It hasn’t been a hot start to the season for the Bucs defense, but they seem to be finding their way a little bit in recent weeks. The Bucs pass defense ranks dead last in the NFL, which is a concern for many. But that number may be more a product of volume from opposing offenses than an indication of incompetence for Tampa Bay.
The reason? Opponents have just stopped trying to run the ball against the Bucs. Like, at all. It’s understandable, given that the Bucs have been the NFL’s top-ranked run defense for two straight years. But this year, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ unit has taken it to another level. Entering Week 6, the Bucs are on pace to give up just 778 rushing yards this season, despite the addition of a 17th game. The NFL record is 970 yards, set by Baltimore in 16 games during the 2000 season.
Through 5 games, the Bucs are on pace to give up 778 rushing yards this season. DESPITE the addition of a 17th game.
The NFL defensive record is 970 yards, set by Baltimore in 2000. And that was in 16 games.
Obviously this statistic is also a product of volume in some ways. Through five games, the Bucs have been rushed on a league-low 79 times. The next closest team has faced 15 more rushes than the Bucs, and the team after that has faced 28 more rushes. So Bowles’ run defense numbers are definitely benefiting from opposing team’s unwillingness to rush against them.
But the numbers go beyond that. When opponents do run, they aren’t getting anywhere either. The Bucs surrender just 2.9 yards per carry, a number that factors in quarterback scrambles and a couple of lateral passes. That’s the lowest number in the NFL by almost half-a-yard. For the past two years, Tampa Bay has led the NFL in that run defense category as well.
If the Bucs can maintain this pace, they’ll shatter the all-time record by almost 200 yards. That achievement could come despite having an extra game on their schedule. It’s not the most important statistic, but it’s something to keep an eye on this season.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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