Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Sustaining Drives Like Never Before

Football Geekery: The average length of a Buccaneer scoring drive this season is 63.1 yards, the longest since at least 1995 and good for eighth in the NFL…Plus, Evans' projections and more,

Pictures of the Buccaneers' practice on Thursday, November 10th.

Last November, thanks to a response regarding his approach to game-planning, Dirk Koetter was briefly labeled as an "anti-analytics" coach. When it comes to drawing up his play sheet for a specific opponent, Koetter values breaking down tape of that opponent over studying a page of team statistics.

In reality – and has gradually become clear over his two seasons with the Buccaneers, first as offensive coordinator and now as head coach – Koetter uses statistical analysis as much as any coach. Perhaps more than some. In particular, he has studied and distilled the factors that are most correlated with winning and regularly presents his team with a list of statistical goals before a game.

The distinction, as is always the case with statistics, is how they are wielded. Numbers can be illuminating, even predictive. For Koetter, they will never take the place of the scouting he can do with his own eyes, but they can assist in that process.

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 look at the average length of Tampa Bay scoring drives over the last two decades, and why a very high number this season is both a good and bad thing. We also examine the likelihood of Mike Evans hitting the full-season projections in three categories that his midway numbers would suggest and look at Buccaneer two-point conversions through the years.

1. Sustaining Drives

Second-year quarterback Jameis Winston has led a 2016 Buccaneers offense that has been able to put together a large number of long scoring drives. In fact, Tampa Bay has already scored on drives of 75 or more yards 17 times this season, or more than twice per game.[

Pro Football Reference](http://www.pro-football-reference.com/play-index/) has specific drive data dating back to the 1998 season. The Buccaneers' 2016 season looks like it will be the team's best in that span in producing 75+-yard scoring drives, and likely by a wide margin. In fact, the team's total through just half of the 2016 schedule is already it's fifth-best, and it will take only seven more to move to the top. The 2012 Tampa Bay team had 23 scoring drives of 75 or more yards, followed by 22 for last year's squad under Winston's control, then by 18 each for the 2001 and 2013 teams.

Statspass has drive-length totals for each team dating back through 1995. The Buccaneers' 2016 offense is sustaining scoring drives like never before. The Bucs have averaged 63.1 yards on their scoring marches this year, by far the best in team history and good enough for eighth-best in the NFL. That's up roughly 3.5 yards from last year's average of 59.3 yards per scoring drive, which had been the team's best since 2004.

The average length of scoring drives is up across the NFL in recent years, as are offensive numbers in general. The full-league average so far this year is 59.6 yards, the highest mark of any season in the available field of date, and up from the previous high mark of 59.1 yards last year. Still, Tampa Bay's improvement in that category over the past two years, from 54.5 in 2014 to 59.3 last year to 63.1 this year, outpaces that of the NFL as a whole (57.7 to 59.1 to 59.6).

The chart below lists the average length of a Buccaneer scoring drive each season since 1995, plus the NFL average for that year. The "Diff." column represents the difference, positive or negative, between the Bucs' mark and the NFL's. The "% Diff." column represents how much better or worse the Buccaneers were than the league average.

Season

Bucs

NFL

Diff.

% Diff.

1995

54.2

54.9

-0.7

-1.3%

1996

48.3

53.7

-5.4

-10.1%

1997

52.7

53.6

-0.9

-1.7%

1998

49.9

54.5

-4.6

-8.4%

1999

45.9

53.8

-7.9

-14.7%

2000

49.4

54.3

-4.9

-9.0%

2001

51.9

54.1

-2.2

-4.1%

2002

50.2

55.0

-4.8

-8.7%

2003

57.7

53.6

4.1

7.6%

2004

59.4

56.0

3.4

6.1%

2005

56.3

54.3

2.0

3.7%

2006

54.0

55.3

-1.3

-2.4%

2007

47.5

55.2

-7.7

-13.9%

2008

51.4

55.5

-4.1

-7.4%

2009

49.4

56.6

-7.2

-12.7%

2010

55.4

55.8

-0.4

-0.7%

2011

55.7

57.6

-1.9

-3.3%

2012

55.1

57.9

-2.8

-4.8%

2013

55.9

57.3

-1.4

-2.4%

2014

54.5

57.7

-3.2

-5.5%

2015

59.3

59.1

0.2

0.3%

2016

63.1

59.6

3.5

5.9%

Tampa Bay's scoring drives, on average, have been 3.5 yards longer than the league average this year, or 5.9% longer. That's the third-best differential between the Bucs and the league in this span of years, behind a 7.6% difference in 2003 and a 6.1% difference in 2004.

