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The Buccaneers are going through an amazing defensive surge

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense was the key to their resurgence in the third quarter of the 2016 NFL season. Before introducing the 3rd report card, I will show the first two quarterly report cards.

Quarter 1:  1 Win, 3 Losses

2016 Q1 Defensive Drive Report
Opposing Offense vs Bucs Defense
Gm Team Drives Plays Yards RZ Pts Drives (in yards) Totals
40 + 50 + 60 + 70 + 80 + 90 +
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 0.50 1.00 1.25 0.25 0 3.75

The oddity here is that the defense did not allow a lot of long drives, but permitted a lot of points scored. The reason behind this is that the offense gave away turnovers on short fields for the opposing teams to score. There were a total of 10 turnovers in the first four games by the offense.

Quarter 2:  2 Wins, 2 Losses

2016 Q2 Defensive Drive Report
Opposing Offense vs Bucs Defense
Gm Team Drives Plays Yards RZ Pts Drives (in yards) Totals
40 + 50 + 60 + 70 + 80 + 90 +
5 Car 11 60 435 3 14 0 1 1 1 1 0 4
6 SF 12 67 283 2 17 0 1 0 1 0 0 2
7 Oak 14 88 549 3 30 2 2 1 3 0 0 8
8 Atl 11 73 462 5 43 0 1 0 2 2 0 5
Total 48 288 1729 13 104 2 5 2 7 3 0 19
Average 12 72 432.25 3.3 26 0.50 1.25 0.50 1.75 0.75 0.00 4.75

Looking at the average, you can distinctly see that the yards and drives have increased, but the scoring decreased. In the first two games, the defense dominated. The last two games look much worse without context.

In the Oakland game, the defense was one play short of restricting Oakland's high powered offense to 17 points.   Instead, the game goes into overtime and the Bucs' defense was on the field for 44:12. There is only 60 minutes in a regular season game. For the Atlanta game, it was a very short week for the defense as it had to play a Thursday night game.

Quarter 3:  4 Wins, 0 Losses

2016 Q3 Defensive Drive Report
Opposing Offense vs Bucs Defense
Gm Team Drives Plays Yards RZ Pts Drives (in yards) Totals
40 + 50 + 60 + 70 + 80 + 90 +
9 Chi 13 55 254 0 10 0 1 0 0 1 0 2
10 KC 9 53 351 4 17 0 0 1 2 1 0 4
11 Sea 10 59 262 0 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 2
12 SD 10 54 299 1 21 1 0 0 3 0 0 4
Total 42 221 1166 5 53 3 1 1 5 2 0 12
Average 10.5 55.25 291.5 1.25 13.3 0.75 0.25 0.25 1.25 0.5 0 3

In the third quarter, the number of drives is down by two drives per game!  Two less drives could be a difference of 10 to 17 extra plays for the opposing offenses.  That would imply fewer chances to score as well as supposedly fewer long drives -€” both proven to be true in the 3rd quarterly Report Card.

If we are to compare this 3rd quarter Report Card's yards per game average to the league's at this point of time, then the Bucs' defense would be ranked 1st overall at 291.5 yards per game.

On the Horizon

San Diego is the 4th highest scoring offense in the league, scoring an average of 27.8 points after week 13.  The Bucs' defense limited San Diego's offense in the second half with two interceptions. The San Diego game has higher importance as it sets a barometer of what is to come.

New Orleans is the 2nd highest scoring offense at 28.9 points per game. The Bucs must face them twice. Dallas is the 5th highest scoring offense in the league, generating 27.8 points per game. If the Bucs wish to be contenders as opposed to pretenders, then the defense must lock down these two offensive powered teams three times in the final stretch.

The KC and SD games are the games the defense should review because those were the games were the opposing offenses were able generate long drives in 40% of the chances when they had the ball. The Bucs' defense must reduce those chances against New Orleans and Dallas.

Win out, then the Bucs will become the most likely team to represent the NFC.