Tampa Bay Buccaneers

McCoy, Smith on Pace for Milestone

Football Geekery: Once again this year we channel our inner pigskin nerd and dive a little deeper into the statistics to help illuminate Buc football…This week: sack duos, quick-starting running backs and more.

Photos from the Bucs' practice on Wednesday, October 21st at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa.

Statistics can help illuminate the game of football…or they can take us down a misleading path.  As Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith said: "I believe in stats, but it's [which] stats."

Smith, for instance, doesn't pay much attention to the NFL's defensive rankings, since they are based on yards, which he considers a meaningless measure.  When he shares defensive stats with his team, he focuses on points allowed, takeaways, scoring on defense and red zone proficiency.

Here on Buccaneers.com, we unabashedly love stats, but we also understand the need to wield them wisely.  Sometimes, we can get a better feel for why the team is performing as it is by going a little deeper into the numbers. Other times, we simply want to point out a few numbers we consider interesting, and hope you will find it interesting as well.

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 what it could mean if the Buccaneers have not one but two players break the team's 10-sack drought. We then compare Doug Martin's fast start to others in team history and consider the history of consecutive road wins in the same venue. Let's get started.

1. Sack Duos

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have not had a player hit double digits in sacks in a single season since Simeon Rice had 14 QB takedowns in 2005. Could that streak end a decade later, in 2015. It's probably just as fair to ask who will get their first.

After five games, the Buccaneers have two of the NFL's top 22 sack artists. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is tied for sixth with 4.5 of them, while defensive end Jacquies Smith is just behind, with 4.0 to tie for 11th. Both Buc pass-rushers are on pace to get at least 13 sacks this season.

Now, pace stats are little more than conjecture, especially when the season is only about a third of the way finished. McCoy and Smith first have to stay healthy for the majority of the remaining season in order to keep up their pursuit of double digits. Game situations can factor in, as well; late-game leads for the opposition can lead to more rushing attempts and fewer opportunities to take down the quarterback. Some bit of luck factors in, as well. A pass-rusher can do a perfectly good job of pressuring the quarterback, only to have the ball thrown away or a teammate get to him first. Sacks, like interceptions, can be a fickle statistic.

Still, by the raw numbers, both McCoy and Smith are nearly halfway to 10, with 11 games still to play. It's worth considering this: Could both players make it to 10 sacks or more? Obviously, they could. If they do, what would that mean for the Buccaneers' fortunes in 2015? How much of a correlation is there between having multiple 10-sack players and winning football games?

To address that question, we combed through the previous two decades of NFL football (1995-2014) to find every instance of a team finishing the year with at least two 10-sack defenders. We found 55 such teams, including six clubs that had three players hit double digits in the same season. Below is a list of all 55 teams, along with their respective win-loss-tie records, an indication of whether or not they made the playoffs and their defensive rankings in terms of points and yards allowed.

Teams with Two or More 10-Sack Defenders, 1995-2015

Year

Team

W

L

T

Playoffs?

Pts.

Yds.

1995

BUF

10

6

0

Yes

12

13

1995

PHI

10

6

0

Yes

15

4

1996

CAR

12

4

0

Yes

2

10

1996

SEA

7

9

0

No

24

24

1996

SF

12

4

0

Yes

4

7

1997

ATL

7

9

0

No

21

20

1997

NYG

10

5

1

Yes

3

18

1997

SF

13

3

0

Yes

3

1

1997

TB

10

6

0

Yes

2

3

1998

NYG

8

8

0

No

8

19

1998

OAK

8

8

0

No

20

5

1998

SF

12

4

0

Yes

13

23

1999

BAL

8

8

0

No

6

2

1999

JAX

14

2

0

Yes

1

4

2000

MIA

11

5

0

Yes

3

6

2000

NO

10

6

0

Yes

8

8

2000

PHI

11

5

0

Yes

4

10

2000

PIT

9

7

0

No

6

7

2000

STL

10

6

0

Yes

31

23

2000

TB

10

6

0

Yes

7

9

2000

WAS

8

8

0

No

7

4

2002

CAR

7

9

0

No

5

2

2003

MIN

9

7

0

No

23

23

2004

ATL

11

5

0

Yes

14

14

2004

IND

12

4

0

Yes

19

29

2004

MIN

8

8

0

Yes

26

28

2004

NO

8

8

0

No

27

32

2005

IND

14

2

0

Yes

2

11

2005

NYG

11

5

0

Yes

14

24

2006

BAL

13

3

0

Yes

1

1

2006

OAK

2

14

0

No

18

3

2006

SD

14

2

0

Yes

7

10

2007

DAL

13

3

0

Yes

13

9

2007

NYG

10

6

0

Yes

17

7

2008

IND

12

4

0

Yes

7

11

2008

PIT

12

4

0

Yes

1

1

2009

PIT

4

12

0

No

12

5

2009

WAS

4

12

0

No

18

10

2010

IND

10

6

0

Yes

23

20

2010

NYG

10

6

0

Yes

17

7

2010

PIT

12

4

0

Yes

1

2

2011

NE

13

3

0

Yes

15

31

2011

PHI

8

8

0

No

10

8

2012

CAR

7

9

0

No

18

10

2012

DAL

8

8

0

No

24

19

2012

DEN

13

3

0

Yes

4

2

2012

STL

7

8

1

No

14

14

2013

BUF

6

10

0

No

20

10

2013

CAR

12

4

0

Yes

2

2

2013

KC

11

5

0

Yes

5

24

2013

NO

11

5

0

Yes

4

4

2013

NYJ

8

8

0

No

19

11

2014

BAL

10

6

0

Yes

6

8

2014

BUF

9

7

0

No

4

4

2014

DEN

12

4

0

Yes

16

3

Totals

541

337

2

35

11.4

11.3

You'll notice we've added a "totals" line at the bottom. The first thing this line does is aggregate all the win-loss-tie records into one, and the results are impressive. Those 55 teams combined to win 61.6% of their games. Those teams roughly averaged a 10-6 season. Of those 55 teams, 35 of them, or 63.6% made the playoffs.

