TAMPA, Fla. – Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp gave Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donald Penn a stern warning prior to his former team’s game on Monday.
Penn and his squad better not let him down.
Sapp was honored during halftime of Tampa Bay’s home game against the Miami Dolphins. He was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor and his No.99 jersey was retired. Former Buccaneers legend Lee Roy Selmon, who is also in the Hall of Fame, is the only other Bucs player to have his jersey number (63) retired. It was an appropriate tribute to a player who led Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl victory during the 2002 season.
Penn’s squad responded to Sapp's demands with a 22-19 victory against Miami to record their first victory of this season.
“That’s a good guy [Sapp]. That’s a good friend of mine,” Penn said. “He told me before the game, ‘You guys cannot lose on me today.’ I said, ‘We ain’t.’ I know it felt good for him to watch us get a win, especially with all that we’ve been going through. He’s been on us.
"You always want to see your old team win.”
In fact, Penn hauled in a 1-yard touchdown pass just to ensure Sapp's happiness.
"I've been lobbying for it all season, so to finally put it back in - it's a great play, too, especially with how much power we run, so it was a great play," Penn said. "I was a little nervous because they showed me on the big screen right before they called it, but it was a great pass."
Sapp had every right to be disappointed with Tampa Bay prior to Monday’s game.
Tampa Bay (1-8) entered the contest as the league’s only winless team. The Bucs were better known for mishandling former quarterback Josh Freeman, MRSA, Darrelle Revis’ dissatisfaction with the defensive scheme, and coach Greg Schiano’s ineptness. The loses were an afterthought.
However, Tampa Bay finally had something positive occur.
Despite losing running back Mike James to an ankle fracture in the first quarter after he rushed for 41 yards, Tampa Bay rushed with 140 yards on the ground. Bucs backup running back Brian Leonard rushed for 57 yards, while Bobby Rainey added 45 yards and a touchdown.
“Mike got off to a great start,” Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon said. “First drive with him we went right down the field. Brian Leonard has been around for a long time. He’s a very good football player, and we all knew what he was capable of. Bobby Rainey has only been here for a few weeks. These are his first meaningful reps. To do what he did shows that he’s a real special player. It looks like they’re going to have to step up. Between those two, they did a really good job.”
Tampa Bay’s defense deserves the same praise.
Last week, Tampa Bay had a 21-point lead against the Seattle Seahawks before eventually losing in overtime. This is the same team that blew a close game against the Arizona Cardinals previously this season. Tampa Bay also found creative ways to screw up potential wins against New Orleans and the New York Jets.
Yet, Tampa Bay’s defense only allowed two rushing yards on Monday. Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace finished with four receiving yards. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s longest pass completion was 19 yards and his passer rating was 84.3.
“It’s amazing,” Bucs linebacker Lavonte David said. “When you got guys like this in the locker room, they stick together. It’s amazing, and it showed tonight.”
Tampa Bay’s defense showed its ability to close out an opponent in the fourth quarter.
Miami had possession on its 33-yard line when William Gholston and Da’Quan Bowers sacked Tannehill on first down, pushing the Dolphins back to their 25-yard line. Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy sacked Tannehill on the next play, and Miami lost 10 yards. After throwing an incomplete pass, Tannehill was intercepted by Darrelle Revis, which sealed Tampa Bay’s win.
“That’s how you end games,” McCoy said. “That’s where you make a name for yourself. Not just players, but defenses, and defenses make names for themselves at the end of games like that with big plays like that. Two sacks and an interception? Can’t beat that.”
Sapp would probably agree.
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