The 600s is a yardage territory visited more commonly by big-time college programs playing Saturday noon games against directional school opponents.

NFL defenses, even the worst of the worst, aren’t supposed to be so porous. But that’s what happened Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a quality Oakland Raiders offense look indomitable at times. Quarterback Derek Carr threw for a franchise-record 513 yards and the Raiders rolled up 626 net yards as a team.

Yes, overtime provided a little more time to pump up stats. But Oakland was over 500 yards heading into bonus football and Bucs fans probably don’t want to hear any excuses anyway.

With 24 hours to let the latest setback sink in and watch a little film, head coach Dirk Koetter was asked about the defense and its troubles. Fundamentals were front and center.

Buccaneers CB Jude Adjei-Barimah and S Bradley McDougald fail to make the final tackle – Photo by: Mark Lomgolio/PR

Buccaneers CB Jude Adjei-Barimah and S Bradley McDougald fail to make the final tackle – Photo by: Mark Lomgolio/PR

“We didn’t tackle very well,” Koetter said immediately. “We missed tackles, so sometimes we made it look worse by them [not] making tackles. I was really impressed with their wide receivers and their quarterback, I think they’re three really good players right there. The tackling and then [Oakland quarterback Derek] Carr, he gets the ball out quickly and we didn’t have much of a pass rush. When you throw it 59 times and we just didn’t get enough of a rush on him and as I said yesterday, our defense was on the field too long. The number seems weird because it doesn’t add up to 60 [minutes], but when you see the time of possession, 44 and change, to 29 and change, that’s just a bad recipe right there.”

Koetter didn’t single out any specific players, but anyone watching Sunday’s game knows there are plenty of culprits. Linebacker Kwon Alexander piled up a game-high 14 tackles (Oakland ran 85 plays, there were quite a few to go around) but he wasn’t immune to the struggle, either. Sometimes defenders got their hands on ball carriers and couldn’t do much else. There were also moments like midway through overtime when Alexander went from being in perfect position to stuff Latavius Murray’s running lane only to slide right out of the way to help spring a 19-yard gain.

Clearly the most egregious missed tackle came on the game-ending, 41-yard touchdown reception from Carr to Seth Roberts. Cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah colliding with safety Bradley McDougald at midfield and taking each other down as Roberts squirts out between and gallops into the end zone pretty much encapsulates Tampa Bay’s day.

The one thing about a midseason tackling issue is that there isn’t much NFL teams do about it. Padded practices are limited to 14 total during the regular season and it’s not like teams are slamming each other around during those periods when injuries are already piling up. Drills are still executed, but they’re often player versus tackling dummy.

“We work on it all the time and we’ve got to continue to work on it,” defensive coordinator Mike Smith said Wednesday. “There’s techniques that our guys like to do.

“Sometimes it’s over-aggressiveness. Sometimes it’s under-aggressiveness. And there’s a fine line. And tackling is not just one person. It’s a system that’s put in place. There’s someone that’s responsible for turning the ball back to the pursuit and when we lose the person that’s supposed to turn the ball back, we’re chasing from inside out and that’s going to be hidden yards.”

Koetter was a little more open about the team’s week-to-week practice habits but didn’t sound overly concerned about his defense’s ability to bring down ball carriers.

“These guys know how to tackle and we just have to do a better job of it,” Koetter said. “You’re not going to work on it during the season, that’s for sure. We only have a couple, I’m not sure exactly the number, of padded practices left and we’re not tackling in practice anyway, but these guys all know how to tackle.”

They get a national, prime-time audience to back up their coach’s words Thursday night.

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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5 years ago

miss tackles happen when the defense is tired… and the offense going turtle in the 2nd half help double oaklands time of possession & only made matters worse

5 years ago

Lots of things need to improve, but if our QB keeps missing open WR’s (most misses had clean pocket) we are going to continue to struggle on offense and defense. Needs to start playing like No. 1 overall draft pick. Not sure what’s up with his accuracy and decision making but if it continues it’s going to be a long year.

Reply to  fredster
5 years ago

Darn that Winston missing those tackles!

5 years ago

It appears that we’ll be 4th in the division once again. We might want some QB competition from the draft if Winston continues to implode. Major disappointment with seemingly no bright spots. At this point mediocre would be a huge improvement. Still hope the Glazers stick with Koetter for the long haul. Changing coaches every 2or 3 years is not a formula for success.