Ira Kaufman’s Three Steps For The Playoffs

September 5th, 2019

“Pay attention, Joel. And can we get brisket and beet salads at halftime? The buffet is getting stale.”

BY IRA KAUFMAN columnist

Repeat after me: 1-2-3, playoffs.

This is not rocket science, people. Every year, at least one NFL team makes a giant leap from the basement to the penthouse. Lots of upward mobility in this league, but the Bucs seem to like it down there.

They’ve spent seven of the past eight seasons in the NFC South basement, so here comes Bruce Arians, eager to run over these demons in his golf cart.

If the Bucs intend to snap this ghastly playoff drought, they don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Follow my simple three-step plan and Tampa Bay fans will receive quite a Christmas present — relevant games heading into the holidays.

First, win the turnover battle.

Every coach shouts this directive from the podium, but it has special significance at One Buc Place. Why? Because in the past 35 years, the only time the Bucs sported a winning record with a negative turnover ratio came in 1999, when they went 11-5 despite four more giveaways than takeaways.

How’d they do it? Defense. The 1999 defense was almost as stout as the historic 2002 defense. Just ask Kurt Warner.

With all due respect to Todd Bowles, this ain’t the 1999 defense, which allowed more than 20 points only three times in 18 games.

The gap between takeaways and giveaways wins games and turns fortunes around, period. The Bears led the NFL with 36 takeaways last year in going from 5-11 to 12-4. That’s no coincidence.

Only one of the bottom 10 clubs in turnover ratio made the postseason in 2018, as Philadelphia clawed its way to a 9-7 mark. That’s no coincidence.

So how can the Bucs achieve this winning edge? Tampa Bay led the league by throwing 26 interceptions. The NFL average for each club was 13. Buc fans will settle for 17 this fall.

Simple Tenets

On defense, a more aggressive scheme should lead to more than 17 takeaways. That’s a little more than one per game. That’s not nearly good enough. Bowles wants 30. I’ll settle for 27.

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles

Let’s get back to the blueprint for success.

No. 2, run the football more efficiently. Arians loves throwing the ball all over the field, but the Bucs tried that last year with some success, yet still finished 5-11. This team has won one football game — one — in the past five years when attempting 20 or fewer runs.

The only change up front is Alex Cappa at right guard instead of Caleb Benenoch, so it’s up to this new staff to instill a new, more physical mentality. Bumping that 3.9 average yards per carry up to the league standard of 4.4 would go a long way in providing the balance that’s been missing since Dirk Koetter’s ill-fated promotion in 2016.

No. 3, make your kicks. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it. You’ve got one job to do, so do it.

The simple truth is the Bucs have missed 36 FG attempts in the past four years, compared to 18 misses by opponents. Make your kicks.

Rookie Matt Gay has a big leg. Everyone can see that. He might connect on a 60-yarder this fall, but the real question is how many 41-yard tries will he shank?

The Bucs need stability at this position. Arians needs to know he can rely on his guy to make the clutch kick and win the close games that have haunted this franchise for more than a decade.

Kyle Brindza, Roberto Aguayo, Nick Folk, Patrick Murray, Chandler Catanzaro and Cairo Santos weren’t up to the task. Let’s see how the young man from Utah fares.

Focus on these three tasks and the Bucs have a real chance to thrive.

And when Tim McGraw takes that stage Sunday afternoon, he should open with one of his breakthrough tracks, the theme song of the 2019 Buccaneers: “Not a Moment Too Soon.”

Great fun, food and Bucs passion at Buffalo Wild Wings all season long. Watch every road game with Ira Kaufman and readers. Great giveaways, too. The preseason opener was a blast.

BE THERE NEXT THURSDAY ON BIG BEND ROAD IN RIVERVIEW!!!! Kickoff at 8:20. The fun kicks off at 7:30 p.m.

15 Responses to “Ira Kaufman’s Three Steps For The Playoffs”

  1. StonedBuc Says:

    Pound that rock

  2. Cometowin2 Says:

    Amen Ira.

  3. BucsLyfe79 Says:

    Hey EYE-RAH, you do a spectrum sports segment correct?? Then would u kindly use ur sage inquisitiveness and ask the spectrum schmucks why the Bucs game is not on their local programming schedule for this sunday?? Inquireing Bucs fans REALLY WANNA KNOW. TY Sir.

  4. Sport Says:

    Ira – kicking is similar to golf. The ball is stationary, its more mental than physical and when you miss, its usually your fault.

    Therefore, similar rules should apply, including the etiquette, such as not talking while someone is in their backswing or saying the using the “S” word about a type of miss. You just never say it. Ever!

    You can talk about history all you want, its not his history, but for the love of God, leave that word out of it. 😉

    In BA I Trust!

