The Red Zone Revisited

July 10th, 2019


Let’s talk about The Forbidden City. Let’s talk about the place Buccaneer drives go to die.

Let’s talk about the red zone.

Can you blame Tampa Bay supporters for singing the blues when the field turns red? The Bucs simply haven’t cashed in nearly enough downfield, contributing significantly to consecutive 5-11 finishes.

Blame the merry-go-round at kicker, blame end-zone drops, blame pre-snap penalties, errant passes or a listless ground game — they’re all culprits. That’s how you go from a dynamic offense between the 20s to an inefficient group when the goal-line beckons.

That’s how you go from third in total offense to 12th in scoring offense.

The 2018 Bucs entered the red zone 60 times, which is a good, solid number. Only the Rams, Chiefs, Saints and Colts had more opportunities.

That’s the good news.

Baker Mayfield out-redzoned the Bucs

The flip side is Tampa scored only 36 touchdowns in the red zone, a 60 percent success rate that ranked 14th. The Browns, with a rookie quarterback, cashed in at a higher number and so did the lowly Cardinals, who had the No. 1 pick in the draft for a reason.

They sucked.

The Monken Classic

Adding to the misery, the Bucs came away from the red zone completely empty 11 times last season. Only the Panthers, who squandered 12 of their 58 red-zone trips, were less opportunistic.

With all of the weapons surrounding Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick last year, those numbers are pathetic.

Despite the departure of Adam Humphries, Winston still has outstanding targets this fall. Chris Godwin excels at catches in traffic while O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate form the best tight end tandem in the league.

In theory, Mike Evans should be a red-zone terror. He’s got the size and experience to box out smaller defenders, but the Bucs have been inexplicably reluctant to use him on fade passes.

That could change with the arrival of a new coaching staff.

Bruce Arians has never had targets like these at his disposal. When Arians arrived in Arizona in 2013, the Cardinals boasted future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, but there was a major drop off to Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Rob Housler and Jim Dray.

Tampa Bay’s red-zone woes didn’t materialize suddenly last year. The Bucs ranked 24th in TD efficiency in 2017 with a 49 percent rate, prompting former offensive coordinator Todd Monken to issue his classic explanation.

“We absolutely chose to suck,” said Monken, now running Cleveland’s attack. “We made that decision as an offense to play poorly — and we did.”

The Flip Side

What can change this season?

Need more production

A more physical running game would help immensely. The Bucs scored only 11 rushing touchdowns last fall, which was 15 fewer than the NFC South champion Saints. When the field constricts, it’s imperative that you can impose your will up front and score on the ground.

We haven’t talked about red-zone defense because that’s a story for another day … a horror story.

Suffice it to say the Bucs ranked dead last there, allowing 77.6 percent of opposition drives to end with touchdowns. Only 3 times in 58 trips did Buc opponents come away without any points.

Here’s some perspective: Philadelphia allowed two less trips into the red zone and yielded 20 fewer touchdowns than Tampa Bay’s defense.

Fixing red-zone issues was a major off-season priority a year ago, but this problem hasn’t gone away. Converting all those yards into more points is the goal because in the NFL, seeing red is supposed to be a good thing.

28 Responses to “The Red Zone Revisited”

  1. Loyaltotheend Section 312 Says:

    Uncreative play-calling
    QB who is not accurate
    No run game
    QB who makes slow decisions
    Awful run blocking

    All contribute to the red zone woes

    Windows are tighter, the field shrinks and defenses know you cant run so they gear up to stop the pass. It’s not hard fix the trenches and the scoring will improve

  2. Bucsfanman Says:

    The numbers are skewed here. We were flat out BAD in the redzone.
    What’s lost in these overall numbers is the amount of times we were in the redzone in “garbage time” with defenses playing soft because we’re down by three scores.
    At any rate, we need to be more successful in this aspect. You have to score, more importantly, score touchdowns if you want to win more games.

  3. Defense Rules Says:

    @Ira … “Blame the merry-go-round at kicker, blame end-zone drops, blame pre-snap penalties, errant passes or a listless ground game — they’re all culprits.”

