TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Heading into last week’s matchup, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers knew the home matchup was a must-win to stay in playoff contention, and after the team’s highly praised defense crumbled against the Texans in Week 9, head coach Todd Bowles said the team needs to play well together.
“It’s very disappointing, especially since they have been keeping us in games the past couple of weeks, but yesterday it fell apart. It was the offense’s turn to play well and defense didn’t play well. We’ve got to play well together,” Bowles said on Monday.
With the team sitting at 3-5, the defense – and rookie Yaya Diaby — knew what they needed to do against the Tennessee Titans, especially after it was announced rookie quarterback Will Levis would be the team’s starting quarterback from here on out.
“Actually, I heard something, shoutout to Casey Phillips, the Bucs team reporter, in her radio show, [she] had Yaya Diaby on, and she asked him about Will Levis because Yaya played against him last year – Yaya went to Louisville and Will Levis was out of Kentucky – so, it was interesting to hear him talk about Will Levis and the rivalry with those two,” Bucs’ Insider Karen Loftus said during last week’s episode of Bucs Bonus.
Upon hearing about their rivalry, Loftus asked Diaby about it before the game, and the Bucs’ linebacker said he might be able to get into Levis’s head.
“I asked Yaya about it, and he was like, ‘You know, some tendencies, you sort of know how he’s gonna play,’ and he’s like maybe I can get into his head type of thing,” Loftus said.
And just like Diaby predicted, he was able to get inside Levis’s head, as he took down the rookie quarterback to record his second sack of the season.
Tampa Bay’s 2023 third-round draft pick also saw a lot of playing time against Tennessee.
According to Bucs’ senior writer and editor Scott Smith, Bowles said Diaby is “the strongest of the team’s OLBs and is good against the run, and Tennessee is a running team.”
However, the sacks didn’t end with Diaby, as the defense capitalized off what Bowles had been preaching – being disruptive. Shaq Barrett, Devin White, Vita Vea, and Diaby all recorded sacks for a total of five on the day.
“So Bowles mentioned getting pressure on the quarterback, and he said, ‘I’m not as concerned about the quarterback sack numbers as I am about being disruptive,'” Loftus said ahead of the Week 10 matchup.
Tampa Bay’s defense only allowed 209 yards on Sunday and held the Titans to just two field goals. The Buccaneers snapped their four-game losing streak against the Tennessee team, defeating them 20-6.
“Defense did a good job getting to the quarterback, at least trying to harass him and [Derrick] Henry didn’t go off on us,” Bowles said after the victory. “The way they practiced. The leadership. Lavonte [David], Devin [White], Vita [Vea], [Antoine Winfield Jr.]. Those guys take over the team and the focus was there, so it’s just a matter of playing on Sunday. We’ve had those weeks before where it didn’t show up, but it showed up this game and they made sure of it.”