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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

50 Tough Yards

For the Buccaneers’ defense in 2001, the ‘red zone’ seems to have started at the 49-yard line instead of the 20


The Buc defense has not taken kindly to opponents starting drives inside the Bucs' 50, as the Vikings did three times without any luck

Have you ever seen a basketball guard, about to take an outside shot, look down at the floor and step back behind the three-point arc before letting it fly?

Opposing offenses might want to adopt a similar strategy against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If they just moved back beyond the midfield stripe before starting their drives, they might end up with more points.

It hasn't quite gotten to that point yet, but lost amid the stories on the Bucs' conference-leading plus-13 turnover ratio is how well Tampa Bay's defense has kept its opponents from capitalizing on 'short fields.' In coach parlance, a short field is created when an opponent begins a drive on your side of the 50. Most often, this is created by a turnover.

Tampa Bay has allowed only 21 points as a result of turnovers all season.

Perhaps that extremely low number is a result of the Bucs' defense expanding the 'red zone' all the way to midfield.

"We've done a good job of responding after we've gotten the short field, no matter how it's occurred," said Head Coach Tony Dungy. "That is really just a mindset sometimes, going in there mentally and taking care of business."

While the Buccaneers' offense has struggled from time to time inside the 20, the team's red zone defense has been consistently strong for most of Dungy's tenure. Once again, in 2001, the Bucs are one of the hardest teams to score on from up close, ranking fourth in the NFL in opponent red zone touchdown percentage.

Buc foes have advanced inside Tampa Bay's 20-yard line 25 times this season and have come away with just nine touchdowns (and nine field goals) for a red zone TD percentage of 36.0. Only Cleveland (29.2%), the New York Giants (32.3%) and Philadelphia (33.3%) have better marks in that category.

But it isn't just inside the 20 that the Bucs' defense stiffens. Here is a related statistic that you might find even more remarkable than the team's staunch red zone defense:

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