The Super Bowl champions have yet to win consecutive games, but Sunday's 16-0 domination of Bill Parcells' Dallas Cowboys left the All-Pro defensive tackle with a positive vibe about the team's chances of pulling out of an early season malaise.
"This wasn't about a statement. It was about going back to what we like to do. That's playing hard-nosed defense, shutting people out and giving ourselves a chance to win games. That's why we're world champions. We play lights-out defense. When we are doing that, we make you earn every yard you get against us."
The shutout was the second of the season for Tampa Bay (4-3), which gave up 458 yards -- most by an opponent since 1991 -- in a 24-7 loss at San Francisco the previous week. Three weeks ago, the defense that led last season's Super Bowl run blew a three-touchdown lead in the last four minutes of regulation before losing to Indianapolis in overtime.
"We receive a lot of criticism, and we just go back to work," Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said. "You don't talk about it, you just go back to work. We put in the work and you saw the result."
Keyshawn Johnson ended a week in which his agent complained about the receiver's role in Tampa Bay's offense by catching a 7-yard touchdown pass and Martin Gramatica kicked field goals of 24, 26 and 50 yards.
The victory was sweet, too, because the Cowboys have been one of the NFL's biggest surprises in their first season under Parcells -- the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach who walked away from agreements to take over the Bucs twice in the past 12 years.
"This is a pretty good beating," Parcells said. "The score wasn't as bad really as I thought it was. Had we not held them a few times on defense, this could have gotten out of control."
Johnson, who played three seasons under Parcells when he was with the New York Jets, was booed during pregame introductions by a crowd of 65,602 responding to his agent's comments, as well as Johnson's own statements about Parcells being his favorite coach.
Amid the jeers, Johnson ran across the field and shook the hand of his former coach.
There were nothing but cheers, though, when Brad Johnson rolled to his right and found the two-time Pro Bowl receiver in the corner of the end zone for a 10-0 lead.
"We have three losses and we can't afford to get more," Keyshawn Johnson said. "We won the Super Bowl last year, but that was last year. It's important to get on a winning track and get back to the way we are used to."
Michael Pittman ran for 113 yards on 30 carries for Tampa Bay, while Brad Johnson was 13-of-26 for 151 yards and no interceptions.
Dallas began the day with the NFL's top-ranked defense. But the Bucs showed they still have one of the best units in the league, even with three newcomers -- cornerbacks Tim Wansley and Corey Ivy and safety Jermaine Phillips -- in the secondary.
Not all of the Cowboys were impressed.
"You think they've got a great defense?" running back Troy Hambrick said. "I think we made enough mistakes to make them look good."
The Bucs, who have yet to win consecutive games this season, improved to 7-0 after losses under Jon Gruden, who was hired as coach after Parcells pulled out of a signed contract to replace Tony Dungy after the 2001 season.
The Cowboys' winning streak was their longest since 1994. Carter was 15-of-25 for 140 yards and was intercepted twice. A week after yielding 212 yards rushing in a 24-7 loss at San Francisco, the Bucs limited the Cowboys to 60 yards on 22 carries.
The closest Dallas came to scoring was Billy Cundiff's 41-yard field-goal attempt, which sailed wide right late in the first quarter. He had made 12 consecutive before that.
"I thought the game after the first half should have been 6-3," Parcells said. "But even with 13-0, if we could have just done a little something, we might have been able to get back in it. But the way we played, we really didn't have much chance."
- The Bucs have at least one sack in 67 consecutive games, one shy of the NFL record set by Dallas from 1976-80.
- Hambrick led the Cowboys in rushing with 25 yards on 11 attempts.
- Bucs safety John Lynch was inactive because of a neck and shoulder injury.
The Associated Press News Service
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