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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Are The Most Elusive Team In The NFL

Yes, you're reading that headline right: no team was harder to tackle than the Buccaneers in 2010. That, at least, is the conclusion of this Football Outsiders piece on Broken Tackles. The Buccaneers forced a league-leading 94 broken tackles on another league-leading 77 plays. They forced a tackle on 8.1% of all plays - again leading the league. There's a lot of leading the league being done here. I'm starting to sound like Jon Gruden. 

The biggest contributor was Legarrette Blount, which should surprise absolutely no one. He forced 33 broken tackles, 11th in the league for running backs. But he did so on just 206 touches, which makes for a broken tackle about every 6 plays, third in the NFL, behind only Marshawn Lynch and Chris Ivory, surprisingly. 

To understand what this really means, we need to know what constitutes a broken tackle. A broken tackle is recorded whenever a defender was in position to make a tackle, but failed to do so. Being blocked out of the play, diving at a ball carrier's feet, being outrun: those don't count, because the player wasn't in position to make the tackle. Moreover, if someone's dragged for 10 yards before finally bringing the back down, that isn't a broken tackle either. Most broken tackles around the line of scrimmage don't make it on the list, as those almost involve blocks of some kind and are nearly impossible to track consistently. 

Instead, this is essentially a list of the most elusive open-field runners. The Buccaneers were a prominent team in offensive highlights last season, and this list reflects that. When Blount got into open space, he was very hard to bring down. Mike Williams broke many tackles getting yards after catches. Arrelious Benn was a big, physical presence who would bull people over. Freeman was hard to sack and could make a few people miss when scrambling for yardage. 

It's obvious from that list of playes that Legarrette Blount isn't the only Buccaneer to stand out. Kellen Winslow's 9 broken tackles put him 8th on the broken tackles list for receivers and tight ends. Josh Freeman's 10 broken tackles put him fourth on the quarterbacks' list, behind Michael Vick, David Garrard and Tim Tebow

One interesting thing is that Cadillac Williams was very elusive in the open field as well, forcing 21 broken tackles, 11 of which came on runs and 10 of which came on receptions. He was comfortably the most elusive receiver on the team, and the second-most elusive running back. 

Name Broken Tackles Touches BT/Touch
Arrelious Benn 4 31 9.7%
Legarrette Blount 33 206 16.0%
John Gilmore 2 13 15.4%
Kregg Lumpkin 2 2 100.0%
Preston Parker 1 5 20.0%
Jerramy Stevens 2 3 66.7%
Maurice Stovall 2 7 28.6%
Sammie Stroughter 2 25 8.0%
Cadillac Williams 21 171 12.3%
Mike Williams 6 65 9.2%
Kellen Winslow 9 66 13.6%