    Nice list Ira. Didn’t see ‘crappy play-calling’ in there though. Also didn’t see “Bucs’ QBs missed too many great opportunities’. Yup, mediocre play-calling & meh QB play in the Red Zone were ‘culprits’ too. Big time.

    That was a nice segue to the defense though Ira. Kinda like saying ‘The offense stunk it up, but the defense REALLY stunk it up’. I prefer it when folks say ‘Our offense stunk, our defense stunk, our S/Ts stunk … other than that, our opponent played pretty well’. (Shades of John McKay maybe?).

  4. Loyaltotheend Section 312 Says:

    Can we stop the idiotic excuses of “we were down by 3 TD’s…”

    Since Jameis has been here the Bucs have lost 17 one score games (6 points or less)

    In those one score losses he has turned it over 26 times and only had 4 turnover free games in those one score loses

    QB play is about decision making and Jameis might have a high football IQ but it’s not translating to consistently good qb play

  5. D-Rome Says:

    Jay-Miss wasn’t good enough to capitalize on what was one of the best receiving corps in the NFL. He is Ryan Fitzpatrick 2.0. He will dazzle and wow you at times only to let you down in moments that matter.

  6. D1 Says:

    Sorry but you can’t include the kickers in this case. …It’s impossible………they didn’t miss anything. how can you lump them into this ………simple. .the flaws list ..kicking, defense, playcalling..etc..etc…have become a mantra .

    First mention of what happened. .the chants begin….no …insert list…repeat..repeat..claim that or this..repeat chant…

    After awhile people accept this as fact…proof? Is right here. …in front of you.
    Blaming kickers when they had zero attempts……Zero points. At this point,
    I believe the disbelief is prompting a search effort to refute such nonsense, then it’s on to…it’s because the kicking game was so bad that they couldn’t. …
    Stop. …it’s facts smashing lies…and it’s easier to pause and give it time to sink in than instantly rejecting it because it would force a rethink..sorry but predictable is …well…it’s predictable. ..

    Gentlemen, I point this out because it leads to a question . A question that hasn’t been considered or explained because ..the sufficient explanation for the red zone fails. for apparently everyone.

    Anyone want to explain how a team can make that many red zone plays…..and come away with zero points? Think….an entire season. ..16 games….not one single field goal …no misses. One rather informed fan claims koetter played for field goals in the red zone not touch downs…..Many agree everytime he posted it…….koetters play calling is a go to in the clutch……
    And the problem with that is……monken called all but one game…if later on this is not true and monken or dirk confirm it…then its time to use that line…speculation is ok..but when the source is wrong about basic things I have no reason to believe in their gut feelings….or vast and comprehensive knowledge of the game. Why would anyone feel differently.

    Just to be clear, I don’t have an answer..I don’t know…I do know that the answers I’ve seen so far….rely on a great deal of nothing but assumptions.
    The first one that doesn’t will be easy to spot. I’m interested in the answer and I look forward to a good explanation. .

  7. Buc4life Says:

    Section 312 maybe you were too intoxicated to see many of the leads our defense gave up or the teams they couldn’t stop in the fourth quarter. Yes Jameis can get better, but the line must block and receivers must run good routes. It takes precision from the entire offense for plays to work and I’ve seen Jameis make plays when things break down. As for calling out Jameis as having a high school QB I.Q, you’re just sad.

  8. Defense Rules Says:

    @Loyaltotheend Section 312 … “Since Jameis has been here the Bucs have lost 17 one score games (6 points or less). In those one score losses he has turned it over 26 times and only had 4 turnover free games in those one score loses”.

    Wow! That’s the find of the century Loyal. One of the most telling stats I can ever remember (I’m a believer that the turnover battle is key to Wins & Losses … usually). Went back & had to see for myself because it’s downright incredible. Broken down by year: 2015 – 2 losses; 2016 – 3 losses; 2017 – 7 losses; 2018 – 5 losses (all by 6 or fewer points). To be fair though, 1 of those 17 losses belonged to Fitz. But still, Jameis ‘owns’ 16 of them.

