Lightning Offense: In three plays or less

USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense erupted on the scene after their bye week. The 2012 season sent two of its offensive personnel to the Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Hawai’i. Newly acquired WR Vincent Jackson, also affectionately known as VJax, was sent with his new record in yards receptions with 1,384 yards in his eight year career. The other offensive personnel was rookie RB Doug Martin, he of 1,926 yards gained from scrimmage (3rd overall in the NFL) where 1,454 yards were from rushing. Fourth year QB Josh Freeman finally eclipsed the 4,000 yard mark in passing in the same season. Playing opposite of VJax is WR Mike Williams, who had a record year in receiving in his short three year career with 996 yards.

With all these record personal highs on offense, it seems as though it was all for naught when the defense presented the worst passing defense, in respect to yards given up, in the League. The points allowed average by the patchwork defense was 24.6 points per game. That stat, though, was not adjusted for interceptions returned for TD’s delivered by the offense. And when I say patchwork defense, I mean a few key players were missing. DE Clayborn was lost on the second game of the year. CB Talib was suspended and traded away in the middle of the year. On the other side of Talib, CB Wright was also suspended and injured for the last six games of the year. Conflating the miss-mash defensive confusion with finding competent replacement was the play of our safeties who allowed four 80 yard TD receptions. At safety, we had a converted CB and beloved Buc Ronde Barber learning on the fly as he would learn aspects of playing safety with rookie safety Mark Barron.

This is a team game and so there should be team blame, or should there be? The defense continuously gets bashed, pummeled, and vilified for being so atrocious. And yet, there were two other teams with similar points allowed averages (around 24 ppg) that still went onto the playoffs with three rookie QBs at the helm. Those teams are the Washington Redskins, which had two rookie QBs starting throughout the year) and the Indianapolis Colts.

Maybe our team was not constructed to win high scoring affairs; could be a reason why we lost close games often. Hence, the ease to pinpoint the demise upon the porous, yet constant play of the defense. Yet pause and reflect. In the opening paragraph I denoted career high in records for several players on the offense. Many will boast that our offense did great and that QB Freeman has been the best QB we have ever had in a Buccaneer uniform. If that is so, then how can one easily blame the defense when there were two other similar defenses that still made the playoffs?

The offense was not consistent. In a six game period, they were averaging over 34 points per game. In the last six games, they were averaging 17 points per game. The offense definitely needs adjustment, and when I say offense, I include the coaching staff as well. We are not efficient.

Now, you may query what exactly I am asking you to prescribe to when I state we are not efficient. Please take into context that we are a long throwing team. With that presented, it can be concluded the team earned career highs because we are a long throwing team. These stats may mask the inefficiency of the offense. In many posts, I have often stated how the offense produced three-and-out drives. Those short drives which do not result in scores are detrimental to the defense and overall team game. In this article, I have collected the number of plays per drive in all sixteen games, which will be presented shortly. There are a number of drives, eight to be specific, that I chose not to count because they were at the end of the half or end of the game with minimal time and play affected. All of these stats were collected from ESPN’s online site.

2012 TB Bucs


Offensive Drives


That did not lead to scoring


== Total of plays, Adjusted: 183 ==


The header numbers represent how many plays in a drive.

#


Team


0 – 3


Plays


4


Plays


5


Plays


6 – 9


Plays


10 +


Plays


Comments


1

Car

4

2

1

End of half,

1 play

2

NYG

5

3

3

Dal

6

1

1

1

4

Was

4

2

1

5

KC

1

1

2

1

End of game,

1 play

6

NO

2

1

1

2

1

End of half,

1 play

7

Min

5

1

1

End of game,

2 plays

8

Oak

3

2

1

2

9

SD

2

1

1

End of half,

1 play

10

Car

5

1

1

1

1

11

Atl

3

1

End of game, 2 plays (8 sec)

12

Den

5

1

1

1

13

Phi

3

1

4

1

14

NO

4

2

3

1

3

End of half,

1 play

15

StL

5

1

2

2

End of half,

1 play

16

Atl

4

3

Sum,


Original


61

11

19

19

12

Sum,


Adjusted


53

% over total,


Adjusted

29.0%

6.0%

10.4%

10.4%

6.6%

Drives


0 - 3


4


5


6 – 9


10 +


Total of non-scoring Drives, Adjusted


114

% of non-scoring Drives over Total Drives


62.3%

Note:


Non-Scoring drives includes punts, interceptions, downs, and missed FGs.

