After the Bucs’ win against the Cleveland Browns, it seems that handing the defensive coordinator’s job over to Mark Duffner was the first step in the right direction. Unlike in practically all the other games this season, it was the defense’s stellar play that enabled Tampa Bay to take the victory in the end.
The Bucs were forced to play without pro bowler Gerald McCoy and starting defensive end Vinny Curry and still managed to hold the Browns to only 76 yards offensively in the first half. In the second half, the Buccaneers took another huge blow as middle linebacker Kwon Alexander had to leave the game because of what turned out to be a torn ACL; he will miss the rest of the season. Playing without all these key players makes the defensive showing all the more impressive, which Dirk Koetter acknowledged:
“Well, I’m not going to compare it to the first five games because that’s an impossible question, but compared to last week, we did way better on third down…We got off the field on third down, and we got five sacks. Cleveland, in the second half, attacked us a little bit more with the run. With Kwon out of there, that probably makes sense, and they hurt us a little bit more with the run… I just thought our defensive players really brought their passion and their pride today. I thought their energy on the sideline and the way they were talking to each other was really good as well” (via Jenna Laine, ESPN; see article HERE).
Interestingly enough, the Browns were only able to convert 21% of their third down plays. The Bucs made two of those very important stuff in overtime, which most likely saved the win for Tampa Bay.
On the other hand, though, Bucs fans must not forget who the Bucs played against. The Cleveland Browns do not exactly have a high-profile offense and played with a rookie quarterback under center. Beyond that, before the game the Browns had allowed a league-high 21 sacks. After facing stellar offenses in the first five games, this was the first team with a mediocre offensive unit. So whether the defensive turnaround was caused by the change of defensive coordinator or simply because of a weak opponent remains to be seen.
The truth will certainly be revealed in a couple of weeks.