Picking up where they left off, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to stifle opposing running backs. After three weeks, the Buccaneers are keeping teams’ running games from dictating the pace of play and impacting the game.
The Buccaneers defense started to find its own last year and it started upfront. Finishing the season as one of the best run defenses in the league. The team allowed a league-leading 3.3 yards per carry and 73.8 yards per game. This included only three games where the defense allowed over 100 yards rushing.
The likes of Christian McCaffrey held to under 40 yards twice last season. Rookie Stand out Saquon Barkley fell short against this defense due in part due to injury. Derrick Henry, arguably the best running back in 2019, was held to only 75 yards. It seemed the only team that had some consistent success was the New Orleans Saints.
The Buccaneer brought back the entire front seven this season. An advantage for the team given the situation caused by a global pandemic. Not needing to integrate new players as starters and having a real sense of trust with mutually beneficial play the defense picked up where it left off.
Opening the season with no preseason or full training camps and practices would prove to be tuff. But the Buccaneers run defense looked up to the challenge. Last season the Saints were allowed to compile over 100 yards total rushing on the Buccaneers each game. Week one would prove a test. But the defense held on the rushing front. Latavius Murray and more importantly Alvin Kamara were held to 64 yards combined. Kamara mustered a measly 1.3 yards a carry average. Though the team lost the defense started to re-establish themselves.
Looking to take down a division opponent the defense focused on preventing McCaffrey from gaining any traction. Although he was allowed to reach the endzone twice, he only collected 59 yards on 18 carries. While only averaging 3.3 yards a carry he only broke out for a nine-yard run as his longest of the game. As a team, the Panthers only gained a total of 87 yards.
Trying to put together a complete game the Buccaneers traveled to Denver to take on a banged-up Broncos. New addition Melvin Gordon III would need to carry the load for Denver. Given the situation, the defense held Gordon to 26 yards and the Broncos to 42 yards rushing total.
Being together has aided the continuity along the front seven. This is allowing the team to maintain and hopefully improve on their play at the line of scrimmage. Watching the games, you can see this in action as players are working together, freeing each other to get to the running back and quarterback. They are playing unselfishly. To date this team has forced three fumbles, 12 sacks, racked up 133 tackles. Most notably they have 24 tackles for loss, 27% of what they had last season and it’s only been three weeks.
This Buccaneers defense could find themselves in the elite category at seasons end if they continue to suffocate the run.
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