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Lovie Smiths' defense is not performing as badly as you think

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not a good team right now. Obviously, because they're 1-3, because they just got blown out at home for the second time this season and because, well, fans are irate at Lovie Smith's performance so far. While Jameis Winston is likely primarily to blame for last week's loss, the Bucs defense has struggled to perform up to the level we and the team were expecting.

But that doesn't mean the defense has been bad, and most statistical measure suggest the Bucs have actually been pretty solid on defense. Not good, but solid.

Total yards is a horrible way to measure any team's performance, because it's more a feature of the amount of plays a team runs than how good they are at running them. Still, the Bucs rank ninth in total yards on defense. More impressively, they rank sixth in net yards allowed per attempt, and fourteenth in yards per carry allowed. The Bucs have allowed just 4.9 yards per play, which ranks fourth in the NFL so far. Less impressively, Football Outsiders has them as the 15th-best defense in the NFL.

All of that is a whole lot better than what I would have guessed from casual observation. It's still not good enough for a Lovie Smith defense in his second year with all of his own personnel, though. It also doesn't eliminate the concerns about the consistent mistakes in execution we've seen throughout these four games: too often, someone is out of his gap in run defense, a linebacker bites on play-action or a defensive back is late or gets beat in coverage.

But it does mean that perhaps Lovie Smith is right, and the Bucs are closer to putting it all together and stringing together some wins than we think right now.