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The Buccaneers defense is why they won games

Got Defense?
Got Defense?
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason has come once again. Once again, there is no postseason for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa was out of a playoff spot by a tie breaker with the Detroit Lions, sharing a 9 -€” 7 record. So close to making it, but in truth, so far away. It might be better this way as it forces general manager Jason Licht to identify parts of the team that need improvement.

For this article, I want to focus on average scoring:  i) What did our offense accomplish against what an opponent usually concedes on defense.  ii) What did our defense allow against what an opponent usually scores on offense.

I have been tracking the Bucs' offensive and defensive drives for the past several years. Usually, on the same excel page each game, I would included that week's stats for the opponent and Bucs. Those stats helped prompt the "By the Box" preview articles. It was within those articles that I found the pattern that our defense was holding opponents below their season scoring averages.  In this article, I was able to expand that thought to the offense and share it.

Tampa Offense

2016 SoS, Off PPG

Each opponent has their own scoring average allowed as well as their rank. The column labeled "Off. Points Scored" is what the Bucs offense scored.

Golden Cells

A total of six cases where the offense scored more than the opposing defenses' points per game allowed, the offense only won three of those opportunities. There were three other cases where the offense scored more than PPGA and still lost.

Games were the offense score more than the opponent's PPGA:

Game 1:  Vs Atlanta, + 6.1.           PPGA Rank: 25th Result: Win

Game 3:  Vs LA Rams, + 2.7.         PPGA Rank: 16th Result: Loss

Game 6: Vs SF, + 3.7.                      PPGA Rank: 32nd Result: Win

Game 8: Vs Atlanta, + 3.1.            PPGA Rank: 25th Result: Loss

Game 9: Vs Chicago, + 2.9.           PPGA Rank: 19th Result: Win

Game 15: vs Dallas, + 1.6.             PPGA Rank: 4th Result: Loss

To recap the chart, out of 16 games, the offense was able to score more than the PPGA average only on six opportunities. Three of those happened against defenses ranked in the bottom third of the league, Atlanta twice and Chicago. The season average has the offense at a negative on point differential.

Purple Cells

The purple cells identify where the Bucs' offense scored more than its total season scoring average of 20.75 points. This occurred for half the games. From those eight games, five of those teams ranked in the bottom third of offenses in the league: Atlanta twice (25th), San Francisco (32nd), San Diego (28th), and New Orleans (30th).

20.75 points > vs bottom third teams:    27.6 points average

20.75 points <  vs 2016 teams, 8 teams:   14.6 points average

That is discouraging. Of those eight teams that held the Bucs below 20 points scoring, three came against teams ranked 27th or below. Amusingly, the Bucs won all three of those events.

Tampa Defense

2016 SoS, Def PPGA

The Bucs' PPGA average for 2016 was 23.5 points. Each team has their respective offensive points scored for as well as their offensive point scoring rankings.

Golden Cells

These cells represent the cases where the defense held the opponents below their offensive scoring averages and the team came away with a win. Out of the nine wins, the Bucs' defense was able to hold the opponents below their scoring averages for the win eight times.

The lone win where the Bucs' defense did not hold the opponent below their scoring average was the first game against the Atlanta Falcons. In that game, Winston was intercepted deep in Bucs' territory. The turnover gave the Falcons the ball with the line of scrimmage in the Red Zone, needing only 13 yards to score the eventual touchdown.

Special teams and defense combined to repel any chances of a come from behind victory from Atlanta. With the Bucs' penultimate offensive possession being thwarted at the 50 yard line, punter Bryan Anger pinned the ball at the Atlanta 9 yard line. Five plays later, the Falcons could not cross the Atlanta 28 yard line and lost the offensive possession due to downs. The Bucs' defense shut down Atlanta's offense.

To give some added perspective to Atlanta's offense, they averaged 42.6 points per game in the ensuing three games after facing the Bucs. The Falcons put up 35 points on Oakland, 45 points on New Orleans, and 48 points on Carolina.

Purple Cells

The purple cells represent the Bucs' defense holding the opposing offense to below 20 points scoring. That is an amazing feat!

Out of the nine wins, there were only two occasions where the Bucs' defense failed to hold an opponent to below 20 points. Those teams are the Atlanta Falcons and San Diego Chargers. We already covered what transpired in the Atlanta game.

San Diego put up 21 points, not too far from 20, of course. In that game, the defense forced two interceptions. One of those interceptions was a pick-6 variety by Lavonte David -€” the Bucs won by 7 points. The other pick was by safety Keith Tandy in the end Zone to help close out, what turned out to become, the Chargers' last offensive blitz.

Skewed Season Total Average

Bucs Offensive Point Differential:             -€” 3.13 (20.75 points for average)

Bucs Defensive Point Differential:            -€” 0.44 (23.50 points allowed average)

Both differentials are in the negative production, yet the Bucs won nine games. Something just does not add up.  Looking at the Bucs' defensive PPGA in the seven losses, they gave up 33.4 points. Inversely, in the nine wins, the Bucs' defensive PPGA was only 15.0 points per game. Let us do the same for the offense: In the seven losses, the offensive averaged 19.2 points; in the nine wins, the offense averaged 21.7 points.

The aforementioned paragraph says a lot. The offensive scoring production was similar in wins and losses. When pitted against the rest of the league, the offense is a below average offense. Defensively, when the defense is on, usually, they are ‘en fuego'. When they are not on their game, then they get blasted. There were two games where the defense did admirably, but still failed: LA Rams and Oakland Raiders.


The defense was the winning determinant for the 2016 season. It played a part in all of its wins. With Mike Smith returning to the Bucs as the defensive coordinator on a multi-year contract, then the Bucs should be treated with a very good defense that will continue to add more weapons. Hopefully, a couple of those weapons can help stop the run game.