Sunday September 11th, 2011

Aqib Talib returns an interception 28 yards for a touchdown against the Lions. (Kim Klement/US Presswire)

The Bucs were understandably relieved when the NFL decided not to suspend cornerback Aqib Talib for his alleged role in an offseason shooting incident. And it didn't take long for Talib to make his presence felt in Week 1.

Nine minutes into the first quarter of Tampa Bay's game with Detroit, Talib picked off Lions QB Matthew Stafford and took it back 28 yards for a touchdown to give Tampa Bay a 10-3 lead. Talib had dropped down in zone coverage on third-and-3 and was in the right place at the right time when Stafford's pass deflected off the hands of tight end Will Heller.

Talib caught the deflection and waltzed untouched to the house.

It wasn't all fun and games for Talib early, though. On a fourth-and-3 from Tampa's 36 midway through the second quarter, Stafford victimized Talib with a beautiful pass to Calvin Johnson for a touchdown. Stafford pump-faked down the middle, then lofted one just over Talib's outstretched fingers and Johnson strolled into the end zone. He also left the game briefly after getting the wind knocked out of him, but returned.

Still, the mere fact that Talib's been locked up on Johnson shows how valuable he is to the Tampa Bay defense. But even with Talib in the lineup (and providing an occasional pick-six), the Bucs haven't been able to fully slow Stafford. Detroit's third-year quarterback hit 18 of 25 first-half passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Talib could still face an NFL suspension down the road -- he's set to stand trial in March on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Pending the outcome of that trial, the league may revisit a possible Talib suspension prior to the 2012 season.

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