Around the Tampa Bay area, the 2002 Buccaneers players and coaches are legends – you could have seen that for yourself when fullback, Mike Alstott, made an appearance at PewterReport.com’s charity bowling event last week. But, according to Football Outsiders of ESPN, the legend of that team isn’t confined to the Bay; it’s nation wide, and historic.

In a series where ESPN is ranking the Top 30 offenses, defenses, special teams and complete teams over the last 30 years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2002 defense came in as the second best on their defensive list.

https://twitter.com/NFLPlus/status/877307727818752000

Here’s what ESPN had to say about the Buccaneers being as high as they were, and why they weren’t No. 1.

This is the best pass defense in the past 30 years. According to DOVA*, the Bucs were 51.9 more efficient than the baseline during the regular season. They allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 51 percent of passes. They led the league in interceptions with 31, nearly double the league average of 16.5. They were at their best in the most important situations: No. 1 in the red zone, No. 1 in the second half of close games, and No. 3 against the pass on third down. Defensive end, Simeon Rice, defensive tackle, Warren Sapp, and linebacker Derrick Brooke were all selected as first-team All-Pros, with linebacker, Shelton Quarles, and safety, John Lynch, joining them in the Pro Bowl.

Similar to the 2000 Ravens, DOVA penalizes the Bucs for the easiest defensive schedule in the regular season, but they proved themselves further in the playoffs by shutting down two of the top three offenses that year. The Bucs don’t reach the No. 1 spot of all time because they were “only” eighth in DOVA against the run, including a surprising 27th against the run on third downs.

*Football Outsiders’ DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) metric accounts for every aspect of defense: how well teams prevent yardage, how often they get turnovers, and how well they keep points off the board. DVOA measures success on each play, defined using down and distance, then compares it to an NFL average baseline adjusted for situation and opponent. You can read more of the details here — and yes, defensive DVOA adjusts for opposing offenses, not defenses, but we still call it DVOA. The metric is built to balance a measurement of how well a team has played in the past with a forecast of how well a team will play in the future.

While on the topic, the NFL on ESPN Twitter account decided to get a little live vote going between three of the most known defenses in the past 30 years. They gave twitter users the choice between the 1991 Eagles (who were No. 1 on the ESPN list, by the way), the 2002 Buccaneers and the 2000 Ravens.

There were over 500 responses to the question, but one response stood out more than the rest (sorry, common Twitter users) and that was former Super Bowl Champion, and Hall of Fame quarterback, Kurt Warner, who said that the ’02 Bucs squad was the best he ever faced.

As a team, the Buccaneers came in as the 9th best team to play professional football in the last 30 years. That’s pretty special when you say it like that. That team was pretty unique, too. From the characters of Keyshawn and Sapp, to the duo of Brooks and Quarles, to the dogs of Rice and Pittman, the train of Alstott and the iconic heroes of Jurevicius, Barber and Dwight Smith in the playoffs. That team will never be copied.

Their result will be chased, but their DNA was once in a lifetime.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]rt.com
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Iowabucfan
Iowabucfan
5 years ago

I love the photo! Makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

seat26
seat26
5 years ago

I was traveling overseas when the Bucs played the Eagles in NFC championship game. My son in law was a huge Eagles fan, and I had to watch the game at 5:00 am Korean time. I still remember Barber intercepting the ball on the 5 yard line and running it back for a TD. IT was fantastic. I also keenly remember that the Bucs scored more points on defense in the Super Bowl than the Raiders did on offense. They were a amazing.

scubog
scubog
Reply to  seat26
5 years ago

I was in Korea in 1973. It took me a month back in Florida to thaw out.

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

When an event is so moving, folks seem to remember exactly where they were when it happened. Kennedy getting shot, 911, Bill Mazeroski’s home run in 1960, Clay knocking out Sonny Liston, and of course,”The Pick”.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
5 years ago

That teams dominance was insane. I remember me and my brother renting a 60 inch TV, that was huge for back then, for that super bowl. Before halftime that game was damn near in the bag. To be able to get pressure with just your front four, and makes your defense almost unstoppable. Thus leading to a 45 QBR for opposing QB’s that year. I think they gave up like 10 total passing TD’s that year. That is absurd! However with rule changes in today’s NFL, that might be impossible to replicate with new rules and all.

ScottC543
ScottC543
5 years ago

That was a magical time for us Bucs fans. Our D was spectacular game after game, and although our running game was marginal, our short passing game made up for it and more. When we beat the Eagles in Philly it was a done deal. We were going to win the Superbowl. After that game – beating the Eagles in Philly – I knew that the Raiders, on a neutral field, had no chance.

And they didn’t.

ScottC543
ScottC543
Reply to  ScottC543
5 years ago

Oh, yeah… We closed out the Vet with that game, beating them in front of their nasty fans, crushing their pitiful Superbowl dreams. And we opened the Linc by beating their asses again!

Sweet, sweet times.