Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to cut down on penalties

Kevin C. Cox

That was the mantra going into the 2012 off-season by then new coach Greg Schiano. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ football team was in for a culture change remake of how it would conduct itself. "Toes on the line," bellowing out from Schiano meant he wants discipline from his group. So much so that any player not willing to conform to the new norm will be walked to the plank and jump ship. Kellen Winslow Jr was probably the biggest example of not being with the team in the ‘You’re either with us or you’re against us’ theme.

So we are to expect a lot of discipline from this group headed by Schiano. Would that also translate to disciplined play on the field? The assumption would be that the Bucs would be one of few teams with minimal penalties accrued against them. Let us investigate.

In 2011, the average penalty count among the 32 teams was 6.34. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers would average 7.69 penalties per game, which was ranked as fourth most offending team in the league. In 2012, the average penalty count in the NFL was 6.21. The lowest average in 2012 was 3.33, by the Atlanta Falcons, and the worst was St. Louis with 8.06 penalty counts. Remember, ‘Toes on the line’. New culture or you were jettisoned off the ship. The Buccaneers’ penalty count average for 2012 was 6.31, which made us the 18th most offending team in the league. (Stats were derived by nflpenalties.com and matched my collection of the Bucs’ 2012 penalty count average of 6.31.)

Tampa Bay’s penalty average for last year, 2012, was still higher than the NFL mean. For some reason, I had expected the outcome and ranking to be much lower with the new culture change. Last year, the Bucs were in 10 games where the final score was differentiated by eight points or less. The record of the Bay in those 10 games was 3 – 7, three wins and seven losses. Could penalties factor into wins and losses?

In light of the many close games the Bay were in, yes, penalties could hurt this team’s chances at winning games. Penalties can, over a course of a game, affect the outcome and here are a few examples.

Penalty infractions versus the NFC East


Game


Score


W/L


Qtr


Description


Dal

16 - 10

L

2nd

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 2:51


1st and 10 at TB 49

J.Freeman pass short left to A.Benn to DAL 42 for 9 yards (B.Church). PENALTY on TB, Illegal Shift, 5 yards, enforced at TB 49 - No Play.

1st and 15 at TB 44

PENALTY on TB-L.Stocker, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at TB 44 - No Play.

1st and 20 at TB 39

L.Blount left end to DAL 50 for 11 yards (B.Church).

2nd and 9 at 50

L.Blount left guard to DAL 46 for 4 yards (S.Lee).

3rd and 5 at DAL 46

(Shotgun) PENALTY on TB-D.Martin, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at DAL 46 - No Play.

3rd and 10 at TB 49

(Shotgun) J.Freeman pass incomplete short left to V.Jackson [J.Hatcher]. Pass incomplete on crossing pattern at the Dallas 45; Carter closest defender.

4th and 10 at TB 49

(Punt formation) PENALTY on TB-M.Koenen, Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at TB 49 - No Play.

4th and 15 at TB 44

(Punt formation) M.Koenen punts 56 yards to end zone, Center-A.Economos, Touchback.

3rd

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 2:03


Bucs’ defense forced a turnover at Dallas 31.

1st and 10 at DAL 31

(Shotgun) J.Freeman pass incomplete short left. PENALTY on TB-J.Freeman, Intentional Grounding, 10 yards, enforced at DAL 31. Heavy pressure by Sean Lee

2nd and 20 at DAL 41

(Shotgun) J.Freeman pass incomplete deep left to V.Jackson (M.Jenkins). Pass incomplete on a "fly" pattern at the Dallas 12 sideline.

3rd and 20 at DAL 41

(Shotgun) J.Freeman pass incomplete deep right to V.Jackson. Pass incomplete at the Dallas 20.

4th and 20 at DAL 41

(Punt formation) M.Koenen punts 41 yards to end zone, Center-A.Economos, Touchback.

DRIVE TOTALS: TB 7, DAL 10, 3 plays, -10 yards, 0:27 elapsed


4th

Dallas Cowboys at 10:09


1st and 10 at DAL 31

T.Romo pass deep middle to M.Austin to DAL 48 for 17 yards (R.Barber). Pass complete on a "Crossing" pattern.

1st and 10 at DAL 48

D.Murray up the middle to DAL 46 for -2 yards (L.David).

2nd and 12 at DAL 46

D.Murray up the middle to DAL 48 for 2 yards (L.David).

