Despite injuries that have seen as many as five defensive starters out at one time, the Bucs' defense has seemingly turned a corner over the last month or so. Just how much has the defense improved? Since Week Seven, the Bucs have the second-most sacks in the league with 24.0, behind only the Saints at 25.0. The pressure on the quarterback seems to be forcing more third-down situations and the Bucs are excelling there, too. The defense's 33.3% conversion rate is good for the fourth-best in the NFL. The Bucs are also forcing third-down situations given their improvement in passing defense. They have officially cracked the top 10, allowing just 216.3 yards through the air per game since Week Seven, which given the state of the offense in the NFL as of late, is a pretty darn good number.
Coach Koetter described a little bit of what contributed to being better on third-down during this past Sunday's game against Carolina on Monday. He credits the versatility and flexibility of the linebackers and secondary, in particular.
"It's a passing league and once you get past third-and-two, you just don't see very many runs and we're the same way," Koetter said. "You just don't run it very much. Getting the extra speed on the field makes sense. [Andrew Adams] is actually playing like our middle linebacker in that package. They move him around. They blitzed him some yesterday. I think he got a couple eye openers when they ran a couple twists off the edge and had to run through the B-gap and all of a sudden there was a guard sitting there waiting for him. That's probably not his favorite thing to do. In practice, that came clean every time – it wasn't quite so clean yesterday. He's done a good job and again that goes to coaches that've done a good job putting those guys in position. Then those guys have taken those roles and run with them."
It's meant the difference for the Bucs who have won their last two games. The offense is still firing on all cylinders, sitting atop the league in net yards per game with 442.7 and passing yards per game at 358.9. The offense is also responsible for the fourth-best yards-per-play average at 6.54. It's paid off on the scoreboard, too, with the Bucs now in the top 10 for points per game, averaging 26.5.
Players visited a correctional facility as part of the Buccaneers Social Justice Initiative on their off day Tuesday. Nine players including Gerald McCoy, Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith, Chris Godwin, Leonard Wester, Alan Cross, Caleb Benenoch, Shaun Wilson and Sergio Bailey made the visit in support of Abe Brown Ministries Prison Crusade program. They offered words of encouragement and hope to inmates serving long-term sentences at Zephyrhills Correctional Institution.
It's a Very Mike Evans Christmas this year, with the wide receiver hosting not one, not two but three events this week through his Mike Evans Family Foundation. The week kicked off with his Catch for Christmas Celebrity Bowling tournament where plenty of his teammates were on hand mixing and mingling with Bucs fans. There was a silent auction, a raffle and pictures and autographs galore. The money raised will help his foundation give college scholarships to students who have the grades but don't have the means to higher education.
Evans also hosted a holiday dinner at the Children's Home Network of Tampa. It's a residential shelter for abused and neglected children in the Bay area. Evans and his family played games around the campus and gifted children with toys for Christmas. He and his wife, Ashli, also donated necessity items that the shelter is in need of year-round.
It will be capped off tonight with a special Catch for Christmas surprise at AdventHealth Training Center, where Evans and his family will surprise 13 Jr. Bucs student-athletes. At the risk of spoiling it, we'll just leave it at that. Evans' foundation is very active both here in Tampa and back in his home state of Texas. He's taken it upon himself to bring holiday cheer to those in need around the Bay area this season.
Mike Evans and the Mike Evans Family Foundation hosted a bowling night raising money towards college scholarships for underserved high school seniors.