After three losses in which a defense has looked increasingly outmatched, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' scheme has come under heavy attack. "Tampa 2 is outdated" is something we've heard repeatedly -- but that criticism is wholly inaccurate, if understandable given the problems the Bucs have had on defense.
The Carolina Panthers play the exact same scheme, and the Seattle Seahawks play one derived from the same principles. And the last time Lovie Smith ran this scheme in 2012, they produced one of the best defenses in the NFL. Besides that, the Tampa 2 is just one coverage -- and one the Bucs use with some regularity, but they play many other coverages throughout the game, too.
One massive problem is an inability to rush the passer, either by blitzing or with a four-man pass rush. Make no mistake: the Bucs have blitzed. A lot. The blitzes have just been ineffective, and the secondary has proven incapable of handling the resulting man coverage. And when the Bucs drop back into zones, there's not enough of a four-man pass rush to get quarterbacks to hurry up their delivery -- which means they can sit back and wait for someone to come open.
Injuries to Gerald McCoy and Michael Johnson have crippled that pass rush, as has the fact that none of the manyd defensive ends Mark Dominik drafted have proven capable of beating offensive linemen with anything remotely resembling consistency, or frequency.
But I'd also argue that to a large extent, the personnel may not even be the problem, at least in terms of talent. The execution is just horrendous right now. The Bucs are making basic mistakes in the way they execute these defenses. They quite simply looked lost against the Falcons, like they didn't have a clue how to actually play football.
- Four defenders cluster together, and no one runs with the fullback out of the backfield
- Man coverage, but Banks isn't even looking at Julio Jones -- which leads to him being wide open.
- Banks and Goldson both let Julio Jones go -- not clear who's at fault here.
- 3rd-and-17, bracket coverage on Julio Jones -- and still he's wide open. Banks has to be underneath that route because he has help over the top.
And that wasn't restricted to the passing game. The running game features plenty of stupid mistakes, too.
That even extends to simply lining up correctly before the snap.
Look, I havent even broached the talent deficit, im simply talking about lining up right and fitting in the right gap vs run or covering the— Stephen White (@sgw94) September 20, 2014
Right people vs pass. Whether you make the play or not.— Stephen White (@sgw94) September 20, 2014
It was just a gigantic mess out there. Probably part of that was the short week, because while the Bucs had some issues in previous games, nothing quite resembled the disaster that was the Falcons game. But this is also generally a symptom of bad coaching. A well-coached team can get out-played, or even out-schemed, but a well-coached doesn't defeat itself -- and yet that's exactly what we saw on Thursday.
The Bucs have to find a way to fix this. Getting a few of their injured players back would help, as would players becoming more comfortable with the system. But until those issues are resolved, the Bucs won't be able to win many games.