3rd and 10 at DAL 48

(Shotgun) T.Romo pass short middle to K.Ogletree to TB 47 for 5 yards (R.Barber).

4th and 5 at TB 47

(Punt formation) C.Jones punts 29 yards to TB 18, Center-L.Ladouceur, fair catch by J.Shipley. PENALTY on TB-M.Lewis, Unnecessary Roughness, 9 yards, enforced at TB 18.

DRIVE TOTALS: TB 7, DAL 13, 4 plays, 22 yards, 2:33 elapsed


Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 7:28


1st and 10 at TB 9

D.Martin right tackle to TB 13 for 4 yards (A.Spencer).

2nd and 6 at TB 13

D.Martin left tackle to TB 15 for 2 yards (T.Crawford).

3rd and 4 at TB 15

(Shotgun) J.Freeman sacked at TB 7 for -8 yards (D.Ware). FUMBLES (D.Ware), recovered by TB-D.Penn at TB 1. D.Penn to TB 1 for no gain (S.Lee).

4th and 18 at TB 1

(Punt formation) PENALTY on TB-C.Grimm, False Start, 0 yards, enforced at TB 1 - No Play.

(Punt formation) M.Koenen punts 49 yards to TB 50, Center-A.Economos. D.Bryant to TB 6 for 44 yards (M.Foster).

DRIVE TOTALS: TB 7, DAL 13, 3 plays, 6 yards, 2:29 elapsed


Dallas Cowboys at 4:44


1st and 6 at TB 6

T.Romo pass short middle to T.Romo to TB 7 for -1 yards (B.McDonald). Ball tipped at the line of scrimmage by Michael Bennett

2nd and 7 at TB 7

D.Murray left end pushed ob at TB 1 for 6 yards (M.Barron). PENALTY on DAL-L.Vickers, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at TB 7 - No Play.

2nd and 17 at TB 17

D.Murray right end pushed ob at TB 6 for 11 yards (M.Barron).

3rd and 6 at TB 6

D.Murray up the middle to TB 4 for 2 yards (R.Miller).

Timeout #1 by DAL at 02:47.

4th and 4 at TB 4

(Field Goal formation) D.Bailey 22 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-L.Ladouceur, Holder-C.Jones.

D.Bailey kicks 74 yards from DAL 35 to TB -9. A.Benn, Touchback. Ball was kicked out of the end zone.

DRIVE TOTALS: TB 7, DAL 16, 4 plays, 2 yards, 2:01 elapsed


Was

22 - 24

L

1st

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 9:12


1st and 10 at TB 30

J.Freeman pass short left to V.Jackson ran ob at TB 36 for 6 yards.

2nd and 4 at TB 36

A.Benn left end to TB 41 for 5 yards (Mad.Williams).

1st and 10 at TB 41

J.Freeman pass deep right to M.Williams to WAS 39 for 20 yards (J.Wilson).

1st and 10 at WSH 39

D.Martin left tackle to WAS 20 for 19 yards (P.Riley). PENALTY on TB-J.Zuttah, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at WAS 39 - No Play.

1st and 20 at WSH 49

J.Freeman pass short left to D.Martin to WAS 43 for 6 yards (Mad.Williams).

2nd and 14 at WSH 43

(Shotgun) J.Freeman pass short left to A.Benn to WAS 37 for 6 yards (Mad.Williams).

3rd and 8 at WSH 37

(Shotgun) J.Freeman pass short right to D.Ware to WAS 32 for 5 yards (R.Doughty).

4th and 3 at WSH 32

(Field Goal formation) C.Barth 50 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-A.Economos, Holder-M.Koenen.

M.Koenen kicks 65 yards from TB 35 to WAS 0. N.Paul to WAS 25 for 25 yards (B.McDonald).

DRIVE TOTALS: WSH 0, TB 3, 7 plays, 38 yards, 4:30 elapsed


Phi

23 - 21

L

2nd

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 11:36


1st and 10 at TB 48

(Shotgun) J.Freeman pass short left to D.Martin to TB 49 for 1 yard (D.Ryans). PENALTY on TB-D.Dotson, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at TB 48 - No Play.

1st and 20 at TB 38

(Shotgun) J.Freeman pass short left to D.Martin to TB 32 for -6 yards (F.Cox).

2nd and 26 at TB 32

J.Freeman pass incomplete deep right to M.Williams (D.Rodgers-Cromartie).

