I've been hearing all year long about how pathetic the defense has been. How it's the offense that is winning games for us, either in comeback fashion or simply outscoring our opponents. That our defense, in part due to lack of QB pressure, is not getting the job done. Well, I think that's a bit blown out of proportion. The defense has actually been better than most give credit for and although many statistics say the D is bad (29th ranked run defense) there are some very critical statistics that point to the defense playing well enough to win games.
Let's look at scoring allowed. In 10 games, the Bucs have shut out one opponent. They've held 3 other teams scoreless in the 2nd half. They've held another 2 teams scoreless in the 4th quarter. That's 6 of 10 games where our opponent hasn't scored a point in the 4th quarter. How is it that Josh Freeman is able to lead four 4th quarter comebacks this year? Well, a big part of that is the defense isn't allowing the opponent to score in the 4th. The 4th quarter comeback against Cleveland? 2nd half shutout. The 4th quarter comeback against the Rams? 2nd half shutout. Even the close loss to the Falcons was a 4th quarter shutout.
Look at the points allowed in the 2nd half. The Bucs are 2nd in the NFL in 2nd half points with 72. The Bears at 61 lead the NFL. The Bucs 29 4th quarter points lead the NFL in fewest points allowed with the Bears a close second at 30. Add to that the Bucs are tied for 5th with 21 turnovers forced, and tied for 2nd in INTs with 15. Combined with the offense playing well and not turning the ball over often, and our turnover differential is positive.
Some might say the defense finally showed up against the 49ers, but I'd point out that they've been playing all year long. It may not be pretty, they may give up a lot of rushing yards. But when the game is on the line, these guys buckle down and keep the opponent off the scoreboard, force turnovers and have been key in our 7-3 record. Not just our one shutout win.