Coaches don't always care for stats…but we love them! Each week, we're going to give you a closer look at three or four pieces of statistical analysis, hopefully in a way that is relevant to the Buccaneers' current state of affairs.
Let's get started.
1. Not Adding Up
The Buccaneers' three-game losing streak has put their playoff run in jeopardy, but if you want any indication that the team's fortunes are headed solidly upward, look at the one stat most obviously tied to victories: Points.
Tampa Bay has scored 354 points this year and allowed 308, for a scoring differential of +46. For comparison's sake, that's a better scoring differential than the ones owned by the 9-4 Green Bay Packers and the 7-6 Washington Redskins. The Bucs are one of only two teams in the league that has a positive differential but a sub-.500 record, as the San Diego Chargers are 5-8 with a mark of +14. It's the Indianapolis Colts that are apparently taking all of Tampa Bay's scoring karma, posting a 9-4 record despite having a -37 scoring differential.
This shouldn't sound like sour grapes. Head Coach Greg Schiano would say that the Bucs are 6-7 because they deserve to be 6-7. And if the Bucs finish at or below .500 with a positive scoring differential, it wouldn't be the first time. That also happened in 1998 (+19, 8-8) and 2003 (+37, 7-9). Both of those teams were coming off of playoff campaigns the previous seasons, however, while the 2012 team is rising out of the ashes of a 4-12 season.
What's clear is that the Buccaneers have been able to win their games by comfortable margins this year but they have had trouble at the ends of very close contests. The Buccaneers' average margin of victory in its six wins this year is 13.2 points, 10th-best in the NFL. However, the team is 0-3 in games decided by three points or less – the only team in the league with as many as six such outcomes and no victories – and is 2-7 in games decided by one score (eight points or less). That .222 winning percentage in games decided by one score is 31st in the league; not surprisingly, San Diego is 32nd in that category, at .167 (1-5).
2. Still Turning TOs into Points
The Buccaneers' defense has not been taking the football away as frequently in its last month of games as it did during the first half of the season. Tampa Bay had 19 takeaways in its first nine games, or just over two per game, but has just five in its last four outings. Though it's not particularly germane to this analysis, it's also worth noting that two of those five turnovers actually came on special teams.
However, that hasn't stopped the team from capitalizing on those takeaways, something it has been among the league's best at doing in 2012. All five of those turnovers created by the Bucs' defense and special teams over the last month have been turned into points – three field goals and two touchdowns. On the season, the Buccaneers have forced 24 turnovers and have managed to score either on returns or on the very next drive on 17 of those occasions.
Overall, the Bucs are averaging 4.13 points per takeaway, the fourth-best mark in the NFL. Here are the top five teams in that category through 14 weeks:
- San Diego
- New Orleans
- Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay's 99 total points off of turnovers is fifth in the league. Of the Bucs' 354 total points, they have accounted for 28.0%, which is the seventh-highest total in the NFL.
3. Errant Kicks
The Buccaneers haven't blocked a field goal attempt this season (they have blocked two punts), but for some reason opposing teams are having difficulty making their kicks.
Opposing teams are 16 for 25 in field goal attempts against the Buccaneers this season, a 64.0% success rate that is easily the lowest in the league. With the entire league averaging a combined 84.5% on field goal tries, that is a rather stunning difference. The next closest team (Detroit) is at 73.5%.
Opponent field goal percentage may be a statistic that teams have little control over…or it may not, in some cases. Consider that Buc opponents are a perfectly respectable 14 of 17 from 39 yards or close. However, they are a combined two of eight from 40 yards back, including one of five from 40 to 49 yards. By contrast, Bucs kicker Connor Barth has rather helpfully converted 15 of his 19 attempts from 40 yards or further into points. Perhaps the Bucs' defense should get some credit for, on some of these occasions, stopping the opposition far enough away to make a field goal a tricky proposition.
By the way, Bucs Head Coach Greg Schiano means it when he says he has utter confidence in Barth. Those 19 attempts from 40 yards or further are the second most for any team in the league. Only the Lions, with Jason Hanson making 16 of 20, have tried more long-range kicks. Barth's nine attempts from 50 yards or beyond (with six made) are second only to St. Louis K Greg Zuerlein's 11 (with seven made).