Now is a time to contemplate our inefficiencies. We do not score on 62% of the total possessions. That means we score on 38% of the time on offense. Please note this is an adjusted scale. Surprisingly, when I did a Google search on “nfl scoring drive efficiencies” I was able to find a site that did such aptly named www.sportingcharts.com. The site provided all 32 teams’ scoring drive, but not breakdown into each team. Also there is a slight discrepancy in the number of drives between the ESPN site and the sportingcharts site. Sporting chart.com reports 193 total drives and I manually inputted into Excel 191 from the ESPN site. Hence, more or less, the stats are close in proximity to one another, but the lack of uniformity between the two data is denoted.

From the sportingchart site, the Bucs rank 16th in scoring drives with 35.2% success rate. The average successful scoring drive rate is 34.0%, based upon the sportingchart. So that means we are barely an above average scoring offense. Does not that seem odd considering how hyped up many Buccaneer fans are about the offense? While scouring that same webpage, they presented the average of yards gained per drive. They rank to be the 24th best with a 55 yard per game average. Upon the same site, I decided to query “three and out” and surprisingly, it was there. (I did not even think about Google searching before my collection of data until this point of writing the article because it has become automatic for me to simply collect data myself.) From that site, the Bucs are the 13th least offending team in three-and-outs with a 21.24% rate. That differs greatly from my collected data as sportingchart.com records Tampa in those situations 41 times out of 193 drive opportunities. Whereas in my collection of data had produced 61 situations unadjusted and 53 drives adjusted. I believe the discrepancy lies in my data collecting drives that consist of one play, two plays and three plays as one category as well as interceptions within the same range of plays in a drive; sportingcharts.com collects the parameter of only three play drives.

Tampa Bay are a middle of the road offense when it comes to three-and-outs. They are surprisingly worse when it comes to three plays or less, from my calculations, obviously. Roughly 30% of the total drive results were three plays or less from the privateers’ offense. That is significant because it represents almost half of total plays that did not result in a scoring drive, which is 62%. So what percentage is that if we compare three plays or less drives (that are non-scoring) to the total of the non-scoring drives to observe the ratio between plays? Good thing you inquired and here is your chart.

2012 TB Bucs


Non-Scoring Drives Breakdown


== Total of plays, Adjusted: 183 ==


The header numbers represent how many plays in a drive.

0 – 3


Plays


4


Plays


5


Plays


6 – 9


Plays


10 +


Plays


Total of Non-Scoring Drives,


Adjusted


Sum,


Adjusted


53

11

19

19

12

114

Percentage in respect to Total Non-Scoring Drives,


Adjusted

46.5%

9.6%

16.7%

16.7%

10.5%

100.0%

Under 50% of the non-scoring drives were three plays or less. Which means less first downs, less time of possession (TOP), but more respite for the defense and quite possibly the loss of field position advantage.

The play clock duration for a play is 40 seconds. The game clock runs concurrent with the play clock unless it is one of the following that causes a stoppage of play: initial down possession, a dropped pass, a penalty, a player runs out of bounds, a time out is called, or a play after the official two minute break. When one of those occurs, then the game clock is stopped, but the play clock continues on as it regulates a team has only 40 seconds to reset itself and initiate the next play. When I state three-and-out, it is implied that there are four plays involved because the fourth play is when a team punts as it no longer is trying to advance the ball. Thus, a three-and-out drive should theoretically consume 160 seconds of play clock time continuously, or two minutes and 30 seconds. The maximum time that can be consumed on the game clock from a three-and-out is 160 seconds; the minimum time that can be consumed from the game clock on a three-and-out could be 33 seconds, as the Bucs have reached that feat in 2012. Although, there are some non-scoring drives that lasted less in case of one or two play drives which are a result of a turnover by the offense.

I understand some drives will be three-and-out, but when you factor in the time in between possessions, the more three and outs you possess, the less time there is for the defense to rest. On the same note, if the team is trying to establish a run game, then the more three-and-out drives potentially equates to less chances of running the ball or developing the rhythm to running the ball for our other running backs not named Doug Martin.

