Heat Is On; “Duff’s Message” Is Honored

December 3rd, 2018

The Sage of Tampa Bay sports was patrolling the happy locker room yesterday for his stout Monday column


Rush and coverage. Rush and coverage.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a Bucs defensive coach talk about rush and coverage working together, I’d have almost enough cash to buy an XFL team.

Some things just naturally go together. Ham and eggs, Abbott and Costello. The Bucs and the NFC South basement.

But on Sunday, rush and coverage came together in a big way as Tampa Bay posted its most impressive win since knocking off the Eagles in Week 2. Andrew Adams ended up with three footballs thrown by Cam Newton, but I’m giving the bulk of the credit to the rush rather than the coverage for Newton’s first 4-pick performance since his 2011 rookie season.

The Bucs came after Newton in pewter waves of pain, keeping him in the pocket and preventing him from stepping up. He kept throwing off his back foot, tossing lazy passes without much zip because he was surrounded by a front four that Dirk Koetter later described as relentless.

“Relentless, that’s a good word for us, a nice compliment,” said Beau Allen. “I kind of like that word. You’ve got to be smart against a guy like Newton and I thought we did a good job with our pass rush, keeping him caged in. It’s just a matter of getting him off his spot and making him feel us.”

When Jason Pierre-Paul and his partners in grime weren’t hounding Newton, Mark Duffner was dialing up well-disguised blitzes by Lavonte David and Kevin Minter. Add it all up and the Bucs now have 33 sacks on the season.

Only 11 teams have more.

Freedom Rings

“Today was the epitome of rush and coverage working together,” said David, who returned forcefully from a 2-game absence. “Guys up front were keeping Cam in the pocket and we had tight coverage. Today was a fun day. A guy like Cam is so dangerous. We had to make him try and beat us from the pocket. Give Coach Duff credit– he’s letting us go out and be free and play football.”

It certainly helps when Tampa Bay cornerbacks aren’t giving 9-yard cushions on third-and-5. An exceedingly young secondary is suddenly playing with unbridled confidence and enthusiasm.

“I felt it today when I was back there covering,” said safety Jordan Whitehead, the impressive fourth-round rookie out of Pitt. “Cam didn’t have much time and he couldn’t step up. That rush made our job easier on the back end. When you get four interceptions, that tells you our line did a lot of good work. Duff’s message is start fast, no soft coverage.”

The change began three weeks ago in a 16-3 loss to the Redskins. Since that juncture, the Bucs have allowed an average of 20 points instead of the 34-point average that marked the ugly first half of the season.

Hard Coaching

Defensive line coaches Brentson Buckner and Paul Spicer have raised expectations and lowered the boom on some underachievers.

“Buck’s on our butt,” said Vinny Curry. “You’ve got to give credit to Spicer and Buck … they’re coaching the hell out of us. They turned up the heat on our ass. Good players love to be coached hard.”

Next up are the Saints, who are 8-point favorites to beat the Bucs and clinch the division title well before Christmas. Seeking revenge for that Week 1 shocker in the Superdome, the Saints are coming off a Thursday night loss at Dallas that saw Drew Brees under constant duress.

Sounds like a plan.

You can have the coverage. I’ll take the rush.

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 JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters in July of 2016, and Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 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. “The Sage” enjoys beet salads, Riesling, tennis, Bette Midler, Chiefs victories and needling Joe. …Don’t forget to WATCH IRA AND DERRICK BROOKS on the new TAMPA TWO show from The Identity Tampa Bay and JoeBucsFan.

21 Responses to “Heat Is On; “Duff’s Message” Is Honored”

  1. Buc4life24 Says:

    That’s how our team was expected to play with all the additions on D! Feels like forever since we had a game so balanced as that was yesterday! Let’s keep the momentum going!

  2. Not there yet Says:

    Yes great overall win but we all know what happens after a great win, they start beating their chests as if they have done something and they think their better than they are only to get knocked back down to earth. Drew brees is up next and you won’t be going against a guy with a bum shoulder. If they fight like they did against the panthers and still lose I’ll feel like maybe they turned a corner but don’t get blown out after all the big talk coming out of one buc already

  3. Steven007 Says:

    You know what’s glorious about reading one of Ira’s columns? There’s no hint of childish and insufferable prefixes like ‘Bucs Bit-O-Honey snacking, Ozark watching, yam eating’ – ugh, I mean really? What does it take to qualify for a moniker prefix anyway? Just something mundane the subject does during the course of a day? I’m waiting for something truly funny at least like ‘Bucs Crotch Scrubbin’, Pimple Poppin’, Glee watching’ – I mean, let’s get creative. But I digress.

    The success of the D line well into the season is one of the stories of this second half. Buckner was here with Smith but none of this started happening until Duff took over. I think Sunday’s game against the Saints will be much closer than the pundits think.

  4. Pistol Pete Says:

    Lived through a similar defensive renaissance with Mike the Smith final 6 games or so a few years back.
    Same label, simplified the defense, the stats improved, everyone excited for off season, SOS next season.
    I am not falling for this to be sustainable in any way.

