There isn’t much to be happy about anytime it’s this late in the season and you can count your team’s wins on one hand with digits left to spare.
Through 13 weeks of football, Tampa Bay finds itself at 2-9 with only five more chances to finish with a respectable record. While the Bucs have managed to win just one of their last five since the Week 7 bye, they have at least put themselves in position to scratch one out each and every Sunday.
The primary reason for that is the improved play of a defense that’s surrendering 19.2 points per game over that five-game span in comparison to the 34.0 Tampa Bay was giving up during the first six weeks.
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier took to the podium for his weekly Wednesday press conference and pointed to a few key statistics that have led to his unit’s steady turnaround.
“Probably the biggest one was our third-down percentage,” Frazier said. “I think we’re in the top five in the league over the last five weeks. That had been kind of a thorn in our side and we’ve really gotten better there to hold the team we played this past Sunday to 25 percent, that was a big deal for us.”
Tampa Bay only allowed Chicago to move the chains four times on 16 third-down attempts last Sunday. In the five weeks since the Bucs’ bye, opponents have converted just 25 of 70 such situations (35.7 percent). Four NFL teams have kept opponents third-down success rate below 36 percent for the season and Tampa Bay’s recent improvements push their percentage down to 42.9. That figure was previously a league-worst 49.4 percent at the bye week.
“And then total yards,” said Frazier, citing another area of improvement. “I think we we’re number two in the league over the last five weeks in total yards allowed. There were some other numbers as well, but those two kind of stick out.”
Tampa Bay found itself at the bottom of the league barrel in terms of total defense at the bye, allowing teams to pick up 422.8 yards a game. That season-long number is now down to 367.4 (22nd in the NFL) after the Bucs have held its past five opponents to an average total of 302.0 per game.
Comfort levels coming with increased reps and time in the system along with a couple personnel shakeups have triggered the improvements, Frazier said. “We’re definitely playing better. Part of that are guys having a better understanding for sure. We’ve been together longer now, they’ve heard these terms a lot more often in practice. And the techniques are a lot [better] when you get to this point in the season.
“But I think also some of the changes [with personnel] … I think Jacquies Smith has given us something at the left end position. He’s helped us with his pass rush ability and ability to win one-on-ones. [Defensive tackle] Gerald [McCoy] is Gerald, he’s always a big play guy. [We’re] also seeing our secondary improve. I think Major Wright has definitely given us a shot in the arm. We’re playing better in the back-end. It hurt not having [weakside linebacker] Lavonte [David], but [middle linebacker] Mason [Foster] has stepped up and he’s gotten better from earlier in the season. That’s made us better. I think [defensive end] Michael [Johnson] is getting a little healthier, so his play has picked up some and hopefully it will continue trending forward.
“We’re a little bit healthier, guys have been together a little bit longer and I think we’ve just been together a little longer and guys have a better feel of what we’re asking them to do, and it’s showing on the field.”
One area the Bucs enjoyed much less success last Sunday was in the red zone. Tampa Bay’s offense did the defense no favors by giving Chicago short fields in the second half but Frazier and McCoy both said the Bears’ three touchdowns in three red zone trips can’t happen.
“The NFL is a tough game and you are going to be put in tough situations,” McCoy said. “The greatest defenses were able to hold teams in that situation to three points, so we have to be better in that aspect. There are certain things that a team can do to get you in bad situations, but after a while it just becomes who wants it more at that time. We lost that battle – twice. We can’t allow that to happen. We have to hold teams to field goals.
“When I ran on the field I said, ‘Same thing happened last week. Same thing happened at Washington.’ We got a stop, they got a penalty and we got two back-to-back sacks and they [missed a] field goal. We can do it. It’s not like we can’t. I’ve seen it done before. … That’s where we have to grow. In situations like that, as a unit, we have to grow and hold them to field goals in those times.”
Tampa Bay ranks 23rd in the league in red zone defense, surrendering touchdowns 62.9 percent of the time opponents enter the 20 (22 of 35 possessions). Last week’s 3-for-3 letdown didn’t help, but that percentage has been 58.3 in the five games since the bye (seven TDs on 12 possessions).
With 11 converted field goals, teams have posted points on 33 of 35 red zone trips, or 94.3 percent of the time.
“We needed to be able to hold them to field goals as you mentioned,” Frazier said. “That’s the goal every time you’re (defense) in the red zone. And they were three for three in the red zone. That’s an area where we’d been playing better and we didn’t get it done on Sunday. We definitely addressed it, and it’s always about points allowed. That is the biggest stat. It’s something we’ll have to get better at.”
Raheem was clueless but he had good quote once “stats are for losers.”
I call time out PR posters – no more carping, complaining, or bashing our Bucs! I’ve officially started Thanksgiving Day.
So to the PR staff and all my PR brethren, I say Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
Giving thanks humbles us on this special day.Enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!
As a charter member of the Jack Daniels Appreciation Club, Join me and eat, drink and be merry on this special Thanksgiving day! Enjoy your Thanksgiving Day with friends and family and give thanks for all that you have.
macabee; same to you. In perspective we have more to be thankful for than most people in the world and the giving we do as human beings. Happy Thanksgiving to all.
The closer we get to a high draft choice the less critical we should be and the more we should focus on who we need for what position. Hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving and relax and watch some better Pro Teams tomorrow afternoon, and then Florida and FSU on Saturday!
It’s easy to see the improvement of the defense the past few weeks. Maybe it’s not so antiquated after all. Looking forward to a nice four day weekend of football. Hope Sunday is more “hooray” than “who dey”.
Sounding off before stuffing mushrooms, and cooking the bird. To Scu. Mac, Horse, Owly, and the rest, happy thanks. Really enjoy the banter that goes on here at PR. Toast to you all.
To all of you PR fans, happy Thanksgiving!
Very thankful to be a part of this group of passionate Buc fans. Hope you ALL enjoy this great football family holiday. Enjoy the games. Watch closely the Dallas D, which is the Tampa2 run by the great Rod Marinelli. This is our D in its 3rd season stacked up against the offensive Eagles. Curious to see how it does. Proof is in the pudding.
Great sentiment fellas…EEB gives thanks for PR, PR brethren, the Bucs of course, and the hope that a new young QB will bring us in 2015….
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