  5. Chris Cotten Says:

    You’re the man Ira, please don’t retire anytime soon

  6. Defense Rules Says:

    Ira … Totally with you on #1 especially: LIMIT YOUR OWN TURNOVERS and MAXIMIZE TAKEAWAYS. The turnover differential is critical to winning as you say. But there’s a certain degree of irony in there IMO. Offensive turnovers screw the defense, while defensive takeaways help the offense. Like last year; Jameis (14) & Fitz (12) combined to throw 26 INTs & the Bucs offense lost 9 fumbles … bummer. Our defense only had 9 INTs & 8 fumble recoveries, so our turnover differential was REALLY BAD (minus 18 was 2nd worst in the NFL). So offense, if you REALLY want to help the defense, PROTECT THE FOOTBALL.

    Your other two factors (run the ball & make your kicks) are unquestionably important Sage, but not as important IMO as PLAY SOLID DEFENSE, especially in the Red Zone. Like Scott Smith said in one of his analyses … “Buccaneer opponents breached their red zone 58 times in 2018 and came away with touchdowns on 45 of those trips. The resulting defensive touchdown efficiency of 77.6% was not only the worst in the NFL in 2018 but the worst any team has finished with since at least the turn of the millennium.”

    A huge part of playing solid defense is stopping the run, and no need to belabor that since BA, TB and everyone else in Tampa Bay knows that we stunk it up there last year. As long as our ‘middle’ can stay healthy (DTs & ILBs) can stay healthy we SHOULD see a major improvement in that area this year.

    The other factor that I think is essential is CONTROL THE CLOCK. Bucs broke even last year … 30:12 mins for us to 30:00 for our opponents (1 overtime game). That was good enough for a #16 ranking. For a supposed offensive powerhouse, that’s not nearly good enough when you have a marginal defense. We need to be up closer to 31:30 to 32:00 TOP this year. The Top-5 teams in TOP all met that criteria, and all of them made the playoffs.

  7. Bucsfanman Says:

    Defense Rules- Great breakdown! The only addition I would make would be SCORING. We need to score TDs in the redzone, not FGs. This is also a boon for the defense.

  8. SenileSenior Says:

    I am hoping to see Jameis Winston come out with 35 touchdown and 15 interceptions for the year. That would be a significant turnaround. Only one or two fumbles at worst for him, hopefully none.

    I do expect many more takeaways by the defense. I would like to see a couple of blocked kicks or punts in addition. They are also rare around here.
    Go Bucs!!!

  9. Barbosa Says:

    How disciplined will the Bucs be this year under Arians? How many penalties will they average per game?

  10. Razor Ramone Says:

    Agree about the penalties. Game killers.

  11. Brandon Says:

    Defense Rules

    The other factor that I think is essential is CONTROL THE CLOCK. Bucs broke even last year … 30:12 mins for us to 30:00 for our opponents (1 overtime game). That was good enough for a #16 ranking. For a supposed offensive powerhouse, that’s not nearly good enough when you have a marginal defense. We need to be up closer to 31:30 to 32:00 TOP this year. The Top-5 teams in TOP all met that criteria, and all of them made the playoffs.
    Meh, the team couldn’t run the ball and was a big play passing offense. I’m actually surprised we averaged more than 30 minutes of possession time. There’s a very good chance it’s because our defense couldn’t get itself off the field. This is a misleading statistic. High powered quick strike offenses, teams that can’t run the ball, teams with great D’s and teams with D’s that give up big plays, often have time of possession advantage.

  12. Dapostman Says:

    Keep teams out of the end zone more. If they have to settle for a FG instead of the easy TD that’s worth 4 points right there.

  13. Defense Rules Says:

    Brandon … excellent points. But to call it ‘misleading’ may be a bit over the top. Fact is that the more your offense is on the field the less your defense has to be, thus the more rested they are when they have to be on the field AND the fewer opportunities they should have to make bad plays.

    Bucs actually provide an excellent example. Our worst record (2-14) in this last decade came in 2014. Bucs TOP that year? 27:15 mins … our worst (and #30 in the NFL). Our best record (9-7) came in 2016. Bucs TOP that year? 30:48 mins … our best (and #8 in the NFL). We duplicated that exact TOP (30:48 mins) in our previous winning year (2010 when we went 10-6). Coincidence? Maybe not.

  14. Dirk Disco Says:

    Ira needs to lay off the hamburgers and get with the program.

  15. Mike Johnson Says:

    Bucs addressed the secondary nicely…B+. Addressed the Kicker..B+ Oline? will do but not great. Running Backs?..Check. WR s-Outstanding. QB? Average now but should improve this season. D line? C-. We still need a pass rush. Cleveland showed us what a great pass rush is supposed to look like. I would have gone all Out on our defensive line and average to the secondary. We..did just the opposite. Total score?..8-8. If we had a decent pass rush I’d up it to 10-6. But that deficiency alone is gonna cost us. GO BUCS and Good Luck.