  5. Bucsfan951 Says:

    These Bucs might have a chance against the saints if they can get the rush to get brees off of his mark. I think that’s the key to defeating drew brees. If you let him sit back and pick you apart, you’re screwed!

  6. Not there yet Says:

    Saints compared to panthers. Better coach, better offense, better line play and better defense plus they have more weapons than we do even with d jack because they can run the ball. This is the game dirk should have to win to keep his job seeing how he beat this team already. You beat a team in the wild card hunt now beat a team that will definitely be in the playoffs. Can’t do that then he should be fired which I think should happen regardless. Tired of this team stepping up its game just in time to try and save a coaches job enough already

  7. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    You have to pressure Brees……hit him….hands up…..make him miss….because if you don’t he’s deadly accurate.

  8. Arrie Parker Says:

    The defense has turned the corner. There will be no more blowouts. If the offense takes care of the ball, we have a chance to win out. No one we’ve played has stopped out offense. All we need is a “little” D.

  9. Rick Says:

    Dallas was picking on Eli apple all game last Thursday. Godwin vs apple?

  10. Joe Says:

    You know what’s glorious about reading one of Ira’s columns? There’s no hint of childish and insufferable prefixes like ‘Bucs Bit-O-Honey snacking, Ozark watching, yam eating’ – ugh, I mean really?

    Damn (snaps fingers) if only Joe could be boring like failing newspapers on the brink of bankruptcy. Now there’s a career goal for Joe!

    Anyone have a buggywhip? Joe’s has to go to the blacksmith and then to the telegraph office but the horse doesn’t want to cooperate.

  11. Alanbucsfan Says:

    D has been much better, but Panthers losing Olsen early helped alot.
    Unless offense can somehow run the ball, Bucs are looking at 7-9 at best

  12. Jonathan Lipnicki Says:

    Ira should be a GM for the XFL team in Tampa now that he mentioned XFL. He’s bold, brash, entertaining and knows his football. Vince McMahon should sign him up WITH the Cadillac he so richly deserves ( and not just the colored size smedium shirts he dons so well) !

  13. jmarkbuc Says:

    I think I’m with you Pistol#Grinch..

    Not sure what it says that we have these miraculous EOY streaks.. but takes 10 Horrific games to get there.

    Job saving motivation? Players wanna put something on film?

    We need a coach/coaches who can coach the whole team the whole season. Beginning to end, game to game, 1st Q to 4Q.

    Not just at firing time.

  14. Steven007 Says:

    @Joe –

    Ha, we love your irreverence (really) but I suppose I just wonder why when you have “fun” with this kind of thing you don’t just choose your moments – instead it apparently automatically means that it MUST REMAIN THAT WAY FOREVER. So Licht enjoys AC/DC. He probably likes the Doobie Brothers and/or Van Halen as well. Mix it up. As for Koetter, I guess I missed the first “yam” reference, FFS, ha-ha. And Jameis, let’s just say that’s a bridge too far. No one is “America’s QB” and we all know he was something like the 8th alternate to the Pro Bowl that year. Finally, the opposite of boring is exciting. I’m afraid there’s nothing exciting about these prefixes. That is all.

  15. ClwJB Says:

    Brees has no ability to leave the pocket, quick rush in his face, cover tight 15 yards and under and solve the Saints O, as the Cowboys demonstrated

    If Vea and McCoy can push the pocket into Drees lap, he will do the same thing Cam did Sunday…

    Ira, you are SPOT ON

  16. unbelievable Says:

    This one line right here….

    “Give Coach Duff credit– he’s letting us go out and be free and play football.”

    Speaks volumes about what was going on with this defense under Mike Smith.

  17. AKickInTheBucNuts Says:

    “Lowered the boom on some underachievers”


  18. Tampa Bay Demon Says:

    ClwJB says
    “push the pocket into Drees lap”


    And then hopefully Jinston can hit a few more TD passes. 😉

  19. Kansas95Buc Says:

    Joe Says:

    December 3rd, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    Damn (snaps fingers) if only Joe could be boring like failing newspapers on the brink of bankruptcy. Now there’s a career goal for Joe!

    Anyone have a buggywhip? Joe’s has to go to the blacksmith and then to the telegraph office but the horse doesn’t want to cooperate.

    Damn Joe, that was savage and funny af lol

  20. FreeTheSecretWeapon Says:

    I often read past the boring prefixes TBH… Nothing new to read equals IDGAF…

    I speed read too… So it does help me skip half of the article…..

    If I had to guess they are word fillers so Joe reaches the min word count to be considered legitimate….

    Take the dudes advice Joe…. Out with the boring monikers…. In with the new creative ones….. Play it by ear… Be less original and more off the cuff….

    Either way, I think most of us just skip the boring nonsensical bs and look for the meat. You learn to do that after yeara of reading post on JBF….


  21. SenileSenior Says:

    Believe me people like Sapp, Brooks , Lynch and Barber might have “given up a testicle” to have an offense like our present one.

    Just think we may have won 3 or 4 Super Bowl wins back in the day!

    I know, “woulda, coulda, shoulda”.

    Let’s take down the Saints this week!
    Go Bucs!!!

    P.S. I’m going to be pulling for Brees in the Super Bowl.