Surprise, surprise, surprise! The Tampa Bay Buccaneers run defense is first in the league. Through four games, they’ve only allowed 237 yards rushing on 81 attempts. That’s an average of 59 yards-per-game and 2.9 per-carry.
What makes these stats legit are the caliber of running backs they’ve defended. It’s not Le’Veon Bell, Joe Mixon, and Kenyan Drake.
Running Backs Defended
The San Francisco 49ers needed to use three backs (Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman) to reach 100 yards. That’s the best RBs have run the ball thus far versus the Bucs stingy defense.
Christian McCaffrey, who leads the league in rushing yards (411), was held to 37 yards for the game.
Sure, the Bucs only faced Saquon Barkley for eight plays, but even then, he only struggled with one yard per attempt. The running threat in the Giants game was quarterback Daniel Jones who was 4 for 28. His two rushing TDs, however, was the Bucs’ kiss of death.
Todd Gurley has been very un-Gurley. He closed out 2018 at third in the league but has just 219 yards for this season. The Rams were playing from behind from the get-go, so Gurley only carried the rock five times. While he did get into the end zone twice, the Bucs held him in check at 16 total yards.
The team’s biggest challenge since Run CMC is Alvin Kamara. He currently stands at 10th best in the league with 70 yards-per-game.
The Fine Print
When a team ranks highly versus the run, the first thing to consider is the pass defense. If quarterbacks can air the ball out successfully, the run game is more of an afterthought. Unfortunately, that’s the case here. The Bucs 31st-ranked pass defense is worrisome, getting slashed for 318 yards-per-game. If Todd Bowles can somehow work to shore up that aspect of his defense’s performance, they’ll have a good thing going.