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Reviewing the Buccaneers after one quarter

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How have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers done in their first four games of the 2014 NFL season?

Gregory Shamus

At the quarter mark of the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 1-3, with two losses at the hands of divisional foes. With high hopes because of the signing of Lovie Smith during the offseason to steady the ship, those hopes have met reality that equate to disappointment. The only silver lining at the moment is that the Bucs still have a chance to win the division as the Bucs are only one game out of first place.

NFC SOUTH

W

L

T

PCT

HOME

ROAD

DIV

CONF

PF

PA

DIFF

STRK

Carolina

2

2

0

.500

1-1

1-1

1-0

2-0

73

96

-23

Lost 2

Atlanta

2

2

0

.500

2-0

0-2

2-0

2-1

131

113

+18

Lost 1

New Orleans

1

3

0

.250

1-0

0-3

0-1

1-2

95

110

-15

Lost 1

Tampa Bay

1

3

0

.250

0-2

1-1

0-2

0-3

72

119

-47

Won 1

An interesting stat to look at is the point differential, stats provided by ESPN.com.  There is only one team with a positive differential, the Falcons. Oddly enough, the Falcons gained a positive 42 point differential when they beat the Bucs 56 - 14 two weeks ago. Of course, everyone in the division losing last week did help with that negative differential trend.

The Bucs' Points Allowed (PA) is the second worst in the league. Surprisingly, the Falcons are the third worst team with 113 PA. New Orleans is the fourth worst team with 110 PA. In the phrase from the movie Dumb and Dumber, "So you're saying there's a chance?!"

Tampa Bay 1st Quarter Rankings, per Yards

Offense

Defense

Passing

Rushing

Passing

Rushing

Rank

32

24

29

18

Yds/Game

194.3

96.5

272.5

115.3

Those stats support the reason why the Bucs are 1-3 as well as our negative point differential. In a Lovie defense, it is a "bend, but don't break" mantra such that cumulative yards gained against his defense do not matter much. I could understand that. The only problem is we are the fifth worst defense in giving up passing TDs with 8. I have nothing much to say about that.

Reviewing the Games

Carolina vs Tampa Bay

Scoring per Quarter

Team

1st

2nd

3rd

4th

Total

Car

0

10

0

10

20

TB

0

0

0

14

14

This is the Bucs' first loss.  They nearly pulled off a victory as they furiously raged backed with 14 consecutive points after being blanked 17 - 0 so far.  With the score at 17 - 14, Panthers ahead, and 1:36 left in the fourth quarter, the Bucs had the ball at their own 32 yard line along with two time outs at their disposal. The very first play was a false start.  So now it's first and 15 at the Tampa Bay 27. It was a short pass to Bobby Rainey, but Kuechly caused a fumble and the Panthers recovered the fumble. The Panthers ran the time down 28 seconds left in the game as they made a field goal, forcing the Bucs the need to make a touchdown for the win.

Here is a stat that hurt the Bucs the most in this game: Turnovers - Carolina 0; Tampa Bay 3 (2 INTs, 1 fumble lost).  Two of those turnovers occurred within the Tampa Bay Bucs' side of the 40 yard line. Also, the Bucs had a chance to attempt a 54 yard field goal early in the third quarter, but elected to punt as the score was 10 - 0.

We lost by 6 points.

St. Louis vs Tampa Bay

Scoring per Quarter

Team

1st

2nd

3rd

4th

Total

StL

7

3

3

6

19

TB

7

0

7

3

17

This is the Bucs' second loss. Our OC, Tedford, is still out for medical reasons. Yet, the Bucs were only 3:55 left in the fourth quarter to secure a win. The Rams took the ball from their 9 yard line and drove 71 yards while eating up 4:37 to kick a field goal and get the lead. With 38 seconds left in the game and the ball on the Tampa 20, there just was not enough time to get into field goal range.

The positive aspect to this game was Rainey rushed for 144 yards, 6.5 yards per rush average. The bad aspect to the game was Lovie Smith's mismanagement of time at the end of the first half. Lovie did not want to be down more points at the half, afraid of his offense making a mistake, but said in a post game press conference that his team needs to find a way to find one extra play or more.

We lost by 2 points.

Tampa Bay vs Atlanta

Scoring per Quarter

Team

1st

2nd

3rd

4th

Total

Atl

21

14

21

0

56

TB

0

0

0

14

14

There really is not much to say about this. Rainey rushed for 41 yards, 3.7 yard per rush average, and two lost fumbles.  That makes three fumbles on the year. Glennon got onto the field and did okay against scrubs, throwing for 121 yards and a TD. Gerald McCoy was not available for this game due to injury.

We lost by 56 points in the third quarter. In three games, we have scored only 7 points in the first half.

Tampa Bay vs Pittsburgh

Scoring per Quarter

Team

1st

2nd

3rd

4th

Total

Pit

10

7

7

0

24

TB

10

0

7

10

27

The team started off strong and closed strong for the comeback win. Glennon threw for 302 yards and 2 TD's. 245 yards passing was caught in the second half. The defense shut down the Steelers' last three offensive possessions, not including the odd last play of the game.

The Bucs won by 3.

Overview

The Bucs were in three close games and one blowout. This is a small sample, but enough to say that the blowout game was an extreme. The secondary has been torched, but the Bucs were still in the game in the first two losses. This represents the "bend, but don't break" philosophy of the Tampa-2 defense. The offense now has direction after the uncertainty of Tedford's availability.  Is the future bleak for the Bucs?

Let us take a peek into the median point differential to see how terribly the Bucs are as a 1 - 3 team.

2014 Bucs 1st Qtr Pt Diff Median

From the diagram, it seems as though it follows a Lovie Smith conservative game plan.  A plan such that the games are kept close. That meme can be found in Lovie's post game interview after the St. Louis loss in respect to the close of the first half. Despite our total point differential being - 47, our median production per game has us much closer to zero. Does this mean we are on the verge of producing more wins?

The offensive line is becoming more cohesive as they are giving our quarterback a cleaner pocket. The play calling has designs to throw more down field. The defense actually stopped an opposing offense three times to close out a win versus the Steelers.

While the win against the Steelers was accomplished within the second half, the overall meme of keeping games close remains. Limiting offensive turnovers, improving defensive turnovers, and limiting penalties are all pertinent factors in winning close games. Can this Bucs team be disciplined enough to eek out wins the rest of the way?  I have no idea, but we will always be in excruciating suspense all along the way for most of the games.