Balance Or Bust

October 12th, 2018


Some people claim balance is the key to life. It’s a noble concept with applications to the National Football League.

The Bucs, in particular.

Through four games, Tampa Bay’s passing statistics stack up with the best of ’em, but Dirk Koetter’s team lacks offensive balance. The Falcons are also struggling to run the ball effectively, one reason they are 1-4 heading into Sunday’s matchup.

These two defenses have been shredded on a weekly basis and both clubs are losing the battles up front. Matt Ryan absorbed too many hits in Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay’s protection didn’t hold up well enough against the Steelers or Bears.

If the Bucs don’t get their ground game together, Jameis Winston will throw too often and face too much pressure. Mike Smith’s embattled defense will be on the field for too long.

“The best teams I’ve been a part of had balance,” says Atlanta coach Dan Quinn. “The ability to run the ball adds toughness, adds to the overall physicality of your team. It’s an important part of what we do because when the run game gets going, our play pass feeds off of that.”

The same principle applies in Tampa, where the Bucs are 1-14 in the past five years when they attempt 20 runs or fewer. The lone exception came in 2014, when Mike Glennon threw a game-winning TD pass to Vincent Jackson in the final seconds at Pittsburgh.

Easy Prey

Devonta Freeman’s foot injury has robbed the Falcons of their balance.

The only time they have run successfully came in Week 2 against Carolina, when the Falcons rushed for 170 yards.

Is it any coincidence that is their only win?

The Bucs have an opportunity to resurrect their running game Sunday because opponents are averaging 4.9 yards per carry against the Falcons.

Injured middle linebacker Deion Jones, who sets the defensive tone, hasn’t played since the season opener and won’t be back until mid-November, at the earliest.

Jones is a more polished version of Kwon Alexander, just as quick to the ball and more disciplined in his reads.

I asked Quinn what qualities his defense is missing with Jones sidelined.

“The way he can match up on running backs, his excellent key and diagnose, the way he get the ball turned back quickly. The communication he brings,” Quinn said. “We’re pumped we will get him back, but it won’t be for a little while.”

Quinn’s starting safeties are done for the year, so the middle of Atlanta’s defense looks like easy prey. The Bucs must take advantage of inexperienced replacements — and that starts with getting Peyton Barber involved early and often.

Winston is back and eager to contribute, but the sweet spot for the Bucs seems to be when they throw 30 times, not 40.



Sounds like a plan.

Now in his 40th year covering the NFL, Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in the Tampa Bay area. He scored a full-time seat at world headquarters in July of 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also hear Ira on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Wednesdays at 5 p.m. Also a TV star, Ira is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday NFL show at 10:30 a.m. He’s also on BayNews 9 Mondays & Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. He enjoys beet salads, Riesling, tennis, Bette Midler, Chiefs victories and needling Joe. …WATCH IRA AND DERRICK BROOKS on the new TAMPA TWO show from The Identity Tampa Bay and JoeBucsFan.

14 Responses to “Balance Or Bust”

  1. Dewey Selmon Says:

    This is all coming down to Winston’s arm. No run game, no defense. He will have to win games through the air. His career is on the line, jobs are on the line. And as of right now we are the #6 seed. 2-2 and it feels like’s a Bucs life.

  2. BigPoppaBuc Says:

    I feel the run game is close. They had a few nice runs in the first two games but this OL needs to improve on getting to the second level. I feel like some times there are running lanes but our blockers aren’t getting a body on a body in the second level. That’s when a guy like Jones can do damage. Maybe it’s scheme, maybe they just need to giddy up a little more. But this two/three yards then plow into a linebacker isn’t the way.

  3. Season Is Over Says:

    Why does this website keep harping on Atlanta having players hurt? Are we so weak that we need other teams to be shorthanded? What is the point of stressing Atlanta’s injuries? The balance you should be referring to is the lack of any defense at all. No one cares that you guys like Barber. All we know is that you helped run Martin out of town and Barber is exactly who he has been for three years.

  4. Rayjay1122 Says:

    The Falcons will be licking their chops facing the Bucs and their inability to stop anybody from scoring 90% of the time on offense.

    I hate being negative and 2-2 is probably better than I expected but the way we lost those last 2 games is just inexcusable.

  5. Mike Johnson Says:

    Bucs will be well rested come Sunday and beat the Falcons. Defensive line will have its greatest day yet. Secondary will continue to struggle though. Our Offense will score a lot. So will theirs. BUCS 28 FALCONS 23. However, its the following week I’m worried about Them Clev Browns are a new team. I’ve watched them this season. They are actually..TOUGH.

  6. DB55 Says:

    So Atlanta’s defense sucks bc their star players are hurt and our defense sucks bc are star players are playing? Got it!

  7. Whatever Says:

    Who cares about balance? Just win – whatever it takes. Run it 50 times or pass the whole game – the only thing that matters is the score.

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    @Season Is Over … “Why does this website keep harping on Atlanta having players hurt?” Pretty simple IMO … backups are rarely as good as starters. Any coach worth their salt looks for the opponent’s weaknesses … and attacks those first IF they have the weapons to do so. Falcons’ defense is hurting in the middle upfront & in the back end. No rocket science involved.

    Mike Johnson … I see it the same way you do Mike, but our offense still has to put up in the neighborhood of 28 points IMO. Not worried about Cleveland … one game at a time. EVERY game will be a dogfight this season IF the Bucs expect to have a chance to win.

    Rayjay1122 … Being negative is a choice Rayjay. DLTBGYD (OK … Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down).

  9. jmarkbuc Says:

    3 words

    Calvin Julio Mohammed

    Bonus word


  10. Darin Says:

    Yeah. Balance or not. The offense isnt the problem. 40 might not be enough, balanced or not.

  11. NPRSageBoy Says:

    Let’s not get carried away here. ESPN Jenna Laine picking ATL big over Bucs. 41-28.
    If that should happen, could get nasty around here Sunday night.

  12. Defense Rules Says:

    @Darin … “The offense isnt the problem. 40 might not be enough.” REALLY? So you’d be satisfied then if the Bucs offense puts up 10 points like it did against Chicago? Didn’t think so.

    The Bucs defense WILL play better this Sunday. The Bucs offense MUST also play better if we expect to win. Us scoring 10 points won”t cut it.

  13. Kobe Faker Says:

    “Have people here been watching football the last few years?

    Run the ball?

    Those days of a runningback carrying the ball 25 times is over. Which team has a runningback that averages 20 carries per game? Zero

    The running game is to complement the passing game. The short passing game is an extention of the run and is used to defeat the defense because…


    The defenses are to big and fast to succeed having a rb with 25 carries

    If klueless is going to start running the ball 1st and 2nd down and forcing JW to convert 3rd downs to move the chains is a recipe for another blowout

    Kobe “a actual real janitor” Faker

  14. Tbbucs3 Says:

    “There’s nothing balanced about 50% run and 50% pass cause that’s 50% stupid” – Mike Leach