We also averaged out the defensive rankings for those 55 teams and came up with nearly identical ranks for points and yards allowed. Essentially, having more than one 10-sack player means a team is likely to have a defense that ranks right around the top 10.

Just as with rushing attempts per game and its correlation with wins and losses, there's no evidence of cause and effect here. Winning teams are more likely to have late-game leads, which would lead to more passing attempts by the opposition and more opportunities to get sacks. However, that's not necessarily a critical distinction for the Buccaneers. If they get two or more players to double digits in sacks in 2015, there's a good chance they'll be playoff contenders, whether it's the wins that are causing the higher sack totals or vice versa.

2. On the Way to 1,000?

RB Doug Martin was one of the Buccaneers' top performers in the five games before the bye week. The fourth-year running back evoked memories of his incredible 2012 rookie campaign, scoring four touchdowns, breaking countless tackles and recording consecutive 100-yard outings for the first time since that debut season.

At the break, after five games, Martin had 405 rushing yards. That means he could get halfway to 1,000 yards on Sunday in Washington without even extending his 100-yard game streak. There seems to be a good chance that Martin will join James Wilder and Warrick Dunn as the only players in team history with more than one 1,00-yard season.

In fact, Martin's 405 rushing yards represent the fifth-best total ever for a Buccaneer running back through the first five games of the season. Three of the four players above him on the list went on to crack 1,000 yards. However, only one of the five backs that finish out the top 10 behind Martin made it to four digits. Here are the top 20 rushing yardage totals through the first five games of the season in Buccaneer history:

Player

Season

Games 1-5

Rush Avg.

Final Total

James Wilder

1985

526

4.38

1300

James Wilder

1984 

521

4.13

1544

Jerry Eckwood

1979 

452

4.22

690

Carnell Williams

2005 

447

4.52

1178

Doug Martin

2013 

409

3.53

456

Doug Martin

2015

405

4.50

??

Errict Rhett

1995 

394

3.37

1207

Earnest Graham

2008 

393

5.87

563

Gary Anderson

1990 

357

4.25

646

LeGarrette Blount

2011 

328

4.26

781

Mike Alstott

1999 

326

4.72

949

Reggie Cobb

1992 

324

3.52

1171

Michael Pittman

2003 

323

4.54

751

Doug Martin

2012 

323

3.85

1454

Ricky Bell

1979 

313

4.47

1263

Warrick Dunn

1997 

312

4.52

978

Nathan Wonsley

1986 

311

5.65

339

Mike Alstott

2000 

299

3.60

465

Ricky Bell

1978 

292

3.84

679

Lars Tate

1989 

282

4.41

589

Several of those seasons were interrupted by injury, including Martin's 2013 campaign, Graham's 2008 and Alstott's 2000. On one hand, it seems like a stretch to make a 1,000-yard prediction for Martin based on this list; only seven of the 20 seasons represented ended up making it to that plateau. However, it's worth noting that Martin himself is already 82 yards ahead of his 2012 pace and, more importantly, is averaging 0.65 more yards per carry than he did in that season through five games. That version of Martin caught fire in November; the current version might represent a steadier, more dependable presence.

3. Back-to-Back Victories

This weekend, the Buccaneers will head to the nation's capital for the second time in 11 months. Last November, Tampa Bay turned in its best performance of the 2015 season with a dominating 27-7 road win against the Washington Redskins at FedExField. Perhaps the memories of that outing will inspire confidence in a Buccaneer team looking to win consecutive games for the first time since 2013.

Whether by virtue of that confidence, a superior roster or simply the right bounces, a win at Washington on Sunday would be a notable achievement for the Buccaneers. Specifically, it would mark just the third time that Tampa Bay has won road games against a non-division opponent in the same venue in two consecutive seasons.

The Buccaneers have notched victories in consecutive seasons against non-division opponents 18 times in the past, including three instances of victories in three straight seasons. Most of the time, however, those runs have included at least one win in the Bucs' own home. Here are those 16 instances, with the two wins marked as either H for a home game or A for an away game:

Seasons

Opponent

Gm. 1

Gm. 2

1978-79

Kansas City

A

H

1979-80

N.Y. Giants

H

H

1994-95

Washington

H/A*

H

1995-96

Washington

H

H

1997-98

N.Y. Giants

A

H

1999-2000

Atlanta

H

A

2000-01

Dallas

H

A

2000-01

St. Louis

H

A

2001-02

Baltimore

H

A

2001-02

Cincinnati

A

A

2005-06

Washington

H

H

2006-07

Washington

H

H

2008-09

Green Bay

H

H

2008-09

Seattle

H

A

2009-10

Seattle

A

H

2011-12

Minnesota

A

A

  • * Tampa Bay defeated Washington both at home and on the road in 1994, then won again when the Redskins came to Tampa in 1995*

The Bucs' most recent example of wins against a non-division opponent in consecutive seasons was actually one of those rare road-road pairings. The Bucs won at Minnesota in Week Two of 2011 and then again in 2012 in a Thursday-nighter in October. The only other such occurrence was the two wins in Cincinnati in 2001 and 2002, the latter during Tampa Bay's Super Bowl year.

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