Tampa Bay DC Mike Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Bucs defense has given up 101 points in their first three games – a franchise record in that time span – but “the sky is not falling,” Mike Smith said on Thursday. There is a lot to correct and it starts with him – but understand the process and give it time, the defensive coordinator pleaded.
“I know everybody is frustrated, in terms of what we’ve put out there in the first three games. Nobody more than me,” Smith said. “It’s not any one player’s fault, it’s not any one coach’s fault. Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to make sure our guys understand what we’re trying to get accomplished.
“We have not played the type of football that we need to play in the first three football games. We’ve given up way too many explosive plays. It is a handful of plays, but that is what the NFL is all about. You can’t go back and say, ‘Gosh, I wish I had that third-and-18 call back,’ or ‘I wish that fit would’ve been better.’ We’ve got to keep grinding as a staff and keep grinding as a group of men and show some resiliency.
“I think that we’ve done that at times, but I think that we’ve been inconsistent at different periods of the game,” Smith continued. “Not to rehash the first three games, but there are times that we look like we are going to play good defense and then there are other times that it’s like, ‘Oh my god.’ You’re scratching your head and I’m going, ‘How the heck did that just happen?’”
Those head-scratching moments last Sunday came after a third-and-18 draw for 22 yards in the first quarter, a 44-yard touchdown to Rams receiver Brian Quick on the opening drive and a 43-yard touchdown to Tavon Austin in the fourth quarter – both TD passes appeared to lack safety coverage. Before Sunday, Tampa Bay’s defense had already surrendered three passes of over 50 yards in the first two weeks.
Needless to say, the Bucs have been on the wrong end of too many explosive plays this season. And it’s led to major points.
“I think you’re going to be judged as a defense ultimately by how many points you’ve given up,” said Smith, who emphasized limiting explosives last week. “We’ve given up way too many points. It doesn’t matter where the drive starts or how it happened. We’ve got to go out and stop them and we haven’t shown the resiliency that we need to, especially at the end of the halves. I’ve got to call a better game, we’ve got to go out and we’ve got to execute better across the board. But we’re all in this together and there’s one man that’s responsible for it and that’s me.”
Bucs S Keith Tandy and Rams WR Tavon Austin – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
For everything that’s gone wrong, the Bucs have done a nice job against the run this season, giving up an average of 98 yards a game (3.5 per carry) on the ground. The fallback Sunday, however, was that they couldn’t get Los Angeles into many third-and-long situations. As such, they couldn’t capitalize on their stout run-defense by sending a pressure package.
The objective this Sunday, Smith said, is to reverse course and force Denver into third-and-long – or, as the Bucs call it “third-and-our-down” – which creates opportunities for one on one matchups along the defensive line with free runners to rush the passer.
“We’re not rushing the quarterback near at the level that we need to,” said Smith, who earlier said he’s confident the Bucs will have more chances to apply pressure this Sunday because the Broncos often deploy three receiver-sets, unlike the Rams who keep tight ends in for max protection. A better pass rush starts by looking in the mirror, though.
“It doesn’t matter who’s out there, it doesn’t matter how many guys are not there, we’ve got to go out and put pressure on the quarterback,” he said. “And it’s not going to be just one guy. It’s going to an effort by the entire line and it’s going to be what the secondary is doing as well.”
Smith continued to point a finger at himself to correct the pass-defense and points issues, but ultimately taught a valuable lesson when it comes to the NFL: The performance is never as bad as you think when you lose and it’s never as good when you win.
“I think we’re a lot closer than we are away from it, I can assure you that,” Smith said. “And really, there’s one guy to me that’s got to do a better job and that’s Mike Smith. He’s the guy that’s got to make sure that these guys understand what we’re trying to get accomplished.
“One thing I’ve found in this league is, when you have a loss it’s never as bad. And when you have a win it’s never as good. When you shut somebody out, you think it’s great and then you watch the tape and you’re saying, ‘Holy cow, we missed fit, four things, if they would’ve seen this.’ So it’s a group effort. Everybody’s contributed to it.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
Point 1: the Bucs defense has not given up 101 points through 3 games. the Bucs TEAM has given up that many, but the offense has had a helping hand.
Point 2: yes, yes it’s on Smith to fix this hot mess. And what a hot mess it is. Try something new….please!
Point 3: we have talent on D – GMC, LvD, Kwon, VHIII…these are guys any team would love….so (in the words of Lloyd Christmas) “I’m sayin there’s a chance”.
Paging Robert Ayers….any update on his ankle????
We saw against Atalanta this D can work but offense has to get better too and stop the damn turnovers! We need better pass rush and Smith needs to get this secondary all on same page quick. Still have faith. There is a lot of talent I just worry about D line with J. Smith and Ayers out….
I agree with your post fredster. To many breakdowns and miscommunication with mainly the CB’s over coverage. Losing both Ayres and Smith at the start of the season sure hasn’t helped matters. Our DL has got to start putting some pressure on the QB though. Next man up is imperative.
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