The Buccaneers’ offense is a feast or famine producing offense. But that feasting is at an ultra production level on a very short period of time which skews the average to be much higher than we dare to perceive. For example, take someone who makes above the minimum wage for the past 10 years and then wins the lottery in that tenth year. When you take the average and not look further than that, then one would assume that person has earned a very large of salary for the past 10 years. Afterwards, look into the future in five to 10 years and you might notice that person has gone bankrupt. If people or organizations lack the sustenance of reflection and revision, then they fail to be cognizant of the inability to sustain profitability, in whatever shape and form that may be.

In a previous article I have denoted in the past five years of Buccaneer recent history, the 2012 Tampa Bay offense was the highest scoring offense. Rookie coach Schiano managed to outscore, on average, offensive minded Gruden in the last year of his coaching of the Bucs. In another article, I broke down the scoring average of the Bucs into three segments of 20.5, 34.2, and 17.0, the first four games before the bye week, the next six games after the bye week, and the final six games thereafter.

2012 Buccaneers Offense


Scoring Average Breakdown


Games


1 – 4


5 – 10


11 – 16


Mean


(Average)


PPG


20.5

34.2

17

24.3

Deviation from the Mean


– 3.8

9.9

– 7.3

Deviation from First Game Set


0

13.7

-3.5

In the Scoring Average Breakdown chart above, I showed two deviation sets: one from the mean and one from the first four game set. The first four game set acts like a barometer control point for the rest of the season, considering it was coach Schiano’s rookie year, the four game set allows him and his staff along with players to become more acclimated with his schemes and implementation of schemes. In the Deviation from the Mean row, the team was scoring below the mean for 10 games. Essentially, this translates that during a six game stretch, games five through 10, the offensive output was so great during that six game stretch that it raised the average scoring rate despite scoring less in 10 games. As shown in the chart, that middle game set possesses the largest margin of difference from the mean.

We are led to believe that the 2012 offense was a prolific scoring machine, when in truth it was a juggernaut for only a six game stretch. Which ties back into number of plays in an offensive drive. The Bucs’ do not score on 62.3% of their offensive possessions, according to my calculations, and www.sportingcharts.com has it much worse at 64.8%. Again, from sportingcharts.com, they list Tampa Bay to have 50.52% possession rate with a rank of 17th best, thereby conflating the feasting comes in a very short, but impactful period of time.

2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Percentage of Drives


Total of 183


Non-Scoring


TDs


FGs


%, Adjusted


62.30%

22.40%

15.30%

0 – 3 Plays,


Non-Scoring

%, Adjusted

29.0%

The information is quite frightening to know the percentage of 0 – 3 non-scoring play drives have a higher percentage than a TD or FG scoring drives separately. Also, kicker Connor Barth has made 12 FGs between 40 – 49 yards and six FGs from 50 yards or more. Consider the nightmare the offense would have had if they did not have Barth bailing it out for those possessions. The Buccaneers offense must reduce the 0 – 3 play non-scoring drives if they want to help improve the team. One more chart to conclude this novel:

Conglomerate of Stats,


3-n-Out Stats (www.sportingcharts.com)


Playoffs


Record


Points


Allowed


Avg.


3-n-out


%


3-n-out


Drives


Team


Yes

11 – 5

24.2

19.44

35

Ind

Yes

10 – 6

24.3

19.13

35

Was

No

7 – 9

24.6

21.24

41

TB

In a full circle tilt, my first article I had written for Bucsnation.com included all three teams and now utilized once again. Both Indy and Washington had six less three-and-out drives, which mean they prolonged six more drives. That is roughly 3% of the total drive difference. And as you can tell, that 3% difference has a huge impact. Mind you that both Indy and Washington had rookie quarterbacks at the helm, with Indy having coaching concerns due to health reasons in its first year of charge.

Now, the Tampa Bay offense may not be built for such a high scoring offense, but with Pro Bowlers in running back and wide receiver, a career high in yards for the second wide receiver as well as starting quarterback, the results speak the contrary. In the offseason, the organization did a massive haul of talent on the defensive side of the ball to help reduce the points allowed average. Yet if the offense remains the same in its short period feast, long period famine, then Revis will not be the only one on an island.

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