<
>

Connor Barth's perfect return to Tampa Bay a relief for Buccaneers

TAMPA, Fla. -- After all the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' recent kicking woes, coach Lovie Smith enjoyed the consistency from kicker Connor Barth on Sunday.

"It was exciting to watch, to say the least, to put it mildly," Smith said Monday.

Barth restored order to the Bucs' kicking game in their victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Raymond James Stadium. The seven-year veteran, re-signed by Tampa Bay last Tuesday, made all three extra points and field goal tries of 35, 45 and 47 yards as the Bucs improved to 2-3.

For Tampa Bay, Barth's performance was a welcome change after erratic showings from rookie Kyle Brindza, who went 6-for-12 on field goal attempts and 6-for-8 on extra points before being cut.

The Bucs went with the strong-legged Brindza to begin the season after the Notre Dame product beat out Barth for the job late in the preseason. But a change was made after Brindza went 2-for-7 on field goal tries and 2-for-4 on extra points in Weeks 3 and 4.

Barth, who made 84.7 percent of his field goal attempts in his first stint with Tampa Bay from 2009-12, rewarded the Bucs for the trust placed in him. There were concerns about his ability to produce touchbacks, but Jaguars running back Corey Grant had just three kickoff returns for 93 yards Sunday.

On Monday, Smith made light of the concerns about Barth's leg strength. The coach was pleased with all facets of the kicker's performance.

"Last week, you guys reminded me, 'Lovie, OK, you guys are going to have to cover this week. You know that Connor is going to hit it to about the 20-yard line,'" Smith said to reporters.

"That wasn't the case. He really did a great job kicking off, and of course, he was perfect [on field goals]. What a homecoming, a welcome back and all of that. There's a lot on the kicker to perform. When his number was called, he stepped up to the plate, big-time."

Because Barth answered the challenge, it appears the Bucs finally have stability at the position.