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The Buccaneers defense is much better than you think it is

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

I have been awfully busy recently and the bye week made me relax a bit too much to focus on the drive analysis articles. So here is a defensive double shot for games five and six!

Before we begin with the two games, let us recap the first quarter drive report card and summary. Then we will continue on from there.

2016 Q1 Offensive Drive Report
Opposing Offense vs Bucs Defense
Gm Team Drives Plays Yards RZ Pts 40 + yard Drives 50 + yard Drives 60 + yard Drives 70 + Yard Drives 80 + Yard Drives 90 + Yard Drives Totals
1 Atl 12 67 360 4 24 2 1 0 1 0 0 4
2 Ari 12 67 410 5 34 0 1 3 1 0 0 5
3 LA 12 61 338 2 30 0 0 0 3 0 0 3
4 Den 13 66 318 4 27 1 0 1 0 1 0 3
Total 49 261 1426 15 115 3 2 4 5 1 0 15
Average 12.25 65.25 356.5 3.8 28.75 0.75 0.5 1 1.25 0.25 0 3.75

1st Quarter Defensive Drive Report Card:  Link

Summary:  When compared to the 2014 and 2015 seasons, this year's defense is giving up fewer long drives, but allowing more points to be scored. That makes absolutely no sense when there is no context. If you follow the link to the 1st Quarter Defensive Drive Report Card, then you will notice that the offense had turned the ball over several times with under 30 yards or less to score for the opposing team -€” the average was at the 18 yard line. That is where the scoring inflation discrepancy stemmed from.

The defense was giving up fewer longer drives as well as ranked in the top 6th overall in 3rd down Defensive efficiency, at the time the article was written. The defense has improved, but the offensive turnovers masked just how improved the defense was. Well, that was what I gathered before the Bucs played the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers, games 5 and 6, respectively. Feel free to read the comments section to reveal how the community took to that particular conclusion.

Game 5, vs Carolina Panthers

TB Defense vs Carolina 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 3 9 Punt 0
2 8 46 Punt 0
3 3 24 INT 0
4 6 59 Missed FG 1 1
5 6 31 Punt 0
Half Half
3 6 11 75 TD 1 7 1 1
7 5 68 TD 1 7 1 1
8 3 4 Punt 0
9 5 31 Fumble 0
10 7 81 INT 1 1 1
11 3 7 Punt 0
Total 11 60 435 3 14 0 1 1 1 1 4

This game was a classic case of "bend, but don't break" defense. The Bucs won this game, 17 -€” 14. With the Bucs' offense going 0 for 4 in the Red Zone, the Bucs' defense countered that ineptness with four turnovers. One would usually expect more points scored when giving up four long drives, but timely turnovers thwarted a Carolina comeback.

Although the Bucs were facing an injury plagued Carolina team, it too had its own injury problems. The defense produced no sacks and no real pressure upon the quarterback. There was a total of 1 TFL (Tackle for Loss) by the defense. This can be attributed by the loss of personnel to injury on the defensive line. Missing from the starting quartet for this game were DT Gerald McCoy, DT Clinton McDonald, and DE/DT Robert Ayers. Second round rookie DE Noah Spence was playing banged up still. Let us also not forget that DE Jacquies Smith was lost for the season after one play in the first game of the season.

A "bend, but don't break" strategy had to rely on its secondary due to the fact the defensive line could not generate any pressure. I do not believe DC Mike Smith receives enough accolades for what his defense accomplished in this game.  In the next game stats, I will reveal the significant difference in pressure once Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy returns to the lineup.

Koetter's Top 4 Metrics, T4M (used for offense, but applicable to the defense):

1.  Turnovers:                                    4 (2 INTs, 2 fumbles)

2.  Reducing explosive plays:       Runs > 12 yards = 5 ; Passes > 16 yards =€” 8

3.  Getting sacks & TFLs:                0 Sacks;  1 TFL

4.  Be great on third downs:           1 -€” 8 (12.5% successful rate for the opposing team)

Those are some very wild stats!

Conclusion

When the offense does not gift the opposing team turnovers at point blank range often, the defense can hold. My conclusion from the 1st Quarter Defensive Drive report is supported in this game.

Game 6, vs San Francisco 49ers

TB Defense vs SF 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 5 75 TD 1 7 1 1
2 3 3 Punt 0
3 7 21 Punt 0
* 4 1 17 TD 1 7 0
5 6 31 INT 0
6 5 19 Punt 0
7 5 17 Punt 0
Half Half
3 8 6 11 Fumble 0
9 6 13 Punt 0
10 14 50 FG 3 1 1
11 5 7 Punt 0
12 4 19 End 0
Total 12 67 283 2 17 0 1 0 1 0 2

After becoming accustomed to the pace of a Chip Kelly offense, the defense hunkered down and delivered an amazing performance! The defense allowed fewer yards, points, and long drives for this game than the 1st Quarter average metrics. The asterisk on drive 4 is there to denote the offense threw an interception deep in its own territory, once again. San Francisco's offense could not muster much after its first drive and so it would be safe to say the Bucs' defense would have only permitted 10 points.

Koetter's Top 4 Metrics, T4M (used for offense, but applicable to the defense):

1.  Turnovers:                                    3 (1 INTs, 2 fumbles)

2.  Reducing explosive plays:       Runs > 12 yards = 4 ; Passes > 16 yards = 3

3.  Getting sacks & TFLs:                4 Sacks;  9 TFLs

4.  Be great on third downs:           6 -€” 15 (40.0% successful rate for the opposing team)

As for turnovers, there were three other fumbles that were caused, but not recovered. So the defense has been honing in on creating turnovers. Two of the explosive run plays were Kaepernick scrambles. What really is astounding is the pressure caused by the defensive line. The biggest difference is one player -€” Gerald McCoy.

Conclusion

Once the defense adjusted to the speed of the Chip Kelly offense, the defense pretty much dominated the game.

For the past two games, the defense has allowed an average of 15.5 points per game (should be less due to the offensive turnover). It has generated seven turnovers in that same span. Also, the average long drives per game is 3.0.

When the offense is not gifting the ball to the opposing team often and in Bucs' own end, then the defense has shown its mettle to thwart the opposition. Seeing this pattern play out is part of the joy I receive in tracking metrics.

If there are a couple aspects of the defense that needs improvement, then I would have to reiterate the following two items:

1)      Improve defensive Red Zone efficiency

2)      Reduce explosive plays