Despite a horrendously ineffective run defense, the pass defense actually performed well against the Tennessee Titans. The Bucs allowed Matt Hasselbeck to throw for just 160 yards, and they picked him off twice. The efforts of Da'Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn helped make this possible, but no one on defense had a better game than Aqib Talib. The embattled cornerback held the Titans' #1 receiver Nate Washington to one catch for 12 yards.
And then there was his interception returned for a touchdown, the obvious choice for the Power Play of the Week. When it happened, the game was tied at 10-10. The Bucs had just punted the ball back to the Titans early in the third quarter, and a facemask penalty had forced Tennessee into a 1st-and-25 situation. After Aqib Talib ran back the interception for a touchdown, the Bucs led by seven points and seemed poised to win the game - until everything broke down over the next quarter-and-a-half.
But that interception was a perfect example of the potential and talent of this pass defense when everyone is playing to the best of their ability - something we don't see nearly often enough.
The Titans came out in a pass-heavy formation with three wide receivers, one tight end and one running back, and the Bucs responded with their standard nickel package: four down linemen, two linebackers, three cornerbacks dna two safeties. The Titans spread everyone out, leaving Hasselbeck with an empty backfield and just five pass blockers.
The Bucs respond by matching up Mason Foster on tight end Jared Cook and Geno Hayes on running back Chris Johnson, while the three cornerbacks take on the three receivers. As was the case for the rest of the game, Aqib Talib was responsible for Nate Washington. The two safeties are lined up deep and off the screen, presumably with deep half responsibilities.
At the snap the Bucs rush their four defensive linemen, and don't manage to get a lot of pressure early. Adrian Clayborn does beat his man to the inside, and may force Hasselbeck to throw it a little early, although that could just as easily have been the design of the play.
Regardless, Nate Washington gets off the line to run a short crossing route with Aqib Talib guarding him. Talib's jam at the line isn't very effective, but what he does next is. While Washington drifts away from the line of scrimmage on his crossing route, Talib stays underneath to undercut the route and can easily pick off a dumb pass by Matt Hasselbeck.
From there all he has to do is head for the endzone as the Titans can't respond quickly enough to tackle him, and Adrian Clayborn blocks the one lineman with a chance of stopping the play. The result: a score and a seven-point lead in what was a very good day for the pass defense.