    What I was especially interested in was how many of those losses (by 6 pts or less) did we lose the turnover battle in? 2015 – 1 loss (TO battle tied in the other); 2016 – 1 loss (TO battle tied in 1 & we won the TO battle in the other loss); 2017 – 4 losses (TO battle tied in 2 & we won the TO battle in the other loss); 2018 – 3 losses (TO battle tied in the other loss). So out of the 16 games that we lost by 6 pts or less with Jameis at the helm, Bucs lost the TO battle in 10 of those losses, tied in 4 of those losses, and won the TO battle in 2 of those losses. Wow.

    Jameis record over 4 seasons is 21-33. IF his turnovers were cut down to a more palatable number, Bucs probably could’ve won at least half (8) of those 16 games that we lost by 6 points of less. That would give him a winning 29-25 record over 4 years.

    Nah, it’s no fun blaming Jameis for creating his own problems by giving the ball away so much. Much more fun to blame the defense … it’s their fault. If they’d created MORE takeaways we could’ve had positive TO ratios in more games and thus more wins. Yup, blame the defense. Oh wait, if the running game was more effective, Jameis wouldn’t have had to throw as much so he would’ve had fewer giveaways. Aahh yes, there’s the ticket. Blame the running game.

  9. D1 Says:


    Loyal didn’t say high school football IQ. He said, High football IQ.

    Huge difference. ..

    No one denies Winston’s unbelievable ability to make plays off schedule.
    Its part of his upside and its been great. In fact, its not an answer or counter to what loyal said. Its kinda random considering . As is reciever routes…or defense blowing leads……distractions.

  10. D1 Says:


    Thank you!
    Well done, nice post with supporting evidence. The list is getting tiresome and having a negative effect on the fans.

  11. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Bajakian once described the passing game in the red zoneas pitch and catch. Its also a
    scramble drill that requires receivers to breakfree from blanket coverage that also
    a certain amount shady tactics. Waiting for somebody to get open and hitting
    the open man is critical and blocks have to held long enough to accomplish that.
    One thing that bugs me is we get in or near the redzone and execution issues
    move us out of the redzone as fast as we got in it.

  12. Loyaltotheend Section 312 Says:

    @Defense rules

    I included the Giants game from 2018 as it was a game Jameis played in and the team lost by one score of less. Point is even in the games the Bucs are in Jameis’s turnovers prevent the team from winning

    Appreciate the feedback thougj

  13. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Also of note, I believe it was Ronde who suggested that Jameis wasn’t quite patient enough in the red zone to wait for the best option. In his defense ,at critical times blocking has also broken down and allowed enough pressure to
    make him that way. Another issue, is we absolutely can not have rushers meeting our running backs in the backfield in the redzone. Everybody has to do their job.

  14. Loyaltotheend Section 312 Says:


    Re read my post

    Never insulted Jameis’s football IQ

    I was commenting how prior to the draft everyone said how high his football IQ was, yet he continues to make dumb decisions on the field so his IQ on the whiteboard is not translating to the field

  15. 813bucboi Says:



    GO BUCS!!!!

  16. chris L Says:

    Finally someone says it. Joe – a big way for bucs to improve and not be a 7 win team is if they improve on red zone offense and defense. i dont see how they wont. as long as they stop teams on defense there and are more efficient when getting to the red zone and jameis not throwing the ball away, we will win more games.

  17. 74 Bucs fan Says:

    What you stat guys might be missing related to win/loss by 6 points or less – is how many of those games were we down by multiple scores – requiring a huge comeback effort from Jameis? I believe there were several games over the past two years where the Bucs were down by 3 or more scores, made a huge comeback effort, only to lose in the end. Trying to come back from huge deficits can lead to turnovers. On the other hand, turnovers can lead to huge deficits. Point is, you have to look at each game. Let’s not pretend that we had a solid D and it was Jameis who put the D in bad positions.

  18. gotbbucs Says:

    It is without a doubt the biggest contributor to why this team cant win consistently. They get inside the 20 and start slipping and sliding on banana peels on both sides of the ball.

  19. Ghost of Darrell Henderson Says:

    Too bad with the 70th pick they didn’t select the best RB in NCAA history (8.2YPC) who ran for 22 TD’s (1st in NCAA) last year as a back up. Henderson was rated the best receiving back in the draft as well. Heck, DH even threw a red zone TD.