Eagle-eyed Buccaneer fans may note that the team's "best" seasons in this category don't necessarily match up well with overall team success. Tampa Bay's last playoff team, the 2007 squad, was 13.9% worse than the league average and ranked last in the league. The 2002 Super bowl team was 8.7% worse than league average and ranked 27th. The 1999 team that reached the NFC Championship Game was 14.7% worse than league average (the biggest difference for any team in this chart) and ranked 28th.

The key thing about those three playoff teams: They were all very good at taking the ball away on defense, the Super Bowl team almost legendarily so. The 1999 team, led by NFL Defensive Player of the Year Warren Sapp, forced 31 turnovers. The 2002 team, led by NFL Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brooks, forced 38 turnovers. The 2007 team forced 35 turnovers, including an incredible 19 fumble recoveries.

Those turnovers more often led to good field position for the Bucs' offense, so it didn't have to drive as far. The 2016 team would certainly like to produce a lot of short fields for Winston, too, and an uptick in that area would go a long way towards turning around the season in the second half. In the meantime, however, the Buccaneers can feel confidence that Winston can drive them the length of the field if needed.

2. More Evans End Zone Magic?

When a Buccaneer player is in the midst of a strong season, we like to use projections to see what the end results might look like after a full 16 games. It's not that we necessarily expect the player to hit all of those projections; it's just an indication of the type of pace he is setting, and what could be if he manages to maintain it.

This is a particularly fun (and simple) exercise when the season has hit some natural break, such as the midway point. If the team is halfway through its schedule and the player in question has played in every game so far, then the projections are easy: Just double all his numbers. That's what we did earlier this week as part of our midseason look at the season third-year wideout Mike Evans is having. As noted, Evans' eight-game line of 55-745-8 doubles to 110-1,490-16, which would break the team's single-season record in all three categories.

As also noted, that's close to a more rounded line of 100-1,500-15, and that's something that only two Hall of Famers and one dead lock for Canton – Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss – have ever done. Projections are nice, but predicting that any player will join that elite company is bold.

Which got us to thinking – how likely is Evans to approach the levels suggested by that midseason projection, at least in terms of Buccaneer history. Now, we don't really have directly comparable seasons, since no previous Buc has ever had eight TD catches at the break, and only one (Keyshawn Johnson) has ever had as many as Evans' 55 receptions for 745 yards. So let's take the levels down a little bit to some round numbers and look at all the previous seasons in team history in which a player had at least 50 catches, 500 receiving yards or five touchdown receptions after eight games in a 16 game season.

(Note the caveat of "in a 16-game season." An eight-game projection would be different in the middle of a 14-game season, or in a season that was shortened by a streak. As such, we're looking at 1978-2015 but excluding the nine-game 1982 campaign and the 1987 season that had only 15 games, three of them played by replacement players. That's still 36 of the first 40 seasons to work with.)*

Before Evans put up his eight-game line this season, there were 14 previous occasions of a Buccaneer having 500 receiving yards at the break, 10 occasions of five TD catches and, unfortunately for this exercise, only one 50-catch performance. Here they are, with the first and second-half outputs noted:

Buccaneers with 500 Receiving Yards Midway through a 16-Game Season

Player

Season

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Keyshawn Johnson

2001

745

521

1266

Bruce Hill

1988

734

306

1040

Joey Galloway

2005

731

556

1287

Vincent Jackson

2012

710

674

1384

Vincent Jackson

2013

634

590

1224

Mark Carrier

1989

633

789

1422

Michael Clayton

2004

595

598

1193

Kevin House

1981

587

589

1176

Keenan McCardell

2003

575

599

1174

Joey Galloway

2007

564

450

1014

Mike Williams

2010

559

405

964

Mike Evans

2015

536

670

1206

Jacquez Green

2000

512

221

733

Mike Williams

2012

504

492

996

Buccaneers with 50 Receptions Midway through a 16-Game Season

Player

Season

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Keyshawn Johnson

2001

59

47

106

Buccaneers with 5 Touchdown Receptions Midway through a 16-Game Season

Player

Season

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Joey Galloway

2005

6

4

10

Bruce Hill

1988

6

3

9

Vincent Jackson

2012

6

2

8

Jimmie Giles

1979

5

2

7

Jimmie Giles

1985

5

3

8

Kevin House

1981

5

4

9

Keenan McCardell

2003

5

3

8

Mike Williams

2012

5

4

9

Mike Williams

2010

5

6

11

Kellen Winslow

2009

5

0

5

It seems as if the safest projection for Evans is in the yards column. Of the 14 Bucs who have had at least 500 yards by the midway point, nine of them had at least 500 after it as well. Now, of course, Evans needs to duplicate his 745 to hit his own projection, not just get 500, but five of those 14 had higher totals in the second half, and two more got very close to doing the same. The best-case scenario for Evans looks like Mark Carrier's 1989 season, in which he set the team record for receiving yards that Evans is now chasing. Carrier got 633 in an excellent first half and then kicked it up a notch to 789 in the second half. Vincent Jackson's 1,384-yard campaign in 2012 featured two nearly identical and totally outstanding halves.

