Tampa Bay won two games in a row after last week’s win over the Jaguars, which is something the team hasn’t been able to do all year.
A lot of the winning streak has been credited to the defense, and there’s plenty of reason why. The Bucs have looked much better on that side of the ball when it comes to multiple phases of the game. Communication, execution, and creating turnovers are just a few examples to name.
Bruce Arians even talked about it during Monday’s media availability. “After watching the film, I think defensively, we’re finally understanding situational football a lot better,” he told reporters. “Guys’ communication, short-yardage, red zone, third down is becoming really fun to watch and watching the growth. Obviously, [we’ve been] rushing the passer extremely well for the last few weeks, but again on the back end, we’re holding our guys [and] we’re covering our guys.”
But how much has the defense really improved? And how much does that have to do with the Bucs’ last two opponents? How good were the Falcons and Jaguars (numbers-wise) before they played the Bucs?
I decided to jump in and take a look at the Bucs’ numbers over the first 10 games and compare them to the last two games. I will also cross-reference the Jags’ and Falcons’ cumulative performances through Weeks 1-11 in those areas, which will help add context to the last two games.
I know, the last two games are a tiny sample size compared to the first 10 games, but improvement is improvement and the last two weeks have given the Bucs plenty to build off.
Also keep in mind that the Cardinals, Chiefs, Chargers, and Vikings all had bye weeks during Week 12, so there’s a chance that the Bucs’ defensive stats could look even better if those teams had played. It’s nothing decisive, but it’s certainly something to consider.
It’s probably better just to bullet point this one. There’s a good chance context can get lost if I try and write this post in the form of an editorial, so let me just apologize for the boring display in advance!
Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below!
The following numbers apply to the Bucs’ defensive performance over the last two weeks compared to the first ten games:
- The Bucs are 10th when it comes to total defensive yards per game (289.5) and are tied for the second-most turnovers (6) over the last two weeks.
- The Bucs allowed the second-most passing yards (290.9 ypg) and second-most passing touchdowns (2.5 per game) over the first 11 weeks. They’ve allowed the 11th-most against the Falcons and Jaguars (236.5 ypg) and are tied for the second-fewest touchdowns (1 per game). The defense also has three interceptions over the last two games, while recording six over the first 11 weeks.
- They gave up the third-most first downs through the air through the first 11 weeks, but have given up the 13th-fewest over the last two weeks.
- The pressure is getting to the quarterback, as well. The Bucs have the third-most sacks over the last two weeks (11), while recording the 26th fewest (22) during the first 10 games.
- Tampa Bay is the third-best defense on third down (26.7%) over the last two weeks, compared to the ninth-best (35.2%) during Weeks 1-11.
- Despite the defensive improvement, the Bucs are still getting outscored in the second half (-4 total margin) and in the fourth quarter (-1). It’s not as bad as it was during the first 10 games (-41), but you never want to get outscored in the second half. Especially when you are carrying a (+34) margin into the second half!!
- But the most improvement has come where it matters most, and that’s how many points you allow your opponent to score. The Bucs are ninth in points allowed (16.5), which is crazy considering they allowed the second-most points on defense (31.3) over the first 10 games.
So now, let’s add some context to the situation. We will take a look at how the Jags and Falcons did in these same areas, but on the offensive side of the ball through Weeks 1-11:
- The Falcons were 12th (374.8 yards per game) when it came to offensive yards per game during weeks 1-11. The Jaguars were 14th with 370.2 yards per game. The Falcons had 16 total (12th most) turnovers and the Jaguars had 13 (18th most).
- Atlanta averaged 300.3 passing yards per game, which was the fourth-best mark in the NFL at the time. The Jags were 13th in the NFL with 250.7 passing yards per game. Atlanta threw 20 touchdowns (two per game) to 10 interceptions (one per game), while the Jags had 16 total passing touchdowns (1.6 per game) and five interceptions (0.5 per game).
- Dirk Koetter’s offense gained the most first downs through the air over the first 10 games (159), while Jacksonville’s offense gained the 18th-most (121).
- Matt Ryan was taken down a total of 25 times (18th in the NFL), while Gardner Minshew III/Nick Foles were taken down 24 times (16th in the NFL).
- Atlanta was the 11th-best team on third down (42.9%). Jacksonville was 23rd (34.6%).
- Atlanta averaged 22 points per game (20th), Jacksonville averaged 18.9 points per game (26th).
Don’t go just yet...
There’s one last factor to mix in before I let you go and that’s how the Bucs performed against bad offenses during the first 10 games of the year.
Put it this way: the Bucs were supposed to beat the Falcons and the Jags, who are two bad teams, right? That’s a good sign, especially when you consider the fact that they let two inconsistent offenses in the Giants and the Titans make enough plays to win the game. The idea that the Bucs are beginning to put the clamps down on average offenses is an encouraging sign, even if it is just renders a modicum of encouragement.
So what do you think? How much of the Bucs’ improvement on defense is attributed to the actual defense or just the opposing offense? Is it a combination of both? Let us know below!
The Bucs’ defense is....
This poll is closed
taking advantage of bad opponents.
not improved at all.