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The Buccaneers defense is better than it seems

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Improvement - Deal With It!
Improvement - Deal With It!
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I have two fond memories of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense this season: came through at the end to stop Atlanta's offense to secure the win and came through to stop the Rams' offense to give the Bucs' offense a chance to win the game. Aside from that, they have been allowing a few explosive plays to put points on the board for the other team. It was those few plays that really killed the defense.

2016 NFC South
1st Quarter Results
Conference Points
Team W L T PCT W L For Against Differential
Atlanta 3 1 0 0.75 2 1 152 124 28
Tampa Bay 1 3 0 0.25 1 2 77 128 -51
Carolina 1 3 0 0.25 1 2 109 118 -9
New Orleans 1 3 0 0.25 0 2 114 130 -16

The Bucs are trending near the New Orleans divide for points given up. To be fair, the Bucs offense has been charitable to opposing teams by giving up over 14 points per game due to turnovers and missed field goals.

Before I introduce the 2016 Drive Chart, I will first put up previous years' defensive productions.

Opposing Offenses vs TB Defense
2014 vs 2015
Team Drive Plays Yards Offensive Scoring 40 + yard Drives 50 + yard Drives 60 + yard Drives 70 + Yard Drives 80 + Yard Drives 90 + yard Drives Total
2014 Avg 11.81 69.31 367.00 24.13 0.81 1.13 0.81 0.63 0.75 0.13 4.25
2014, Last 10 games 12 67.60 329.70 19.80 0.80 1.40 0.70 0.50 0.50 0.10 4.00
2015 Avg 11.31 67.25 352.31 24.81 0.88 0.94 1.00 0.81 0.56 0.00 4.09

In 2014 and 2015, the Bucs' defense has allowed an average of over 4 drives of 40 yards or more.

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 10 261 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

Surprisingly, the Bucs' defense is allowing fewer long drives than the previous two seasons. The only problem, a glaring one, is the defense is permitting higher points against average than the previous two years by 4 points more.

2016 Tampa Bay Bucs Defense
Bucs' offensive Turnovers
Returned for TD INT and Fumbles.
Starting Line of Scrimmage in TB side of the Field after Turnover
Game Team Half Bucs' Off INT Bucs' Off FUM Ret TD Starting LOS (on TB side) TD FG
1 Atlanta 1st 1 13 1
2 Arizona 1st 1 19 1
2nd 1 1
3 LA 1st 1 22 1
2nd 1 1
4 Denver 1st 1 11 1
1st 1 27 1
Bucs' Off INT Bucs' Off FUM Ret TD Starting LOS (on TB side) TD FG
Total 6 1 2 18.4 4 1

A total of six touchdowns and one field goal were the result a pick-6, pickup-6, or a very short field. Assuming all the extra points were made, that's a total of 45 points or 11.25 points per game. Remove those points and the average for the defense would be 17.50 points per game allowed in the first four games. The average points given up in the NFL after four weeks is 22.9 points per game.

Yet it does pose a wonderful query -€” the Red Zone defense is non-existent in those four short yardage situations. The defense was 4 out of 5 in Red Zone efficiency in short yardage situations, or 80%.

2016 TB Bucs Defense
1st Quarter
Red Zone Defense Efficiency
Team Made Attempts %
1 Atlanta 1 4 25%
2 Arizona 3 5 60%
3 LA 2 2 100%
4 Den 3 4 75%
Total 9 15 60%

3rd Down Defensive Efficiency

The Bucs defense allowed 18 out of 53 third down attempts. That is a 34% efficiency rating, ranking the Bucs' defense 6th overall in the NFL. This bit of information supports that the defense allows fewer long drives.

In 2015, the Bucs' third down efficiency was 46%, ranking 30th overall in the NFL. Two seasons ago, 2014, the third down efficiency rating was 43.7%, ranking 28th overall.

Injuries

What once was a position of depth is now a position of dire need -€” the defensive line.

Going into Monday Night Football, the team will be without Jacquies Smith, Robert Ayers, and Gerald McCoy. Noah Spence's injury is not as drastic as the other three, but he is still banged up. That is your line-up for passing downs all injured.

Smith had a season ending injury in the first game.  Ayers was injured in the second game. GMC and Spence were injured in the fourth game. The bye week could not come any sooner.

Conclusion

I may be in the minority, but the defense has improved as revealed with the drive chart and the 3rd down efficiency rating. The defense needs to work on two things: 1) improve Red Zone defense and 2) reduce explosive plays.

It is just very unfortunate that the offense has turned the ball over under the 30 yard line five times, giving the opponents a very short field to score. All five opportunities are already in field goal range. Of those five opportunities, three were gifted inside the Red Zone. Then there was the pick-6 and pickup-6. That is a total of 45 points on self-inflicted wounds by the offense that helps inflate the total points given up as well as average.

Recall, it was this defense that secured the win at Atlanta. It was also the defense that gave the offense a chance for a possible comeback win against the LA Rams. The defense gets a bad rap because it was put in terrible circumstances by the offense. If a person only goes by the points against average, then the person will never notice the defense is better than last year.