Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Bucs beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.
Sikkema’s Stat of the Week
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on a four-game winning streak, and have won five of their last six games.
Did you hear that, Pewter Report readers?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on a four-game winning streak, and have won five of their last six games. That alone could be the stat of the week, and we could be onto the next page. The Bucs haven’t been on this type of a win streak since 2016 when they won five in a row in the middle of Dirk Koetter’s first season as head coach. Their current win streak is also just two behind the franchise record set in 1999 where the Bucs rattled off six in a row. Tampa Bay has a chance to match that this season if it can win out.
For a team with what was the second-youngest roster in the NFL after the initial 53-man cut downs to start the season, coming on so strong at the end is quite the accomplishment. The reasons for such success can be attributed in many areas. On the defensive side of the ball, the young secondary is coming into its own. Outside linebackers Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett are still pushing pockets along the defensive line. And rookie inside linebacker Devin White being healthy again has proven to be a big X-factor.
On offense, it certainly didn’t hurt having two of the top three receivers in the NFL this season in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. We also have to give credit where credit is due for the way Byron Leftwich has settled into his play-calling duties.
We hear coaches say the phrase “complementary football” all the time, but the Bucs are really starting to get into that grove. If you take into account the Bucs’ EPA/play on both offense and defense, not only are they are above the league average in both, they’re also not swinging too far towards one side of the ball to find success.
I’ve explained what EPA is in a previous Cover 3, but just for a refresher:
Expected Points Added (EPA) – The difference between the Expected Points (EP) at the start of a play and the EP at the end of they play. EPA is the measure of a play’s impact on the score of the game. An individual player’s EPA is the sum of the EPA of the plays in which that player was directly involved. Being directly involved is defined as an offensive player who ran, threw, or kicked the ball, was targeted by a pass, or flagged for a penalty.
Essentially, this is a way to contextualize efficiency towards the goal of winning the game on each play beyond just yards, completion and catches.
And speaking of complementary football, the Bucs seem to be remaining pretty balanced when it comes to their offensive game plan during this successful streak.
Notice the context of the pass rate. It’s on first and second downs only where the win probabilities isn’t out of hand with the clock above the two-minute warning. This gives us a well-rounded judgement of situational football where an offensive coordinator would likely have free reign to call either a run or a pass. In instances where this was the case, the Bucs are 11th in the NFL in terms of pass rate. If you ask me, ranking 8-12 is the sweet spot for this team with their current philosophy. This shows that Tampa Bay’s success is also correlating with its plan coming together – to stay close to balanced between run and pass.
As previously mentioned, many players, position groups and coaches has been integral parts of the team’s turn around from 2-6 a few months ago to 7-7- now. But among them, no position production has meant more than the one Tampa Bay has seen from its quarterback Jameis Winston.
After back-to-back 450-yard, four touchdown performances – something that had not been done before in NFL history – Winston’s QBR on the season has him smack dab in the middle of the pack when it comes to starting quarterbacks in the league. But if you ask me, what Winston has done this year should hold more weight than just saying he’s No. 16 in the league in QBR (one ahead of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, by the way).
With 4,573 passing yards, Winston is currently first in the NFL in terms of yards through the air. With 554 passing attempts, no quarterback has thrown the ball more than Winston this year. In passing touchdowns, Winston’s 30 TDs are second to only league MVP front-runner Lamar Jackson’s 33. And in terms of yards-per-completed pass, Winston’s 13.4 average puts him once again at the top of the list.
Top to bottom, no quarterback in the NFL is putting up the kind of production through the air Winston is. Now, Winston’s 24 interceptions are also a league-leading number, which is why he’s only No. 16 when it comes to QBR.
Incredible stats are not foreign for Winston. He’s already posted the top two passing seasons in franchise history, and this season is his third over 4,000 passing yards and his best yet. Winston’s 30 passing touchdowns right now are the most in a single season in Bucs history, but that record was simply breaking his old record of 28 from 2016. Winston has always had the stats, but as of the last six games, he now has the wins.
For what seems like the first time, the team is complementing Winston, especially on defense, and Winston is complementing what they do, as well. Numbers are not enough. Any talented player can rack up stats. What separates the stat-stuffers from the title holders is how well they can elevate the team around them.
Finally this Buccaneers team seems to be elevating in unison. We breakdown what that looked like this past weekend versus Detroit on the next page.