second-half points. McAllister and Bush were shut down, too, finishing with a combined 76 yards rushing on 22 carries and catching six passes for another 14 yards.
The disappointment of playing poorly was bad enough. But New Orleans and Indianapolis opened the season three days before the rest of the NFL, so the Saints had a lot more time than usual to lament on failing to play up to expectations.
``I think we all walk away from that game asking what happened. It just didn't seem like we showed up,'' Brees said. ``We were so prepared. I was more prepared for that game than any one in my life. Things just didn't go our way. I think you have to understand at times that's going to happen. It shows the strength and character of the team to see how we're going to respond.''
Just as Brooks is confident he and the Bucs will rebound, the Saints expect to play much better this week.
``We're such a better team than we showed. ... We want to redeem ourselves,'' said Brees, who led two victories over Tampa Bay a year ago. ``It's not a must-win situation, but it is an important game.''
New Orleans coach Sean Payton, insisting the Saints (0-1) will be fine if they can clean up the mistakes that held them back against the Colts, agreed.
``The best thing about the schedule in this league is that you get a chance to play again a week later,'' Payton said. ``We talk about that, we harp on it following a win and the same thing applies following a loss: make the corrections and get on to the next opponent.''
The Bucs led their opener 6-0 before the game gradually slipped away. Brooks missed an open-field tackle on Shaun Alexander that the 13th-year pro normally makes, then was beaten in pass coverage on Seattle's clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden came to his star's defense.
``He had some good plays, too,'' Gruden said. ``You get opened up sometimes, you're going to sometimes be vulnerable to a great player in space. Derrick Brooks is, again, the least of my concerns.''
It's not the first time skeptics have questioned whether Brooks' most productive days are behind him.
The Bucs had one of the NFL's best defenses for 10 consecutive seasons before tumbling to the middle of the pack in 2006. A year after allowing the fewest yards in the league, the unit finished 17th in total defense, and Tampa Bay went from NFC South champions to 4-12.
In two games against Tampa Bay last season, Brees threw for 485 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. The Bucs threw 65 passes without being sacked.
``He's an outstanding quarterback. He's proven that. He's got a really good supporting cast,'' Gruden said. ``Just a simple check-down can become a 25-yard gain with these guys. They are very explosive, and Drew knows a lot about what to do with the ball. ... We've got to get to him. We've got to disrupt his timing, and we've got to make some plays against the pass, that's for sure.''
Although Brooks is convinced Tampa Bay's defense is capable of reverting to its old form and that he can continue to perform at a high level, he shrugged off a question about how much longer he thinks he can play.
``You want to leave on your terms if there's an ending to be wrote. I'm quite sure everyone has one, but I've not thought of one. I really just want to continue playing because I feel I'm playing at a Pro Bowl or All-Pro level,'' he said.
``Now if that level slips, and the people I trust to evaluate my game every year start telling me that, then it's time to not start writing that chapter but it's time to anticipate. At this point in my career, there's no need for that.''
 

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