On the day he started his 200th consecutive game, a record for NFL defensive backs, Ronde Barber had a sack and an interception on the same day for just the second time in his career. Mind you, this is the first player in NFL history with at least 40 interceptions and at least 25 sacks.
That was opening day, 2012. On the day Barber tied former teammate Brooks with his 221st start overall as a Buccaneer, Barber scored the 15th touchdown of his amazing career and came dangerously close to a second pick-six.
That was just last week. On Sunday against the Saints – a team he has twice victimized for three interceptions in a single game – Barber passed Brooks and became the most experienced starter in franchise history. He had to do something big, obviously, and it didn’t take long.
On just the fifth play of the game, Barber saw the football tumbling through the air in his direction after it had deflected off the big mitt of Gerald McCoy. Barber pounced, as he is wont to do (all three of his picks this year have come on deflected passes). He snared his 46th career interception and, as coaches everywhere tell their players, headed for the sideline. Barber got there, and nearly got his 16th TD, though he was shoved out of bounds at the 13.
Barber, who converted from cornerback to free safety this year, leads the team with three interceptions, already tying his total from 2011. Sunday, he tied the idle Asante Samuel of Atlanta for fourth on the career interception list among active players. However, he had a little more difficulty enjoying Sunday’s latest exploits than he did in Weeks One and Six, both Buccaneer victories.
“We stayed in it, fought, tried to win,” said Barber. “We gave ourselves a chance, which we’ve done in all of our losses, unfortunately or fortunately, no matter how you look at it. Yeah, it’s a tad frustrating. You do enough in some areas, certainly not enough in a lot of others.
“If you don’t pressure [Brees] and he has time to throw, his guys know where to run to the zone, sit down, convert third downs and keep the chains moving. He does it better than anybody in the game.”
Brees threw for 377 yards against Barber’s crew, and as much respect as Barber has for the Pro Bowl quarterback and the Saints’ offense, he felt there was a little too much give in the Bucs’ defense.
“We’ve got to do our jobs better,” said Barber. “A lot of those plays weren’t him, they were us. They’re correctable, but in the immediacy of them it’s very disappointing on our part.”