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This time, the Buccaneers defense held on for the win

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Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

An away game in the third quarter with a Dirk Koetter offense spotting the team a lead in the high teens is a great development for any Bucs fan. Would the Tampa Bay Buccaneers be able to stave off the Atlanta Falcons at their home field?

A 17 point lead in the third quarter was not a magnanimous amount for the opposing team to overcome last year on Fed Ex field. Although the offense did manage to continue to put points up on the board, the defense allowed Washington to score 24 points in the second half. The Bucs lost that game.

This year, Koetter's offense once again gave the team a high teens lead in the third quarter -€” 18 points to be exact. What is different this time around is who is calling the shots for the defense. Last year, it was Lovie Smith. This year, it is another head coach -€” well, former head coach, Mike Smith. The conclusion was a different one.

TB Defense vs Atlanta 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 5 59 FG 1 3 1 1
3 3 6 Punt 0
4 4 13 TD 1 7 0
5 6 31 Punt 0
6 7 45 FG 1 3 1 1
7 1 -1 End Half 0
3 8 7 29 Punt 0
9 9 71 TD 8 1 1
10 6 30 Punt 0
11 11 49 FG 1 3 1 1
12 5 19 Downs 0
Total 10 67 360 4 24 2 1 0 1 0 4

From the drive chart, we can see out of four drives of 40 yards or more, the defense only gave up 16 points. Out of those four drives of 40 yards or more, the Atlanta's offense was turned away in the Red Zone all three times! That is how a defense can bend and not break.

The touchdown given up in the red zone occurred after Jameis Winston threw an interception. That resulted in the Atlanta offense to start in the Red Zone, on the 13 yard line.

Quick Stats

Red Zone Efficiency:      1 for 4

3rd Down Efficiency:       3 for 13

Rushing Yards Allowed:  52 yards  (2.4 yards per attempt)

Interceptions:                   1 INT

Sacks:                                    3 Sack(s)

Pass Defended:                 6 PD(s)

QB Hits:                               4 QB hits

Top 5 Tacklers

Tampa Bay Bucs
Top 5 Tacklers
Game 1:  Atlanta
Rank Pos Name Total Solo Sack(s) TFL(s)
1 MLB Alexander 17 15 1 2
2 S Conte 11 7 0 0
3 WLB David 8 6 0 3
4 S Mcdougald 5 5 0 0
5 DT McCoy 3 3 1 2
http://www.espn.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=400874522

We know our three superstars on defense:  Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, and Kwon Alexander. What is surprising about this list is our safeties being up high. Many thought that our safeties are our weakest position, but it seems as though we do not give them enough credit. Last year, both safeties ranked in third and fourth in total tackles.

In this game, Chris Conte had two touchdown saving tackles. The first of these tackles was on Atlanta's second drive, a deep pass to Mohamed Sanu as he was left uncovered underneath a post pattern. Conte came from the other side of the field, passing by Bradley McDougald, to track down Sanu. This tackle was important because the result of that drive was only a field goal when it could have been an easy touchdown because Brent Grimes was preoccupied by a Falcons receiver.

The second touchdown saving tackle was also in the first half, Atlanta's sixth offensive drive. It was third and six from the Atlanta 43-yard line when Matt Ryan threw a designed short wheel route Tevin Coleman, who was being covered by Robert Ayers. The catch made by Coleman was amazing as it looked to be too far outside of his range. Then there was nothing but green in front of him until Conte grabbed and brought him down at the 10 yard line.  Again, the result for the Atlanta drive was a field goal.

The play of the game belongs to Gerald McCoy. His tipped pass on Matt Ryan on fourth and 10 ended any chance for a comeback for the Falcons. This tipped pass was his second tipped pass of the game. GMC is an all around force on defense.  Sure, it was not a sack, but sometimes a player needs to adjust to change the game if he cannot get to the quarterback for that splash play.

In the fourth quarter, with the Atlanta only down by a touchdown, Ryan found Julio Jones open about 35 yards down the middle of the field. Jones had the ball in his hands until McDougald timed his hit on Jones, causing the ball to jar off of Jones' hands. This particular drive concluded with a punt around midfield.

INJURY

Promising defensive end Jacquies Smith suffered a torn ACL on his right knee and is headed to injured reserved.  Smith was the most disruptive defensive lineman after McCoy during preseason. I have a fanpost article noting the Defensive Line Production for PreSeason.

CONCLUSION

The defense controlled Atlanta's offense in the first half.  In the second half, Atlanta changed its offensive tempo and confused the defense. Despite the change in pace, the defense fought through adversity by turning back the Falcons in the red zone in the fourth quarter, as well as having enough defensive line pressure to force QB Matt Ryan to throw the ball earlier than he needed.

Unlike last year against Washington at their home field, the Bucs' defense held. Straying away from the definition of insanity: Same offense and a different defense resulted in a different outcome -€” a win.