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Tampa Bay’s pass rush was severely lacking at the beginning of the 2004 season. In fact, I dedicated an installment of Flynn’s Focus to explain to Bucs fans that their favorite team’s defense, which notched just six sacks through the first five games of the season, was on pace to finish the ’04 season with a shockingly low 19 sacks.

That sack total would’ve tied the 1986 Bucs team for the lowest sack total in franchise history. Since then, the Bucs defense has exploded by notching 38 sacks over the past nine games to give themselves a total of 44 on the season. That sack total currently ranks No. 1 overall in the National Football League and is one more than the Bucs recorded in 2002, which was the year they won the Super Bowl.

So who’s to credit for Tampa Bay’s ability to get after the opposing team’s quarterback as of late? One thing is apparent — Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has been sending more blitzes, evidenced by the sacks total of linebackers Derrick Brooks (3), Shelton Quarles (3.5) and cornerback Ronde Barber (3).

The outstanding performance of defensive end Greg Spires, who has notched seven sacks, has also helped. It’s freed up Bucs DE Simeon Rice, who recorded just one sack through the first five games of the season but has notched 11.5 sacks since to give himself a sack total of 12.5, which leads the team.

Surprisingly, the Bucs have fared well in the sack column without under tackle Anthony McFarland, who notched just three quarterback takedowns before going on injured reserve with a torn triceps in November. Backup DTs Dewayne White and Chidi Ahanotu have recorded 5.5 sacks and 3.5 sacks, respectively.

The franchise record for sacks in a single season (55) was set in 2000, but don’t look for the Bucs to break that record. They need to record 11 quarterback takedowns over their final two contests to accomplish that feat.


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