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The 2002 Bucs Defense: Necessary Roughness

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The 2002 Tampa Bay defense ranks as one of the NFL's all-time greatest, having allowed just 196 points during the regular season. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.
The 2002 Tampa Bay defense ranks as one of the NFL's all-time greatest, having allowed just 196 points during the regular season. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.

There is no debate that defense wins championships, especially in the NFL. Until the 2002 season, the most fearsome player to ever roam the defensive side of the ball for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was Lee Roy Selmon. But that changed during the course of the franchise’s 26th year of existence. The combination of a defensive mastermind and 10 ferocious ball hawks changed the way defense would be played for the next decade.

Led by defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, the inventor of the “Tampa 2” defensive scheme, the Bucs allowed just 196 points in the regular season. This included an astounding average of 2.4 points allowed in the fourth quarter. And on its way to the team’s first Super Bowl win, the Tampa Bay defense gave up 37 points, 21 of which came in the Bucs’ 27-point victory over the Oakland Raiders in the big game.

The following is a list of the 10 players who led the Buccaneers on their historic march to postseason glory along with their regular season statistics:

          • DE Greg Spires (37 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery)

          • DT Warren Sapp (7.5 sacks, two INTs, 47 tackles)

          • LB Derrick Brooks (one sack, five INTs, four TDs, 119 tackles - returned INT 44 yards for TD in SB XXXVII)

          • CB Ronde Barber (three sacks, two INTs, 80 tackles)

          • SS John Lynch (three INTs, 64 tackles)

          • DE Simeon Rice (15.5 sacks, one INT, 52 tackles)

          • LB Shelton Quarles (one sack, two INTs, 113 tackles)

          • CB Brian Kelly (led NFL with eight INTs, one FF, one sack, 67 tackles)

          • FS Dexter Jackson (three INTs, 71 tackles - MVP of SB XXXVII with two INTs)

          • CB Dwight Smith (four INTs, 42 tackles - returned two INTs for TDs in SB XXXVII (50 yards, 44 yards)

Where the 2002 Tampa Bay defense ranks all-time is debatable, but the facts and numbers do not lie. For one season, a coaching pioneer and a group of men committed to wreaking havoc on the opposition came together for one common goal every time they stepped between the white lines. That goal was immortality.