Friday - 9/29/2000
This Sunday's game is a big test for us, and it is another stop on what we're calling the "journey" of our schedule. This is a division road game, so its importance is obvious. The Browns are an improved team and their record and the way they have been playing reflects that. We have to respect the development of Tim Couch. He was the first pick in the draft last year so you have to expect a certain level of performance from him. They are an athletic team on defense, with a very special player in Courtney Brown. I know our team is not overlooking them. Now that we are past the first year of their existence in the league, I can see our games developing into a good, healthy, hard-nosed rivalry.
Our team has responded well to the challenges and rigors of our season thus far. As I have said before, we break our season down into four quarters (4 games in each), and our first quarter is over. Winning half of our games on the road and all of them at home puts us IN solid position going into the next phase or quarter. The Cleveland game will be our third road game. Similar to a game, we have a different script and approach for each quarter of the season, which, in this case, is dictated by our schedule, standings and how successful we have been. Our goal is to have steady improvement on offense, hopefully reaching our pinnacle during November and December when you have to be at your best to make the playoffs. Defensively, we are showing signs of having a dominant "team" personality. What I mean by that is a team attitude that supercedes even the individual talents we have. Most people in the league will tell you the Tampa Bay is the best defensive team in the league. Our defensive players what that moniker. They want to be thought of in those terms and they know that can only be achieved by playing team defense.
The last time a team pitched back to back shutouts during the regular season was the 1985 World Champion Chicago Bears. They shutout Dallas and Atlanta on consecutive weeks, then repeated the feat in the first two games of the playoffs against the New York Giants and the then Los Angeles Rams. We've been able to get two shutouts in our first four games.
We know we are playing a capable team in the Cleveland Browns and will take any kind of win we can get. However, the very lofty goal of having back-to-back shutouts is an excellent way for our defense to remain focussed and play the best game they can against the Browns. I think our defense will be real focused.