    Gump did get two magic beans for DH, though those beans would have been available in the 5th and 6th rounds. The Rams got richer and the Bucs got a couple practice squad players.

  20. WestChap Says:

    Kudos to fans willing to do the research… confirms what anyone with open eyes and an objective mind can see on Sunday: our QB is slower and less accurate than required for average (much less elite) red zone efficiency. However, he’s got crazy talent to dig his way out of some (but not all) of the holes he jumps in and he has a surplus of weapons who make him (and his backup) look mighty good in between the 20s. A better run game would make him look even better… but I’m hoping QB helps himself with better execution. Now or never.

  21. Bob in Valrico Says:

    We have been a team that makes mistakes. call it discipline if you will. Here’s a look at the redskin-the Bucs game 2018. in spite of having a pretty good offensive game plan and some great effort by Barber we still lost.
    There were six critical plays ,IMO
    Fitz had an INt at goal line at goalline.
    Fitz also through a forward lateral .

    D. Smith got beat on a speed rush and allows the defensive player get to Fitz to cause a sack fumble.
    A bad snap by Jensen that hit the ground in front of Fitz .
    A ball punched out of Rogers hand. You gotta feel bad for this guy. I believe he had three fumbles in his entire career.
    There was also a drop by Brate in the redzone. Difficult to tell what really
    happened on that play. DB looked a little guilty on that play.

    As is often the case no one player was solely responsible but we need to clean it up in the redzone.

  22. BucEmUp Says:

    Predictability and sticking with what didnt work..Bottom.five in the league in pass attempted to running backs. If you.take that away from ohhhjhh…..pretty much ALL.of the top.offenses, that was their bread and butter. Was and STILL IS!


  23. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Watch the redskins -Bucs highlights . You will see both Rb’s make plays Rogers with screens and dumpoffs. Barber with some quality runs. as far as we know that was the only game Koetter called. The coaches call the plays, but the players have to do their job.

  24. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Watch the redskins -Bucs highlights . You will see both Rb’s make plays Rogers with screens and dumpoffs. Barber with some quality runs. as far as we know that was the only game Koetter called. The coaches call the plays, but the players have to do their job. Will they be better coached under Arians ,I hope so.

  25. REDZONE BA Fan Says:

    2018 – 60% success rate in RedZone. UGLY stat. And NOT blaming the pretend “defense” in 2018. A few more points here or there….who knows?

    2019 – Predicting BA will have 90% Redzone success; meaning scoring 7 or 3, 9 out of 10 times inside of 20.

    Per the “Joe’s”, if our D improves 20%, and the Offense clicks, Bucs have a playoff chance!

    I believe in BA. And believe that daddy Jameis, approaches his game, differently.

  26. D1 Says:


    60% success last year would have been good enough for 4th or 5th in the league.

  27. stpetebucsfan Says:

    @Loyal and D.R.

    Great posts. I love the stats and information.

    Here is a question. First off let me say our daily blame game gets a little stretched because the truth is that there is SOOO much blame to go around that IMHO picking out individuals at this point is not really productive.

    Having said that…so JW gets the deserved blame in this post.
    But another stat I’d love to see…some have worked on it I think…

    How many games were we leading in the fourth quarter only to have the defense give it up at the end.

    How many did we give up in the last five minutes?

    JW deserved criticism just like everybody on this team and we don’t really need to make it look worse than it is. Again in just MO if JW had the team ahead with five minutes to go I subtract that from “his” losses.

    Not disagreeing at all though with Loyal or D.R. because they are correct. We’re just debating the degree of blame at this point.

    There is so much blame to go around so perhaps it would be easier for Joe to try a post…who doesn’t deserve blame for last year’s disaster. Maybe ME…Godwin and a few other O players…JPP on D sadly he’s gone. I also think Nassib is not to blame.

    So guys who had a decent season in ’17 for the Bucs. Who played at least acceptably and not to blame?

  28. stpetebucsfan Says:

    Oops time flies…18 not ’17