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The Buccaneers defense already looks improved

The Bucs are still good against the pass, but now they can stop the run, too.

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LSU v Wisconsin Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense had yet to take the field when the NFL was heading into its second week. If you used overall stats from last season, as shown in the chart below, then all one can notice is the Bucs’ defense is a below average defense that bends, but does not completely break. If you need a refresher on the Bucs’ defensive progression, then here are a couple of review articles to help you understand the Bucs defense did not suddenly appear:

Bucs Defense was the Winning Determinant

Predict the Bucs’ Defense Points Against Average

Here is what Tampa’s front office did in the off-season:

Bucs Focused on Fixing the Run Defense

But, you’re here for the actual game analysis. So let’s see how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense performed against the Chicago Bears.

Bucs Defense vs. Bears

Points Allowed (PA) = 7 points

3rd Down Efficiency = 50% (7 out of 14 attempts)

Rush Yards Allowed = 20 yards

Pass Yards Allowed = 290 yards

Red Zone Defense Efficiency = 33.3% (1 out of 3 attempts)

Turnovers = 3 (2 INTs, 1 sack – fumble)

Points Scored off of Turnovers = 6 points (Pick – 6, CB McClain)

The Bears came into this game having put up 125 yards rushing and 176 yards passing on the Atlanta defense. Chicago nearly pulled off the upset in the waning moments of that game, but it had two drops by its receivers that could have beaten the Falcons in week 1 of the NFL regular season. That same Atlanta team held the Packers to only 10 points going into the fourth quarter this past weekend, with the score Atlanta 34, Green Bay 10.

The Bucs shut down the Bears’ run game dynamic duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. They did so with rookie LB Kendall Beckwith sliding into the MIKE position due to an injury to MLB Kwon Alexander, the owner of the first interception of the football game. Without a run game, the Bears were forced to the air and into last year’s 6th best pass defense, per Football Outsiders, as well as the 3rd best takeaway defense.

The only score given up occurred under the 2-minute mark of the fourth quarter, on the Bears final possession of the game. That was after two other failed attempts in the Red Zone. The defensive drive chart will reflect this below.

After getting over the shock of a Mike Glennon offense flying through the air against the Bucs defense in its first possession, the defense came to life. Kwon’s responsibilities went from tracking the running back to tracking Glennon’s eyes. The first time Kwon did this, he jumped the skinny out route for an interception. =That was Chicago’s game plan: move the MLB and get the ball out quick.

Although the Bucs were only able to sack Glennon once, they hit Glennon eight times in the game. That sack was a sack – fumble caused by sophomore defensive end Noah Spence. But remember the philosophy of the Bears, they wanted to get ball out quick. Most of the longest receptions by Bears’ receivers occurred in the second half when the Bucs were playing it safe with a 29 – 0 lead. By looking at the Drive chart, you can tell the Bucs defense locked down the Bears offense before Chicago’s 7th offensive drive.

It is unfortunate that Tampa did not pitch a shutout, but the Drive chart does reveal the defense’s dominance in the game. That dominance had pressure on Glennon to where he gave up three turnovers and could not manage much after the first offensive drive. Bucs DC Mike Smith deserves great appreciation for making a quick adjustment in the Bears first offensive drive.

QB Pressure

Mike Glennon completed 31 passes out of 45 attempts. Many fans expected the Bucs to have more sacks. In a post-game interview, Bucs’ HC Dirk Koetter gave the public a glimpse of the target sack rate for the team: 1 sack per 14 attempts. Yet Koetter was still pleased with the quarterback pressure, seeing the big picture that the defense created enough havoc to induce three turnovers as well as dominate the scoreboard.

As previously mentioned, the Bucs had a total of 9 pressures on QB Glennon (1 sack, 8 QB hits). If you apply this total to Glennon’s total passing attempts of 45 attempts, then Glennon was pressured on 20% of his throws. That does not coincide with a content sentiment by Koetter. It should not. What is missing here is the context: the defense began to let up after the Bucs scored to make it 29 – 0 in the fourth quarter.

After the score was 29 – 0 in the fourth quarter, all of the three Bears’ offensive possession were passing plays. The Bucs defense was not playing aggressive, but rather to protect the lead. Glennon threw a total of 25 passes in those last three Bears offensive possessions. Tampa was no longer applying pressure like it did before. That would mean there were 20 passing plays that Tampa applied the pressure on Glennon. (I am presuming a lot here as I have not re-watched the game.)

Let us assume that all 9 pressures occurred in the first 20 passing attempts. That would mean Glennon was pressured on 45% of his passing attempts. Nearly half of Glennon’s passing attempts were pressured and possibly why Glennon was spooked into his final turnover by throwing an easy pick-6 to Bucs’ CB McClain before the half ended. This assessment could be the reason why coach Koetter was very pleased with the pressure production on the opposing QB, along with the Bears’ game plan of getting rid of the ball quickly.

Stopping the Run: Mission Accomplished

Bears Rushing Attempt = 16 attempts

Bears Total Yards Rushing = 20 yards

Yards per Rush = 1.3 yards

Bucs’ defensive TFL’s = 8.5 tackles for loss

Over half of the Bears rushing attempts were thwarted behind the line of scrimmage! Last season, the Bucs’ offensive line had the worst stuff ranking in Football Outsiders’ recorded metric as they permitted their running backs to be stuffed on 24% of their rushing attempts! This was an amazing performance by the Bucs run defense.

Just before the half, Chicago was marching. At the Chicago 48 yard line, it was 3rd and 1 yard to go. Bears RB Howard ran up the middle and was stuffed two yards behind the line of scrimmage from Beckwith and McCoy. That play forced the Bears to punt and allow the Bucs offense to generate 3 points in under 1:12 seconds.

The biggest surprise on that TFL listing is seeing 3rd round rookie Kendall Beckwith notching two TFL’s. According to, Beckwith was on the field on 91% of the defensive plays. Tampa’s scouts and GM Jason Licht must have a great satisfaction in the drafting of Beckwith as Beckwith was one of many personnel brought in or retained to fix a huge problem on defense – to stop the run.

PFF Top 5 Grades

Four of the top five Bucs were defensive players in the game against the Bears. They are LB David (90.0), DT McCoy (89.6), LB Beckwith (86.8), and S Ward (84.8). Two of those players are new to the Bucs’ roster this season, Beckwith and TJ Ward.


The Bucs’ defense came out dominant in this game. The Bears were boasting last year 2nd leading rusher in Jordan Howard and lightning in a bottle Tarik Cohen coming into this game offensively. There were no real receiving threats from the Bears as they were missing their two wideouts due to season ending injuries. Bucs stopped the run game and spooked Glennon behind what was supposed to be a very good Bears offensive line.

Last season, Howard ran for 100 yards against the Bucs defense alone, at 6.67 yards per attempt. This season, Howard garnered at total of 7 yards. Stopping the run game like the defense did this season was something I could not fathom. The defense ranked in the bottom 3rd in stopping the run last season. It was a pressing deficiency that I hoped the Bucs’ organization would address over the secondary issues. The organization did just that this off-season.

Winning the trench warfare to make the opposing offenses one-dimensional increases the chances the defense can dominate, induce turnovers, and help the team can win games.