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Buccaneers can build on their most impressive defensive outing of season

TAMPA, Fla. -- Akeem Spence has a simple reason for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' best defensive effort of the season in a win over the Dallas Cowboys.

"Per man, everybody just did their job," the defensive tackle said. "Everybody was where they needed to be -- gap-sound, linebackers were attacking downhill. And our corners, when the ball did spill outside, they tackled well. When you've got corners on the defense that tackle well, it makes the game that much easier."

The Bucs held the Cowboys to 216 yards of total offense, 42 yards rushing and 12 first downs -- all season-low figures. Cowboys quarterback Matt Cassel threw for just 186 yards with an interception, and wide receiver Dez Bryant was limited to 45 yards on five catches. Running back Darren McFadden ran for only 32 yards.

"I think we had a good game plan, obviously," Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "Just the guys rising up. ... I think it's a combination of what has happened over the first eight weeks leading up into that ballgame -- with our run defense, with our pass defense, with our pressures that we've been trying to run, just guys getting a little more in sync.

"But we can't discount the play of our corners. That makes all the difference in the world in our league, when you have to match up with these real good receivers. You've got to be able to defend the passing game. So it's a combination of things. But I'd point to our secondary as much as anything."

The Bucs have started Sterling Moore and Jude Adjei-Barimah at cornerback the past two games. Last Sunday, Adjei-Barimah had six tackles and Moore four, with Moore matched up against Bryant -- they were teammates in Dallas from 2012-14 -- most of the afternoon.

Moore said his familiarity with Bryant made a difference.

"I definitely think it did," he said. "I know the routes that make him comfortable. I know his releases. But he's still a big-time receiver. He's capable of making big-time catches even when you're in good position."

Even with the steps forward, the Bucs' defense has room to improve, with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy saying as much Thursday. When asked if Tampa Bay's unit had turned a corner, he offered a simple, "No."

"Just got to be better," he said of a group that ranks 26th in the NFL in scoring by allowing 26.3 points per game.

If the Bucs' defense builds on progress from Week 10, McCoy will receive his wish.