The defense that couldn’t buy a takeaway suddenly can’t stop getting the ball back into the hands of quarterback Jameis Winston.
Tampa Bay added three more takeaways to its season-long total Sunday in San Francisco, two weeks after generating four in Carolina.
“In the NFL, turnovers are huge,” veteran cornerback Brent Grimes said from the locker room after the game. “They came at big times for us and it swung the game. That’s the key in the NFL, getting extra possessions and we’ve done a good job the past two weeks.”
CB Brent Grimes – Photo by: Getty Images
In four games leading up to Week 5 in Carolina, the Buccaneers flipped the field on their opponents just twice. Making matters worse was that Tampa Bay gave 11 possessions away during that same span, good for a minus-9 turnover differential. Winning in the NFL is difficult enough. Trying to do it consistently while averaging 2.8 giveaways and 0.5 takeaways per game is close to impossible.
Those unfavorable turnover numbers contributed to the Bucs’ 1-3 record, but now they’ve managed to reverse that harmful trend. Tampa Bay’s taken away possession seven times and given it away just once over the last two games – both Bucs wins.
Of the seven takeaways, three are interceptions, two are defensive fumble recoveries and two are special teams recoveries of muffed punts.
What Tampa Bay improved upon from two weeks ago in Carolina was making San Francisco pay for its mistakes. The Bucs scored points on all three drives that began with takeaways, getting two Roberto Aguayo field goals and a 5-yard, Winston-to-Mike Evans touchdown pass.
That wasn’t the case a couple Monday nights ago against the Panthers. A close game didn’t need to be so tight, but the Bucs let Carolina off the hook by leaving points on the field following takeaways. Tampa Bay turned its four turnovers that night into a measly three points. Two of those drives ended with missed Aguayo field goals and the other with a Bryan Anger punt.
At minus-3 on the season, the Bucs still find themselves toward the bottom of the league in turnover differential. Avoiding the early season takeaway droughts and keeping that number trending upward into “plus” territory will play a large role in which side of .500 this team stays on throughout the year.
The Bucs are favored to win again this week against the visiting Oakland Raiders. Check out live NFL betting odds and bet on American football at William Hil.