Photos from the Bucs' practice on Wednesday, October 28st at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa.
Statistics can help illuminate the game of football…or they can take us down a misleading path. As Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith said: "I believe in stats, but it's [which] stats."
Smith, for instance, doesn't pay much attention to the NFL's defensive rankings, since they are based on yards, which he considers a meaningless measure. When he shares defensive stats with his team, he focuses on points allowed, takeaways, scoring on defense and red zone proficiency.
Here on Buccaneers.com, we unabashedly love stats, but we also understand the need to wield them wisely. Sometimes, we can get a better feel for why the team is performing as it is by going a little deeper into the numbers. Other times, we simply want to point out a few numbers we consider interesting, and hope you will find it interesting as well.
That's our goal with Football Geekery. Each week, we're going to give you a sampling of statistical and/or historical analysis, hopefully in a way that is relevant to the Buccaneers' current state of affairs. This week we note that the Buccaneers' offense has been on a roll in recent weeks, look at the team's history of bouncing back after tough games like the one last Sunday, and wrap it up with some odds and ends. Let's get started.
1. Offense on a Roll
Last Sunday, the Buccaneers rang up 479 yards of offense, the fifth-highest single game total in team history and the Bucs' second 400-yard game in their last three outings. Sandwiched between those two 400-yard games was a 369-yard performance in a Week Five win over Jacksonville.
That marks the first time since 2012 and just the seventh time in Buccaneer annals that the team has recorded at least 350 yards of offense in three consecutive games during the same season. The 2012 squad did it for five straight games in the middle of that campaign, but the other seven streaks on the list are all three games long. Here are all eight of those streaks:
On a per-game basis, that aforementioned five-game streak in 2012 was also the most prolific one in terms of both yards and points scored per game during the run, but the current string is not far behind in either category. The 419.7 yards per game for the 2015 team during its streak is the third-highest total on the list, and the 30.3 points per game is second.
On only three of those eight occasions – the current streak, the five-game run in 2012 and the earliest entry on the list in 1980 – did the Buccaneers record at least 350 yards AND score at least 21 points in at least three straight games. Interestingly, while that five-game streak in 2012 includes Doug Martin's team-record 251-yard rushing performance in Oakland, the current streak has better rushing numbers on a per-game basis. The 2012 streak had an average of 152.8 rushing yards per game while the Bucs' current run includes 171.3 rushing yards per outing. The current streak is also the only time in team history that the Buccaneers have gained at least 350 total yards AND at least 140 rushing yards in three straight games.
We included the win-loss record for the team during each of those seven streaks, but there doesn't seem to be any pattern. Only one of the teams was undefeated during its run (the late push in 1994 that was mostly driven by Errict Rhett's prolific rushing and included two wins in three weeks against Washington), while four others went 1-2. That latter group includes the 2015 Buccaneers, and while it's certainly unfortunate that the team has won just once in that span, it does seem as if we're witnessing the beginning of an offensive emergence for the franchise.
2. Bouncing Back
After surrendering a 24-point lead and losing to the Washington Redskins, 31-30, Sunday, the Buccaneers insisted that they would get past the sting of that defeat by Wednesday in order to begin preparing for the next game in Atlanta. That might seem difficult, but recent history suggests that the Buccaneers can bounce back quickly after a difficult defeat. Last year's trip to Atlanta ended in a 56-14 loss, but Tampa Bay won in Pittsburgh for the first time in team history the very next week.
But are games with large blown leads particularly difficult to overcome? Probably the most infamous game in that category in team history was the 2003 Monday Night Football loss to Peyton Manning and the Colts; Buccaneer fans may not remember that the team won the next week at Washington, 35-13.
In fact, prior to last Sunday's game, there were five other instances in team history of losses in games in which the Bucs led by at least 20 points at some point during the contest. On three of those five occasions, Tampa Bay won its next game, including the two most recent. If you expand the search to games with blown leads of two touchdowns or more (defined here as 14+ points), you still don't see much evidence that the next week is particularly difficult. There have been 13 such games in team history and the Bucs are 6-7 in the games that followed. Here's that complete list:
Four of the seven losses on that were by six points or fewer, suggesting that the large majority of times, the Buccaneers have been quite competitive in the game following a loss with a large blown lead.
3. Odds and Ends
A few additional stat and milestone-related notes of interest:
- Rookie WR Donteea Dye made a diving catch of a seven-yard pass in the end zone last Sunday against Washington, recording his first NFL touchdown. That also happened to be his first NFL catch. The last time a Buccaneer player scored a touchdown on what was also his first career reception was 2003, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. On Oct. 12, 2003, tight end Will Heller did scored on a four-yard pass from Brad Johnson, and it happened to also be against the Redskins at FedExField. Heller, who played for the Buccaneers from 2003-05 and saw action in 19 games with three starts, finished with 14 receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns in that span. Heller actually played 10 years in the league, also suiting up for Miami, Seattle and Detroit, and finished with 92 career receptions.
- Rookie QB Jameis Winston's last two games have been his best, but there have been positive signs in all six of his outings so far. And he certainly has brought steady production to the passing attack. In fact, again according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Winston is the first player in NFL history to throw for at least 200 yards in each of his first six games.
- Part of the scouting report on Winston prior to the 2015 NFL Draft was that he displayed great accuracy on balls thrown deep. So far, that has proved to be accurate. According to Statspass, the Buccaneers (and thus Winston, who has thrown all of their passes so far this season) rank first in the league in passer rating on balls that are thrown at least 21 yards in the air. The Bucs' rating on such throws is 129.5, just ahead of San Diego's 128.5.