There weren't many positives this week, but Ronde Barber picking off Drew Brees(click the link for video) was one of them. The veteran recorded his 42nd interception of his career and his second of the season. He's now sixth in career interceptions among active players, one behind Asante Samuel.
The Bucs were trailing 17-3 early in the second half when this play happened and needed to get some kind of spark to stay in this game, and Ronde Barber provided exactly that. Of course the offense then failed to capitalize, but that's beside the point.
On the play the Saints lined up with two running backs and three receivers. The running backs were Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles flanking Drew Brees, who was operating out of the shotgun. On the right they had one receiver split out wide - either Robert Meachem or Devery Henderson, I can't tell which. On the left they had Marques Colston stacked behind Lance Moore.
The Bucs countered with a 3-2-6 personnel group: three defensive linemen, two linebackers and six defensive backs, which is somewhat risky on a third-and-short as the Saints could easily run at that personnel group and have success. The Bucs guarded the right receiver with Aqib Talib in press-technique, while using Elbert Mack in press-man on Lance Moore and E.J. Biggers in off-man on the stacked Marques Colston.
Meanwhile, they had six players threaten to rush the pass rusher: the three defensive linemen Adrian Clayborn, Michael Bennett and George Johnson (who was playing nose tackle), Dekoda Watson who lined up over the guard, Ronde Barber who threatened to come off the edge and possibly Mason Foster, although Foster looked to be spying Pierre Thomas.
At the snap the coverage actually changed a little - Elbert Mack went with Colston while E.J. Biggers went with Lance Moore, possibly because of the way they ran their routes. What's more important is what happened in the box. The Bucs indeed had Mason Foster covering Pierre Thomas, while Dekoda Watson seemed to be spying Drew Brees, for whatever reason. As a result, the Bucs only rushed three - but they still managed to get pressure.
The key there was Ronde Barber, who rushed two steps at left tackle Jermon Bushrod before dropping out into coverage with Darren Sproles. This forced Bushrod to take Barber into account, which allowed Clayborn to get under Bushrod's pads and push him back into Brees. Because Watson was spying Brees, he couldn't find his quick route over the middle to Lance Moore, and with Clayborn pushing Bushrod back and Michael Bennett preventing him from escaping the pocket, Brees was forced to throw away the ball quickly to his outlet: Darren Sproles.
But he failed to take Ronde Barber into account, who had leaked out to cover Darren Sproles. Brees gets the ball off just as Bushrod is pushed into him, but Ronde Barber is able to jump the route and pick him off. Barber was ruled down by contact, ending the play.
This could have been a crucial play in the game, and it was certainly the best the Bucs made all day, but the offense couldn't capitalize.