Again, we only have one previous eight-game, 50-catch season, but that one is fairly promising. Johnson went for 59 through Game Eight and then tacked on 47 more, and that was without playing in the season finale due to injury.

It's the touchdowns where we see the least encouraging history. Only one of the 10 previous Bucs to hit five TD catches by midseason were able to get five or more down the stretch, that being Mike Williams in 2010. Williams set a team-record with those 11 touchdown catches in his rookie season, a mark that Evans broke with 12 in his own 2014 rookie campaign.

Touchdowns are clearly the most fickle of these statistics, and that's not just confined to the Buccaneers. We didn't have any eight-TD catch seasons to compare with in team history, but if we open it up to the rest of the NFL there is plenty of data with which to work. Since the league adopted 16-game seasons in 1978, and again skipping 1982 and 1987, there have been 52 instances of a player catching at least eight touchdown passes through the first eight game. In exactly three of those 52 cases did the player then catch at least eight more TD passes in the last eight games, and all three were by current or certain-to-be Hall-of-Famers.Players with at least 8 TD Receptions in Each Half of a 16-Game Season, NFL History

Player

Season

Team

1st Half

2nd Half

Total

Randy Moss

2007

NWE

11

12

23

Randy Moss

2003

MIN

9

8

17

Jerry Rice*

1989

SFO

9

8

17

Moss was 26  the first time he did it and 30 the second time. Rice was 26 in his 1989 campaign. Thus, if Evans can duplicate this (admittedly unlikely) feat, he would be the youngest player ever to do so.

3. Three Twos

Brandon Myers scored on a two-point conversion last Thursday night against the Falcons, becoming the third different Buccaneer to put up points in that manner this season. Adam Humphries caught a game-tying two-point pass in an eventual 17-14 win over Carolina in Week Five and Mike Evans got his first career two-pointer in a Week Eight loss to Oakland.

Pictures from the Buccaneers Cheerleaders' practice on Thursday, November 10th.

The two-point conversion was added as an option in the NFL in 1994, and the Buccaneers' three successful conversions (in six tries) so far this year already tie a franchise single-season record. The Bucs also scored three two-point conversions in 1994, 1998 and 2001. The 2001 season was their most efficient of those three, as the team was 3-4 on two-point tries that year. The '94 and '98 teams finished with the same numbers the Bucs have this year: 3-6.

The two-point conversion hadn't figured much into the team's scoring in recent years before this season's rush of them. The three two-pointers in 2016 are one more than the Bucs scored from 2012-15 combined, in seven tries. The 2013 and 2014 seasons marked the only time since '94 that the Buccaneers have gone two straight seasons without trying a single two-point conversion.

Prior to that, in 2011, Tampa Bay set a single-season high by going for it seven times, although only two were successful. Here's how the Bucs have fared in two-point conversions, by season, since they became an option in '94:

Season

Made

Att.

Pct.

1994

3

6

50.0%

1995

0

1

0.0%

1996

1

2

50.0%

1997

0

3

0.0%

1998

3

6

50.0%

1999

0

2

0.0%

2000

1

1

100.0%

2001

3

4

75.0%

2002

2

3

66.7%

2003

1

2

50.0%

2004

1

4

25.0%

2005

1

1

100.0%

2006

0

0

n/a

2007

0

2

0.0%

2008

1

2

50.0%

2009

2

4

50.0%

2010

1

3

33.3%

2011

2

7

28.6%

2012

1

4

25.0%

2013

0

0

n/a

2014

0

0

n/a

2015

1

3

33.3%

2016

3

6

50.0%

Totals

27

66

40.9%

Fullback Mike Alstott (1996-2006) is the only player in team history who has scored on two-point conversions three times. That included the famous game-winner in a 36-35 decision against the Washington Redskins on Nov. 13, 2005.

Six other former Buccaneers notched a pair of two-point conversions: Quarterback Josh Freeman and Shaun King, tight ends Jackie Harris and Kellen Winslow and wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson.

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