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Game 7, Defensive Drive Analysis: Oh Noes, not again!

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

If I told you the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would not force the opponent to punt once in the game, give up nearly 400 yards passing , and allow the opponent into the Red Zone five times as well as one other time the opponent was on the 20 yard line, then one would presume the Bucs would assuredly lose. But they did not. How did that happen?

Tampa Bay's Basic stats before the game

Defensive Passing:  5th (219 yards/game)

Defensive Rushing:  15th (108 yards/game)

Points Against:  31st (29.8 ppg)

Atlanta's Basic stats before the game

Offensive Passing:  9th (230 yards/game)

Offensive Rushing:  5th (107 yards/game)

Points For:  4th (27.5 ppg)

Here is what transpired in the game for the defense:

Atlanta Offense vs TB Defense
Atlanta Tampa Bay TB - Opp Differential Differential %
Offense Defense
Pre-Game Stat Game Stat
Passing yds 230 395 165 171.7%
Rushing yds 107 101 -6 94.4%
Points 27.5 20.0 -7.5 72.7%

Relinquishing a bountiful amount of yards, but limiting the score to only 20 points harks the nostalgia of what the Tampa-2 defense once was. Atlanta's RB, Devonta Freeman, was coming into this game "en fuego" as he was averaging 123 yards per game in his last three games. The Bucs' run defense contained Freeman to 88 yards rushing; forcing Atlanta into passing situations. Is this an example of a classic Tampa-2 defense?

TB Defense vs Was Offense
Qtr Drive Plays Yards Result RZ Pts 40 + yard Drives 50 + yard Drives 60 + yard Drives 70 + Yard Drives 80 + Yard Drives Totals Pts off TO's
1 1 14 71 FG 1 3 1 1
2 1 29 Fumble 0 3
3 13 67 Fumble 1 1 1 3
4 5 36 Int 0 7
5 1 8 End Half 0
3 6 7 26 Fumble 0 1 1 7
7 10 80 TD 1 7 1 1
8 14 77 FG 1 3 0
9 5 40 TD 1 7 1 1
OT 10 5 22 Downs 0
Total 11 75 456 5 20 1 0 1 2 1 5 20

Perusing the Drive chart above, there are a total of four turnovers!  And Tampa's offense made Atlanta pay for the turnovers with 20 points from their gaffes.

Drive 2, Fumble:  1st and 16 @ Atl 6.  LB Kwon Alexander stripped WR Julio Jones of the ball from behind while CB Alterraun Verner tackled Jones.  WR Jones was unaccounted for in the slot as LB Alexander bit hard on the fake run.

Drive 3, Fumble:  2nd and goal @ TB 4.  C Person missnapped the ball to QB Ryan.  DE Jacquies Smith recovered fumble.

Drive 4, INT: 3rd and 5 @ TB 44.  LB Alexander intercepted QB Ryan in the middle of the field as Alexander kept the TE Tamme in front of him while dropping back into his zone.

Drive 6, Fumble:  1st and 10 @ TB 20.  QB Ryan fumbled ball, attempted to pull the ball back from RB Freeman's grasp on a zone read play.  DT Melton recovered the ball.

Two turnovers were great plays by Genghis Kwon. Two other turnovers were self-inflicted. But the Bucs' defense still had to recover the ball, which should also be denoted as great plays by DE Smith and DT Melton. With the Bucs' defensive mentality to look for turnover opportunities, it is a practice to get to the ball that allowed the defense to take advantage of Atlanta's initial gaffe. A Roman philosopher Seneca famously said, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."

The Falcons had five opportunities in the Red Zone, 19 yards or less from the end zone. Out of those five Red Zone opportunities, they managed only two successful touchdown attempts. Bucs' defense held to prevent more possible scoring.

TB Bucs
2015 Defensive RZ Stats
Game Team RZ Success RZ Attempts RZ Efficiency
1 Ten 4 4 100.0%
2 NO 3 3 100.0%
3 Hou 1 2 50.0%
4 Car 2 5 40.0%
5 Jax 4 5 80.0%
6 Was 4 5 80.0%
7 Atl 2 5 40.0%
Total 20 29
Average 2.86 4.14 69.0%

Now here is the bad news. Atlanta's offense was able to move the ball at will, despite the turnovers. The defense is permitting several long drives. In the second half, all four Atlanta drives reached the Tampa 20 yard line, the edge of the Red Zone territory. Atlanta scored 17 points in the second half.

Tampa Bay
Points Allowed Breakdown, 2015
Game Team 1st 2nd Total at 1st Half 3rd 4th Total at 2nd Half Total
1 Ten 21 14 35 7 0 7 42
2 NO 0 7 7 0 12 12 19
3 Hou 7 0 7 3 9 12 19
4 Car 10 7 17 14 6 20 37
5 Jax 0 14 14 10 7 17 31
6 Was 0 7 7 14 10 24 31
7 Atl 3 0 3 7 10 17 20
Total 41 49 90 55 54 109

After several games of giving up 17 or more points in the previous three games in the second half, surely the defense would have pinpointed on how to prevent the defense from hemorrhaging for the Atlanta game. It did not.

Although, HC Lovie did something different in the second half of the game. He put the game in the hands of the offense on 4th and 1 at midfield. The opportunity failed, but who is to say the outcome would not have been the same if the team punted the ball away?

Conclusion

The defense had many splash plays as they had four turnovers to where our offense cashed in 20 points off of those turnovers. But just like previous games, the defense impersonated a sieve in the second half. Then it came up with a stop in overtime to secure a win, despite blowing a 17 point lead two games in a row.  Blowing leads is not the Tampa-2 defense of yore.