How Porous was our Secondary with the Long Ball?

Chris Graythen

We can argue until we're blue in the face as to how bad our defense was -- or I can do the arduous task of collecting and compiling the data. Again, I like breaking things down into three segments because it simply fits. With a new staff the first four games occurred before our bye week. So let’s consider that our pre-season. The next set of six games is our first half and the last six games as our second half. It’s convenient that it was separated like so.

In the table below, I have only recorded the completed passes and how long they were. I did not record the initial catch or yards after catch because the game log does not specify it in the ESPN online archives.

2012 Bucs Pass Defense


Team


0 – 5


6 – 10


11 – 20


21 – 30


31 +


Comment


1


Car


6

3

7

2

3

2


NYG


6

4

15

2

4

23 yd, 80 yd, 33yd TD passes

3


Dal


6

4

11

1

1

4


Was


3

4

13

4

0

39 yd run TD


5


KC


5

12

5

0

0

6


NO


6

9

8

1

3

17 yd, 48 yd, 20 yd TD passes

7


Min


6

4

5

2

2

64 yd run TD;


18 yd pass TD

8


Oak


6

14

9

4

1

25 yd, 13 yd TD passes

9


SD


11

4

9

1

2

80 yd, 13 yd TD passes

10


Car


1

4

6

3

29 yd TD pass

11


Atl


3

11

8

1

2

80 yd TD pass


12


Den


9

11

6

0

1

13


Phi


9

8

7

6

1

14


NO


7

7

7

5

0

34 yd TD pass

15


Stl


2

3

6

0

1

80 yd TD pass


16


Atl


10

11

5

1

0

17 yd run TD

Sum


96


113


127


33


21


390


Average


6


7.06


7.94


2.06


1.4


4 – 80 yd TD passes

Percentage


24.6


29.0


32.6


8.5


5.4


% of 21 +


13.9


% of 11 +


46.5


Okay, most of this looks like gibberish because it is a bunch of numbers. At the end of the table are the sum, average, and compilation percentages, the green shaded area, of the total passes completed against our defense. I also included some long run and pass touchdown information. Our defense gave up 13.9% of completed passes over 20 yards, with four completed passes being 80 yard touchdown completions. There were 10 passes that were over 20 yards that were completed for touchdowns.

I know corners can get beat, but what happened to our safeties that are supposed to prevent long touchdowns from happening? This happened twice in the last six game set! But I maybe foreshadowing since I am talking about game sets. Here’s the breakdown per three game set segments so we are not too overrun by a deluge of numbers:

2012 Bucs Pass Defense


Averages broken down into 3 Segments


Games


0 – 5


6 – 10


11 – 20


21 – 30


31 +


TD Passes > 20 yds


1


1 – 4


5.25

3.75

11.5

2.25

2

1 – 80 yd TD pass


33 yd, 23 yd


Avg. 21 +

4.25


Avg. 11 +

15.75


2


5 – 10


5.83

7.83

7.00

1.83

1.60

1 – 80 yd TD pass


48 yd, 29 yd, 25 yd


Avg. 21 +

3.43

Avg. 11 +

10.43

3


11 – 16


6.67

8.50

6.50

2.17

0.83

2 – 80 yd TD pass


34 yd


Avg. 21 +

3.00


Avg. 11 +

9.50


Here in this new table, the segments are broken down by their averages within each game set respectively. Essentially, this table is a three period progress report and we fans can develop our conversations from here. Please note, the lavender shading represents the average of balls completed; not the percent of the overall completion.

From the table, we can see a noticeable trend that our secondary was not allowing a lot of long passes as the season progressed. That was something I was not expecting to report. With the notes that we gave up two 80 yard touchdown passes from the big chart and the knowledge we lost both cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Eric Wright for the last segmented set, I thought we would be much more porous in the intermediate to long pass defenses. Instead, the team got worse at defending the short passes.

If we improved against the intermediate and long passes, then how is it that the defense gave up 4 more points per game average in the last segmented set? Field position. It is a theory I am going to utilize here to maybe help explain the extra scoring even though we improved defending long passes.

In the Denver game (game #12), the Broncos scored two TDs where their starting field position was the Denver 48 and Denver 43 yard lines in the third quarter. Then the following possession afterwards from the Bucs offense was an interception returned for a TD.

Game #13 against Philly, one of the Eagles’ possessions started off at the TB 43 which eventually led to a field goal. The Bucs lost that game by two points, Eagles 23 and Bucs 21.

At New Orleans, game 14, the Saints had two possessions in the second quarter where they scored two touchdowns on a short field, NO’s 49 and TB’s 38 yard line. Another short field benefited the Saints in the fourth quarter that lead to yet another TD when they started at the Bucs’ 43 yard line.

The game against the Rams, game 15, St. Louis was gifted with an interception returned for a touchdown early in the second quarter. In the third quarter, the Rams were gifted once again with an INT that had their offense start at the Bucs’ 30 yard line which lead to a touchdown.

For the finale at Atlanta, game 16, the Falcons picked off Freeman and started their offense on the Bucs’ 21 yard line. That resulted in a touchdown in the third quarter. The fourth quarter had the Falcons start at their 48 yard line which produced a touchdown.

Within the last five games of the season, the opposing offense had about half the field to less for nine possessions that directly led to scoring. In two of those games, there were interceptions returned for touchdowns. When I did my initial points allowed, I was using the final score to base my points allowed average. I concede my mistake as I counted interceptions returned for touchdowns as part of the defense’s point count. Instead of 27 ppg allowed, it’s actually 25 ppg allowed. The more in depth I research, the more I will probably revise more information because of the initial research. With only half the field to work from, the opposing teams do not need to throw the long ball, but nonetheless their offenses were still not able to hit their long targets as often as previous segmented sections.

There are three reasons for giving the other team great field position, short field. First, there is bad special teams play to allow the returner to gain a lot of yards or bad punt/kick offs. Second is the turnover game. Third would be the offense getting hemmed deep in their own zone to where the punt would still give the opposing team great field advantage. But in all those three reasons, there is also one more factor that is detrimental to the team and that is unnecessary penalties. The defense cannot control those situations.

Although the defense has been atrocious, spotting the other team half the field or much less isn’t the defense’s fault. It’s a team sport where the offense and the special teams need to do a better job in not putting the defense in a terrible disposition. Yes, the defense did give up four 80 yard TDs and that’s should be the safeties’ responsibility not to let that occur; not the cornerbacks alone.

This article was supposed to expose how porous our secondary was this year. I am confounded to discover the pass defense for long throws actually improved over the course of the season. And if the secondary play improved, then what caused the scoring to be higher in the final six games. It turns out two interceptions returned for touchdowns bring down the average from 27.3 to 25 ppg allowed. And then I noticed how a lot of the opposition scoring was given great field advantage, a short field.

Yet there was an increase in passes between 0 and 10 yards. Those are quick strike passes. Maybe our corners played further back and the opposition took what was given to them. If that was the case, then what other things could have the coaches have done to help in that area. I just wanted to point out by exposing our secondary that maybe getting an improved set of cornerbacks would be a majority of what can fix our team. But noticing the trend of giving the opposition half the field to work from or less has me thinking we have a lot more wrong than just fixing our cornerback situation.

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