3rd and 26 at TB 32

(Shotgun) J.Freeman pass incomplete deep left to D.Clark (N.Asomugha). PHI-N.Asomugha was injured during the play.

4th and 26 at TB 32

(Punt formation) M.Koenen punts 48 yards to PHI 20, Center-A.Economos. D.Johnson to PHI 38 for 18 yards (A.Economos). PENALTY on TB-A.Hayward, Face Mask (15 Yards), 15 yards, enforced at PHI 42.

DRIVE TOTALS: PHI 0, TB 0, 3 plays, -16 yards, 1:22 elapsed


Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 3:55


1st and 10 at TB 20

D.Martin left tackle to TB 31 for 11 yards (N.Allen).

1st and 10 at TB 31

D.Martin right guard to TB 34 for 3 yards (D.Ryans, M.Kendricks).

Timeout #1 by PHI at 03:08.

2nd and 7 at TB 34

D.Martin left tackle to TB 36 for 2 yards (T.Cole, M.Kendricks). PENALTY on TB-T.Larsen, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at TB 34 - No Play.

2nd and 17 at TB 24

D.Martin left guard to TB 33 for 9 yards (N.Allen).

Timeout #2 by PHI at 02:55.

3rd and 8 at TB 33

D.Martin up the middle to TB 33 for no gain (F.Cox).

Timeout #3 by PHI at 02:51.

4th and 8 at TB 33

(Punt formation) M.Koenen punts 31 yards to PHI 36, Center-A.Economos, out of bounds.

DRIVE TOTALS: PHI 16, TB 21, 4 plays, 13 yards, 1:11 elapsed


In the game against Dallas, the first example I gave showed us at mid-field only to move backwards in a hurry. And once it seemed like the offense was going to break forward, we committed another penalty going from 3rd and 5 yards to go into 3rd and 10 from the 49 yard line of the Bucs, the exact same place where they started from. No sniff at a field goal attempt possible. Similarly, in the second Dallas example, we moved out of field goal range after the Bucs’ defense forced a turnover at the Dallas 31 yard line. Again, no field attempt was made available. Tampa Bay lost the game by six points. Which brings us to our last example to the Cowboys game, instead of starting at the Tampa Bay 18 yard line, they are forced to start at the 9 yard line due to unnecessary roughness penalty by Myron Lewis. The team got pigeon-holed and the resulting effect was a Dallas FG.

The next example was against the Redskins. Here is one example of a penalty that could have lead to a possible touchdown, but again, the team shot itself in the foot and moved backwards. The result was settling for a 50 yard field goal. The Bucs lost that game by two points. I am not saying the team could have scored a touchdown, but I am saying they prevented themselves from such an opportunity.

Versus the Eagles, the last game I brought up shows two instances of penalty infractions that hurt the team’s chances at winning. In the first example, you can see the output was – 16 yards (that is NEGATIVE 16 yards) from that single possession. Not included in that possession is the 15 yard face mask penalty. Instead of Philly starting at their own 38 yard line, the extra 15 yards put them in Bucs territory on Tampa Bay’s 43 yard line. Rest assured, that lead to an Eagles FG. But the Bay still had a chance to win the game by sealing it on offense, which is the last example. With 3:55 left to play in the game, the Bucs were only able to run off 1:11 of the time. Why? The team was called for a holding penalty while trying to run the clock out. That penalty acted as a fourth timeout for the Eagles. The 40 seconds or more on that run play was negated by that penalty. Philly needed all 2:44 to get the win as it was in the final 2 seconds of the game where they pulled out a touchdown.

Just in those three games alone, penalties hindered the Buccaneer football. The team finished 7 – 9 on the year. What if they avoided stupid mistakes and capitalized on them? It is possible the team could have finished 10 – 6 instead. That 10 – 6 record would have ensured a playoff appearance as it would have also dealt the Redskins a loss and we would have taken their place.

I hope coach Schiano does not stop preaching "Toes on the line", but rather intensifies it. Granted, this team’s defense was mediocre, but Schiano’s team could have helped itself out if it did not make silly mistakes that turn out to be costly ones. "Toes on the line" represents a sort of discipline. Apparently, the ship needs to tighten up a little bit more.

(Odd note: As I was putting a title to the penalties table, I did not realize that the teams I listed were all from the NFC East division. I am not saying there is a conspiracy going on, but that was quite eerie as I was typing down all the team names and then changed it to NFC East.)

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