The dominant one from week two, or what we saw last week?

When I wrote the By the Box Preview for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ game against the Minnesota Vikings, DT Chris Baker and CB Brent Grimes were projected starters. So visions of dominating the line of scrimmage with the possibility of inducing turnovers were dancing in my head, regardless of who was going to quarterback the Vikings. The defense had held the Chicago Bears run game to only 20 yards rushing, after all.


I was hoping for a repeat performance, but slowly news leaked out. Baker would not make the flight due to the flu along with Jacquies Smith. Grimes would not play on game day.

In the secondary, the team was re-converting Ryan Smith to play corner and replace Grimes in this game. The Bucs released veteran Alterraun Verner this past offseason and it may have been a bad move to remove quality depth from the roster because I do not want to ever see what I witnessed this past Sunday again.

Can’t make lemonade out of lemons

Talent helps to win games. A lack of talent reduces the chances of winning games. The coaching can only do so much missing a starting defensive tackle, cornerback and middle linebacker. And then Noah Spence fell to injury at the beginning of Minnesota’s 3rd offensive drive. Begrudgingly, I delved into the numbers.


First half

Drive 1: Run – 5 plays for 14 yards and a touchdown. Pass – 2 plays for 61 yards.

Already, the Bucs could not contain the run or the passing game. The Vikings first 1st down was created on two plays: a six yard run to the right, and a four-yard run up the middle. This did not bode well for the defensive front.

It was feast or famine for the Bucs’ defense. They gave up seven explosive pass plays of 16 yards or more.

A biased opinion on the Vikings’ first touchdown: the line referee called a touchdown on the field despite not actually physically seeing the ball cross the plane. It was assumed RB Dalvin Cook crossed the plain despite the ball not being in his possession. Unfortunately, if there is no concrete evidence to contradict the call on the field, then the call on the field stands.

Halftime stats:

Passing yards = 226 yard @ 10.8 yards per attempt. Rushing yards = 47 yards @ 2.7 yards per rush.

I am quite surprised to see the rushing rate so low.

Second half

After getting burned on a deep pass play for a touchdown, the defense finally hunkered down and tried valiantly to give the offense a chance to get back into the ball game. DT Gerald McCoy got injured on Minnesota’s drive 8. Somehow, he said some words to his defense and trotted back out onto the field and forced a punt on the Vikings next offensive drive. Then the defense thwarted another touchdown after the Bucs’ offense turned over the ball in short yardage for the Vikings, but they still scored a field goal. Despite the defense showing up late, they still tried to finish strong.

To add injury to insult, Lavonte David was lost to an ankle injury that could keep him out for weeks.

Pressure

Sacks: 0

QB Hits: 5

TFL’s : 2

There were a total of 5 QB pressures on 33 passing attempts, or 15% of passing situations. The previous week, the Bucs generated 9 QB pressures on 20 passing attempts (before the Bucs let up after going up 29 – 0 on the Bears), or 45% of passing situations. Very little pressure was created by the Bucs defense. It is difficult to get pressure when the team loses a starting defensive tackle before the game and a starting defensive end early in the first quarter. Spence is the fastest DE the line has and missing him does hurt the pass rush. Baker’s bulrush up the middle was also missed.

Last Sunday, the Bucs induced 8.5 TFL’s. Against the Vikings, only 2 TFL’s were generated. DT Baker was truly missed.

Conclusion

Tampa’s defense allowed five long drives of 60 yards or more, scoring on all of the long drives with touchdowns except for one field goal. The first have defense was sporadic. Then it continued into the second half. Although the defense did show up in the middle of the third quarter and early fourth, the damage was done and the Bucs offense remained inept when it had a change to mount a comeback.

Was the Bucs’ run defense a mirage when it gave up a total of 125 rushing yards this week, but only surrendered 20 yards total rushing to the Bears the previous weekend? No. The Bears run game gashed the Steelers defense for a total of 220 yards and two touchdowns the week after the Bucs beat down.

The Bucs do have a pass defense problem though. They gave up 290 yards passing to Chicago and 369 yards passing to Minnesota. After week 3, they are ranked 31st in the league. It appears that DC Mike Smith may be altering the secondary play or tcertain defensive backs are not playing well… ahem… Vernon Hargreaves… ahem.

When healthy, the Bucs defense put up a dominant performance. When not so healthy, they put up the exact opposite performance. I think Mike Smith had his heat check this week as well along with the offense. Smith needs to harness that pass defense from last year. The flu has been going around the locker room and so that might have affected some players, including VH3. The Minnesota game was an abysmal outing, but hopefully with healthy players returning, the production may improve. Sometimes one cannot make lemonade out of lemons because there just are not enough ingredients to make the sour taste go away.

If the Bucs’ defense does not improve fast enough, then the chances of seeing the playoffs will diminish because the Bucs’ offense has yet to discover it can score and score often.


Article first appeared on www.bucsnation.com