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Explosive plays are why the Buccaneers defense is failing

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Game 3
Sun, Sept 25, 2016
QTR 1 2 3 4 Total
LA 10 7 7 13 37
TB 6 14 0 12 32

Just by peering at the box score, it becomes easy to assume that the defense completely failed the team. This simple box score omits context and depth.

Dirk Koetter has a Top 10 offensive metrics chart to increasing chances to winning a game and turnovers. Since he is now the head coach, his rating chart applies more so because he is in charge of both sides of the ball:

Koetter's top 4 metrics (out of 10) to improve chances to winning games on offense:

1.  Turnovers

2.  Creating explosive plays

3.  Reduce getting sacked

4.  Be great on third downs

Just for this exercise, what would the score be like if the offense did not turn the ball over?

Game 3
Sun, Sept 25, 2016
Without Points off of Turnovers by Offense
QTR 1 2 3 4 Total
LA 10 0 7 6 23
TB 6 14 0 12 32

That would leave the Bucs with a notch in the win column for this game.

Defensive Drives

TB Defense vs LA Offense
Qtr Drive Plays Yards Result RZ Pts 40 + yard Drives 50 + yard Drives 60 + yard Drives 70 + Yard Drives 80 + Yard Drives Totals
1 1 8 75 TD 7 1 1
2 3 6 INT - Ret TD 0
3 3 7 Punt 0
4 8 33 FG 3 0
5 3 23 Fum 0
6 5 20 Punt 0
* 7 7 22 TD 1 7 0
Half 0
3 8 3 9 Punt 0
9 3 0 Punt 0
10 8 69 TD 1 7 1 1
* 11 7 75 TD 6 1 1
12 3 -1 Punt 0
Total 10 61 338 2 30 0 0 0 3 0 3

The Rams were able to muster only three drives of over 40 yards or less. Giving up only three long drives is actually a good stat. That would posit, at most, 21 points for the LA Rams. Yet there were a total of 37 points on the scoreboard.

3 Long drives = 20 points

2 Turnovers = 14 points

1 FG = 3 points

Total = 37 points

Three Long Drives

Upon closer inspection of the three long drives, only one was scored inside the Red Zone. That should be a red flag.

Drive 1:  NO RED ZONE TD.  3rd and 7 at TB 44. QB Keenen to Quick for 44 yard TD.  EXPLOSIVE PASS PLAY.

Drive 10:  Two EXPLOSIVE PLAYS.  Pass play to WR Britt for 19 yards.  RB Gurley run up the middle for 16 yards.

Drive 11:  Offense converted a 3rd and 17 and 3rd and 2.  3rd and 17 at LA 18 yard line, two penalties called on different cornerbacks. CB VH3 for defensive holding and CB Verner for defenseive pass interference.  One 3rd and 2 at TB 43, all out blitz called and a pass to WR Austin runs it in for a 43 yard Touchdown pass. EXPLOSIVE PASS PLAY.

As you can notice, the common theme in all three long drives are explosive plays. Both of the non-Red Zone touchdowns scored were on third down and over 40 yards.  Just two plays resulted in 14 points. The game would play out much differently if the defense did not falter one either one or both of those opportunities.

Quick Stats

Red Zone Efficiency:        2 for 2

3rd Down Efficiency:         6 for 13

Rushing Yards Allowed:  137 yards  (4.2 yards per attempt)

Interceptions:                     1 INT

Sacks:                                      1 Sack(s)

Pass Defended:                   3 PD(s)

QB Hits:                                 3 QB hits

Top Tacklers

Tampa Bay Bucs
Top 5 Tacklers
Game 3:  LA
Rank Pos Name Total Solo Sack(s) TFL(s)
1 WLB LVD 8 7 1 2
2 S Conte 8 6 0 0
3 MLB Alexader 7 6 0 1
4 DE Gholston 6 6 0 0
5 NT McDonald 6 3 0 2

The focus for the defense was to stop last year's rookie of the year, RB Todd Gurley. Here are his stats:

Gurley:  85 yards on 27 carries for an average of 3.1 yards per carry. He had two touchdowns and longest run was 16 yards.

An average of 3.1 yards per carry is a win for the defense. Remove Gurley's longest run and his average drops to 2.6 yards per carry. That is probably why you see two defensive linemen in the top five in tackles for this game -€” stop Gurley... check.

What is surprising are the plays of rookie defensive linemen in DeVonte Lambert and Channing Ward. A lot of credit should go to D-Line coach Jay Hayes for preparing these undrafted rookies to play in this game.

Lack of QB Pressure

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Defensive Pressure
Comparison: LA Rams vs TB Bucs
Team Sacks TFL's QB hits PD
Defense LA 2 1 8 8
Defense TB 1 5 3 3

Combine the sacks and QB hits, then we notice the Bucs' defense did not pressure as much as the Rams' defense did on the quarterback. Nobody likes the excuse of injuries, but losing a two of your pass rush specialists in third year Buc Jacquies Smith and free agent pick up of Robert Ayers removes high end talent from the defensive line.

A way to increase pressure, aside from talent, is to put the offense in third and long. Unfortunately, in the 3-and-out section of this article, the defense permitted two 3rd downs of seven yards or longer that led to touchdowns.

So with that thought blown out of the water, it could be that we need improved defensive play calling on those third down and long situations.


In a recent weekday press conference, Bucs' defensive coordinator Mike Smith made sure to inform the media that the sky is not falling for the defense. The defense can be fixed because it was a combination of lack of communication, execution, and play calling. He never did allude to the offense turning the ball over, but I will.

Prevent two third downs from occurring on two of the three long drives, and the Rams do not score on those drives. That accounts for 14 points.  If the offense does not turn the ball over, then that is another 13 points taken off the boards. Four plays equated to 27 points for the Rams.

Four plays.

I want to utilize coach Koetter's top four metrics to improve the chances of winning for the defense:

1.  Defensive Turnovers:  Yes -€” created two turnovers with a pick-6.

2.  Preventing explosive plays:  No -€” too many to identify on the three long drives.

3.  Induce getting sacked:  No -€” just one sack and only 3 QB hits.

4.  Be great on third downs:  No -€” see the 3-and-outs section.

Two plays made from the Rams offense fall into explosive plays and third down categories, which both produced touchdowns.

If the defense can incrementally improve their communication as well as play calling on third downs alone, then the defense can produce a top defense. The defense did give the offense a chance at the end of the game by forcing the Rams' offense in a negative production 3-and-out. The defense helped give the ball to the Bucs' offense with 1:42 left on the clock and two timeouts.

As terrible as it looked in the box score, the defense gave the team a chance to win at the end of the game. Aside from a few plays, the defense played admirably.  In two of the three games played, the defense showed up late in the game to do what it needed to do -€” get stops. The defense secured the win against Atlanta, but our high powered offense just could not seal the deal against the Rams.

There is improvement on the Bucs' defense. I believe they are almost there. And once everyone is on the same page, I truly believe Bucs can run the table to the playoffs this year.