Bucs CBs Vernon Hargreaves and Javien Elliott – Photo by: Mark Lomgolio/PR
Turnover differential matters and Tampa Bay’s 2016 season is a case in point.
When the Bucs were 1-3 and heading toward another wasted effort, they’d turned the ball over 11 times and taken possession away only twice – both in Week 3’s home loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The minus-9 turnover differential was among the worst in the NFL.
In the nine games since, the offense has committed just eight giveaways and the defense is flipping the field like crazy. Starting with the four-takeaway performance Week 5 in Carolina, the Bucs have created 23 turnovers during that nine-game span.
They’ve also gone 7-2 since then. Surprise, surprise.
Bucs CB Brent Grimes – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“The way they’re taking the ball away, we go from minus-9 after Week 4 with [two] takeaways, to now tied for first in the league,” head coach Dirk Koetter said during Monday’s press conference at One Buc Place. “So considering we [got two] in the first four games, that’s really impressive.”
The Bucs’ latest effort – Sunday’s three takeaway, zero giveaway game – improved their turnover differential on the season to plus-6 and has them ranked sixth in the NFL. As referenced by Koetter, his ball-hawking defense has playing a lead role in that turnaround. Tampa Bay’s now tied with the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers atop the league with 25 takeaways on the season (14 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries).
While winning the turnover battle increases the odds of winning the one on the scoreboard, it’s still no guarantee of winning records and postseason berths. The last time Tampa Bay finished the year with a positive differential came in 2013. They were plus-10 but finished 4-12 and tied with the Atlanta Falcons for last place in the NFC South. The Bucs were also plus-3 in 2012 when they finished 7-9.
Those are exceptions that go against the norm, though, and Koetter isn’t ready to watch his team revert to its early season ways.
“These guys are playing with tremendous confidence,” Koetter said of the defense. “They’re playing fast, they’re being aggressive, they believe in each other, and then different guys are stepping up. Everybody’s getting involved in the act.”
The take aways are fantastic. The cloud for the silver lining is that it appears Dirk Koetter may be clamping down on his offense to prevent giveaways. Against the Saints last Sunday, it worked, but just barely. The conservative play calling led to the safety after Huff’s muff, and the subsequent field goal from a short field – 5 of the 11 points to the Saints. If the Saints had actually caught the two dropped passes in the end zone, one of which was called a TD but overturned on review, our 5 point victory would have been turned into a 2 point loss, with no other changes.
We need to open up more on the offense, let Jameis Winston play the game he is prepared to play. If he gets one more turnover a game because of that, but scores two or three more touchdowns, it will be worth it.
Right now we have the lowest scoring offense in the NFC South. We’re really better than that, if we let the players play. I hope Dirk meant what he said about his over-conservative playcalling on Sunday being the worst fault of the offense.
I did like what Coach Koetterr had to say about the offense and his own play calling in his recent couple of press conferences.
Since I watched the game on TV I can only see what the cameras allow. I thought the play calling in the first quarter was excellent. At some point in the first half I had an interesting thought which I would like to share to see how other’s react.
It went something like this, “I wonder if the Buccaneer’s play calling is confusing the Saint’s defense? They seem to be having a lot of penalties.”
How about it Naplesfan? … anybody?
Naples keeps trying to put an asterisk on this win by calling the Bucs “lucky” due to two dropped potential TD passes by the Saints. How about the lucky Saints when Jameis overthrew a wide open Mike Evans or the ball bouncing and hitting Huff in the face? Don’t you think the play calling might have changed if the Bucs were ever behind on the scoreboard?
I’m not trying to put an asterisk on the win. But if you guys want to believe that the win was inevitable just because our defense played very well, you’re likely in for a rude awakening. I pointed out how to plays could extremely easily have gone the other way, and we’d have spent this week bitching about the offense not scoring enough points. The problem is, the offense isn’t scoring enough points. Last in our division in scoring as of today. As good as our defense is, it is not perfect, and while the bounces went our way against the Saints last week, they may very well go against us this Sunday in Dallas.
The way to fix that is to score more points. We have a quarterback, one of the top couple of receivers in the league, our running backs are now finally back to full strength, and we’ve discovered a great UDFA tight end who is among the best in the league right now.
And we have a head coach who flat out pointed to himself and said his playcalling sucked last game. I mean, Scubog, what more do you need to know?
Unless you’d just prefer to have an underperforming offense until our winning streak turns into a multi-game losing streak.
Me? I’d prefer to continue to get better on both sides of the ball and keep the win streak going right on up to the Super Bowl. We have the resources to do that … do we have the will?
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