Defending the Defense


Ah the good old days. Coaches looking at the schedule and seeing how long they had to prepare for the imposing Tampa Bay defense. Turnovers were expected and sacks came in floods. That defense was something, right? It carried an often lacklustre offense all the way to the promised land of the playoffs.

Those days are now long gone with a defense that looks like it would struggle to stop your local high school from marching up and down the field. Like me, many fans are scratching their heads as to why! We have some great players in Kwon, Lavonte David and McCoy. We’ve invested high draft picks in the defense most recently Vernon Hargreaves. Why are we not bathing once more in the sheer awesomeness of a smothering defense?

Yesterday I did a report looking into the stats behind our performance in the Red Zone, let’s do the same again. I’ll also start this by saying that statistics don’t tell the whole story!

The first number plucked from my magic 8-Ball is 151; this is the number of times an opponent had gained a first down against the Buccaneer defense. When we look at how the offense has performed we see 152! So that’s a very close number, doubtful that we are 2-5 because of letting teams get more first down yards than us.

Ok so how many times do our opponents outperform us in yards? 464 plays at an average of 5.8 yards (both running plays and passing plays) against the Tampa Bay defense. Allow me but a moment to compare and we will see that the Buccaneer offense has run 445 plays and gained an average of 5.9 yards! Wait? 445 plays? That’s right guys and girls, just 445; nearly 20 plays less than our opponents.

Looking deeper because on the surface the defense isn’t terrible; but a very worrying trend emerges. I’ll start this trend with the following… 37.8 verses 48.98. If I put a % behind then maybe you can see where this is going?

That’s right! The Bucs convert just 37.8% of 3rd down attempts compared to the 48.98% that opponents convert. When looking at time of possession the narrative becomes clear; the Bucs hold the football for 28 minutes 25 seconds over an average this season. That means our defense is on the field for 31 minutes 35 seconds as an average. Throw in minus 2 on turnover difference and 57.14% touchdown for the other team in our red zone and the story now becomes clear.

The offence is in the middle of the league statistically and the defense a bit below. Looking through the stats the fans seem to have hit the nail on the head and apparently the figures back up the argument that the offense cannot sustain drives and stay on the field, most worryingly is that the Tampa Bay defense just cannot get off the field either through 3rd down stops or turnovers. No turnovers mean no defensive touchdowns and your offense cannot score from the bench. Right now no one unit is capable of covering for the other like the great defenses of yesteryear and that equals a very deserved 2-5 record.

The positive I could draw is that the defense has stopped opponents on all 4 4th down attempts? If we want to start winning then Smith needs to quickly figure out how to get his guys off the field and put the offense in the position to score points, actually on the field.