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2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: the second-best defense of the past 21 seasons

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May 10, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos former safety John Lynch speaks at the Celebration of Life for Junior Seau at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
May 10, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos former safety John Lynch speaks at the Celebration of Life for Junior Seau at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Wait, what's that, the second-best defense? How can a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan not think that the 2002 Bucs were the best defense in NFL history? It was the culmination of years of work, implementing the scheme, collecting the right players, and putting it all together for one epic run at the Super Bowl. Helped a bit by Jon Gruden's offense, of course. That team gave up just 196 points, a total bested by just four teams during the era of sixteen-game seasons. The defense ranked number one in total defense by points and yards in 2002. And yet, it's not the best defense of the past 20 years. At least, not according to Football Outsiders.

Football Outsiders has now gone back to 1991 with its DVOA rating system, which required them to go through every game play by play. And now, the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have finally lost the crown of having the best defense in DVOA - to the Philadelphia Eagles. Ugh. The 1991, Buddy Ryan-Rich Kotite-led Philadelphia Eagles had a better defense than the Bucs. To be fair, the Bucs still reign supreme as the best passing defense over the past 20 years. But the Bucs' run defense failed them, which should be no surprise to any Bucs fan: the Tampa 2 was always weaker against the run than it was against the pass.

Still, it's good to have the second-best defense in NFL history. Just not as good as having the best defense defense. And the Bucs could get bumped down further down the list: Football Outsiders hasn't even gotten to the 1985 Chicago Bears yet. For now, though, I'm mostly concerned about this year's defense. I don't expect anything remotely resembling the 2002 defense, but I'd like to see something that at least approaches mediocrity. Can the Bucs do that, at least?