As a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, you are probably aware that the team's turnover ratio in 2010 was significantly better than it had been in 2009. Indeed, that was one of the key factors in the team's NFL-best seven-win improvement from 3-13 to 10-6, and it was hard to miss.
With Head Coach Raheem Morris preaching to his defense that their number-one job was to, "score and get the ball back," and with young quarterback Josh Freeman showing an uncanny knack for ball security, the Buccaneers tied for fifth in the NFL with a turnover ratio of +9. Not only was that quite a bit better than Tampa Bay's -5 ratio from the year before, but it was clearly reflected on the scoreboard. The Bucs scored 102 points off turnovers* last year and allowed 67, for a scoring differential of 35 points. The team's scoring differential in 2009 was -33.
( "Scoring off turnovers" is defined as any turnover returned for a touchdown or any scoring drive that immediately follows taking possession via turnover.)*
It was clear during the action last fall that the Buccaneers had improved on both sides of the turnover-ratio equation. But did you know this: By getting to that +9 takeaway-giveaway number in 2010, Tampa Bay secured fourth place on the list of the NFL's best turnover teams over the past decade?
The New England Patriots were the league's best turnover ratio team from 2001-10, finishing with a rather healthy margin of +91. The Indianapolis Colts were second at +55, followed by the Philadelphia Eagles at +50. The Buccaneers were second in the NFC and fourth in the NFL as a whole at +45. Tampa Bay passed San Diego, which was negative-6 in 2010 to drop to plus-44 for the entire decade.
Here were the NFL's top 10 turnover ratio teams from 2001-10:
- New England
- Tampa Bay
- San Diego
6t. Kansas City
6t. N.Y. Jets
- Green Bay
That +45 turnover ratio led to a nice edge in scoring off of takeaways for the Buccaneers during the past decade, too. From 2001-2010, the Buccaneers scored 153 more points off turnovers than did their opponents.
With the calendar flipping rapidly towards the usual training camp reporting dates, and with everyone hoping the labor situation will soon be resolved, here are a few more "Did You Know?" tidbits to whet your appetite for a little football.
As was widely noted last fall, the Buccaneers compiled a 10-6 record and only missed the playoffs on a fifth-level tiebreaker despite fielding the youngest roster in the entire NFL. Team management believes that is a sign that 2010 was the beginning of an extended run of success.
Did you know that in addition to overall youth, the Buccaneers put two of the youngest men in all of the league on the field last season?
Broken down by position, wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe and defensive tackle Brian Price were the league's youngest players at their respective spots on the depth chart in 2010. Briscoe, who was born on August 31, 1989, turned 21 just before the start of the regular season (at the time, he was still with the Cincinnati Bengals, who had drafted him in the sixth round in April). No receiver who played in the NFL last year was younger. Price was the freshest defensive tackle in the league, as he was born on April 10, 1989.
Only two players younger than Briscoe saw action during the regular season last year – New England tight end Aaron Hernandez (born 11/6/89) and San Francisco tackle Anthony Davis (born 10/11/89). New England, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh accounted for six of the 10 youngest players in the NFL in 2010 (also tight end Rob Gronkowski for New England and running back Jonathan Dwyer and center Maurkice Pouncey for Pittsburgh).
Moreover, the Buccaneers fielded the youngest starter at three different positions last year. Josh Freeman was the league's youngest starting quarterback at age 22 (born 1/13/88). Arrelious Benn was the most youthful starting receiver in the league at 22 (born 9/8/88). And Ted Larsen, the rookie lineman snapped up off waivers from New England, became the league's youngest starting guard at 23 (born 6/13/87).
Just to provide a little bit of balance, Ronde Barber was the oldest starter at cornerback in the NFL, playing like a 25-year-old despite the fact that he turned 35 before the season.
Not a Passing Thing
Speaking of Barber, he helped the Buccaneers finish in the top 10 in the league's passing defense rankings despite several key injuries (Cody Grimm, Aqib Talib) and the early-season loss of Tanard Jackson. Remarkably, that marked the 12th time in the last 14 years that Tampa Bay has finished in the top 10 on that chart.
The Buccaneers' defense has become almost synonymous with tight play in the secondary since the mid-'90s. And while it may seem as if the defensive backfield's peak era was in the late '90s and early '00s, that group has actually remained quite strong in recent years, too.
Did you know that the over the past five seasons (2006-10) combined, no team has allowed fewer passing yards than the Buccaneers? It's true, and it's not particularly close. Here are the top five teams in terms of pass defense (yards allowed) over the last five years:
- Tampa Bay…12,965
- N.Y. Jets…13,525
Did you know that by at least one measure the Buccaneers were the NFL's most successful team in close games last year?
Of the 256 games played during the regular season in 2010, 65 of them were decided by three points or fewer, or 25.4% of the total. That was the highest percentage of NFL games won by a field goal or loss since 1999.
The Buccaneers were involved in six such contests, and they won five of them. That was one of the best records in the NFL in that situation. Strictly in terms of winning percentage, the top spot would be shared by New England, Minnesota, Seattle and the New York Giants, all of which were undefeated last year in games decided by three points or loss. However, New England was involved in just three games of that variety, Minnesota only two and Seattle and the Giants just one each.
If one includes only the teams that played at least five games decided by three points or less, than the Buccaneers had the NFL's best winning percentage in that situation. Here are the 13 teams that qualify for the list, ranked by winning percentage:
- Tampa Bay
2t. New Orleans
- St. Louis
11t. Green Bay
11t. San Francisco
Stingy at the End
Perhaps one of the reasons that the Buccaneers finished with such a good record in games decided by a field goal or less is that their defense proved particularly hard to score upon in the closing minutes of regulation.
In fact, did you know that there was just one team in the NFL that gave up fewer points in the fourth quarter in 2010 than the Buccaneers?
In 16 combined fourth quarters of play, Tampa Bay allowed only 63 points last year, or almost exactly four points per game in the closing stanza. The only defense to top that feat was that of the Chicago Bears, who allowed only 53 fourth-quarter points in 2010.
These 10 teams allowed the fewest fourth-quarter points last year:
- Tampa Bay…63
- Green Bay…73
- N.Y. Jets…83
By the way, the Buccaneers also tied for the sixth-fewest points allowed in the third quarter last year, with 53.