Buccaneers’ fans, the Super Bowl is over and we are fresh off a thrilling overtime game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. It was a back and forth game between two evenly matched teams to determine who was the best of the best. In the end, the Chiefs came out on top 25-22.
As a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was a little hard to watch. There were several time when I thought to myself, “The Bucs would have beat both these teams if they were in this game”. I’m sure I was not alone as the two teams labored to score 19 points each in regulation.
However, that is just the mindset of a fan. Thinking the Bucs were on the level of these two teams is not the reality. In fact, there is a lot the Buccaneers need to fix to get back to playing championship level football.
The one thing they can’t do is have Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. This duo is an iconic pairing in NFL history and can’t be replicated by anybody. The 49ers, on the other hand, is a team the Bucs can measure themselves against.
Here’s how the Buccaneers stack up to the 49ers and what they have to improve to get back to the Super Bowl.
What’s On Par
When you have the likes of Vita Vea and Lavonte David, you know you are probably going to have championship caliber run defense. The Bucs ranked 5th in rushing yards allowed last season, where the 49ers ranked 3rd. However, the Buccaneers did allow fewer yards per carry (3.8) than the 49ers did (4.1).
This is one area where the Bucs were more than good enough. Keep in mind that there will be some turnover in the front seven in the offseason, but by bringing the key pieces back they should be able to repeat this next year. As has been the case since Todd Bowles came to Tampa Bay, the Bucs have one of the best run defenses in the NFL.
The pass rush has been a hot topic going into the offseason. We know the Bucs will likely cut Shaq Barrett in the coming months and will need another pass rusher on the edge to complement Yaya Diaby. This is a need that must be addressed this offseason.
With that said, the pass rush was actually pretty effective. The Bucs and 49ers were tied for 7th in sacks last season. Granted the Bucs blitzed at a much higher rate, but the end result of taking down the quarterback was the same. Adding another pass rusher this offseason will only bring the Bucs closer to Super Bowl Sunday.
Under Bowles leadership, the Bucs will always be a team that hangs their hat on defense. The most important aspect of this is keeping opponents out of the end zone. Talking about pressures and turnovers, the main goal is to prevent the other team from scoring.
The Bucs did just that to a similar level as the 49ers last season. Tampa Bay allowed four more total touchdowns than the 49ers over the course of the regular season. That broke down to three more passing touchdowns and just one more rushing touchdown allowed. This could be improved, but was very comparable in the big picture.
Where The Buccaneers Need To Get Better
The biggest thing the Bucs need to fix is their rushing attack. Teams who don’t have an elite, or even top 10, quarterback like the Buccaneers or the 49ers need to have a strong running game to make up for it. Tampa Bay had the worst rushing offense in the NFL last year.
Right now, that is the biggest thing holding this offense back. They don’t have to be in the top three like the 49ers rushing offense is, but they need to get to at least middle of the pack. This needs to be the top priority going into the offseason.
The 49ers also had a better passing offense as well, by about 500 passing yards in 2023. Of course having All Pro wide receivers and tight ends help a lot with that. But let’s not forget that the Bucs and 49ers have comparable talent at wide receiver, even if you’re in the camp that San Francisco’s are a little bit better.
Regardless of the talent that’s already in house, the Bucs need to continue to add playmakers. Tight end depth and the next wave of great wide receivers has to be a priority for the Bucs this offseason. Give Baker Mayfield as many weapons as possible and there is no reason he can’t be every bit as successful as Brock Purdy.
Tampa Bay wasn’t much worse than the 49ers in passing touchdowns given up last year, but they were still middle of the road overall. Part of that is because they gave up a lot of passing yards. The Bucs ranked 3rd worst in the NFL in passing yards allowed.
This is partly due to the Bucs bend but don’t break approach to locking teams down in the red zone. It’s also partly because the Bucs need to improve in coverage, specifically and safety, nickel, and linebacker. Don’t be surprised if the Bucs take a coverage player early on in the coming draft.