Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Football Geekery (Week of Sept. 24)

This week's studies include the Buccaneers' defensive prowess in goal-to-go situations, an impressive "stuff" percentage for the run defense and Vincent Jackson's first down production

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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.  (All statistics are from before the Monday Night Football game between Green Bay and Seattle.)

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1. Slamming the Door

The Buccaneers have allowed 22.3 points per game through three weeks of the 2012 NFL season, which is just a hair under the league average of 23.6.  Accordingly, they are tied for 15th, right in the middle of the pack, in scoring defense.

A good chunk of what the Bucs have surrendered came on big plays through the air in Week Two against the Giants.  In contrast, when the field has shrunk and their opponents are knocking on the door to their end zone, the Bucs have found a way to turn them away.

In fact, Tampa Bay has faced four goal-to-go situations so far this year – drives where the opponent has gained a first-and-goal situation – and have yet to allow a touchdown in that scenario.  The Bucs are four-for-four in turning goal-to-go situations into field goal attempts.  (Before you ask, the Andre Brown rushing touchdown against the Giants, in which the Bucs essentially stepped aside so that Brown could score quickly and save a little bit of clock time, came on second-and-one from the two-yard line.  Not a goal-to-go situation.)

The Buccaneers typically face somewhere between 20 and 30 goal-to-go situations over the course of a season, so the numbers are only beginning to form.  Still, it has been an extremely good start for the defense in that particular scenario.  With an opponent touchdown-scoring percentage of 0.0% and a points-per-possession allowed mark of 3.00, the Bucs are well ahead of their usual pace.  Here's how they have finished in goal-to-go situations in each of the last 10 years.

Year

TD/Poss.

TD%

Pts./Poss.

2011

28/42

66.7

5.43

2010

19/24

79.2

5.71

2009

19/25

76.0

5.80

2008

10/16

62.5

5.44

2007

17/20

85.0

6.20

2006

19/27

70.4

5.48

2005

18/25

72.0

5.76

2004

14/20

70.0

5.30

2003

10/18

55.6

4.56

2002

8/11

72.7

5.55

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2. Stuffed!

The basic numbers regarding Tampa Bay's vastly improved run defense in 2012 are straightforward and extremely encouraging.  Through three weeks, the Bucs rank first in rushing yards allowed per game (discounting Seattle, which has only played two games through Sunday) and first in yards allowed per carry.  Tampa Bay is surrendering just 47.3 yards per game and 2.3 yards per rush so far.

What is particularly heartening for a team that gave up five yards per carry last season is how frequently opposing ballcarriers are being met at or behind the line of scrimmage, before a running play can even develop.  No team in the NFL has done that better so far.

Through three games, Buccaneer opponents have tried to run the ball 61 times and, amazingly, on 16 of those they've lost yardage.  That's roughly one TFL for every fourth time the other team hands off.  The Bucs' rate of stuffing opposing ballcarriers behind the line of scrimmage, 26.2%, is by far the best in the NFL.  Here are the top five, providing a graphic illustration of how steeply the percentages fall off after Tampa Bay's leading figure:

Team

Stuff

Stuff%

  1. Tampa Bay

16

26.2%

  1. Philadelphia

16

20.8%

  1. Detroit

10

13.9%

  1. Chicago

8

13.3%

  1. St. Louis

10

12.3%

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3. First Down Machine

Vincent Jackson had just one reception in the Bucs' game at Dallas on Sunday, which is obviously not part of the team's usual winning strategy and is a credit to the Cowboys' defense.  Josh Freeman certainly wants to get the ball into Jackson's hands, because he is the team's best chain-mover.

And, not surprisingly, Jackson is the player Freeman has targeted the most with his passes through three weeks.  Freeman has thrown in Jackson's direction 27 times already; the next highest total is 17, to Mike Williams.  The Bucs have completed 10 of those Jackson targets, a percentage they surely want to move upward.

What is interesting about those 10 catches is that every single one of them has resulted in a first down for the Buccaneers.  That includes his one grab in Dallas, a leaping 29-yarder that converted a must-have fourth-and-11 in the final period.  Jackson is averaging just over 20 yards a catch this season, so it's not surprising that most of his positive plays result in a new set of downs.

In fact, Jackson is one of just eight qualifying players in the league (at least two catches per game) that has produced a first down with every one of his catches.  On that list of eight, Jackson has the third most catches overall.  Here's the list:

  • Malcom Floyd, SD, 13 receptions
  • Lance Moore, NO, 12 receptions
  • Vincent Jackson, TB, 10 receptions
  • Scott Chandler, BUF, 8 receptions
  • Damaris Johnson, PHI, 7 receptions
  • Aldrick Robinson, WAS, 7 receptions
  • Devin Aromashodu, MIN, 6 receptions
  • Jon Baldwin, KC, 6 receptions
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