TAMPA (FOX 13) - If you believe defense wins championships, the Buccaneers could be on their way.
It's still very early, but if the Bucs defense can be as effective during the regular season as they were Monday against the Bengals, then opposing offenses better take note.
"You put it in perspective when you consider it's still the preseason, but there were so many positives that happened at that ball game -- the takeaways, the pass rush we had, the way the guys played and played fast," said Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. "It was really encouraging and you would like to develop some consistency going forward."
The defense put pressure on the quarterback, and the front four were responsible for four sacks. Three of those came from the first team.
"These teams who have high sack numbers -- not individually, but as a team -- they usually work together well," said Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. "Guys just kind of feel each other while we are rushing. Me, knowing how I rush, I know I'm going to catch a lot of double teams. I was just telling the guys I'm not a selfish player. I'm out here to make everybody around me better. If we work together then the rush can come alive. If I take up two that frees somebody up and I don't mind doing that."
Let's not forget to mention the two interceptions, which included an Alterraun Verner pick-six.
"I mean that's our goal," said defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. "We preach on the takeaways, we preach on scoring on defense so when we get that job done, it's very pleasing to us to see that."
Already the defense has improved dramatically. Las season Tampa Bay ranked 25th in total defense, allowing an average of 369 yards per game. Just two games into the preseason, the Bucs are a top 10 team defensively, holding opposing offenses to an average of 270 yards a game.
"Hopefully when the real thing begins in September, it will continue and we can get it done in ball games too," said Frazier.
So what's changed? Simply put, McCoy says the Bucs are a year wiser.
"Just growth as a team," said McCoy. "Not just our abilities, but our knowledge of the game."
It's also knowing there's still a long ways to go before week one against the Titans. McCoy said the defense left too much on the field Monday, and head coach Lovie Smith recognizes that.
"We're going to keep preaching the same things we've been preaching before," said Smith. "There's so much to clean up, but again, we're headed in the right direction.
The Bucs all-important third preseason game is Saturday, August 29 at Raymond James Stadium. They'll host the Browns at 7:00 p.m.