Flip The Script

July 20th, 2020

Get an extra $1,000 off every new or leased vehicle right now. And score a special JoeBucsFan discount. Bill Currie Ford general manager Sean Sullivan personally will guide you and do whatever he can. It’s the Bill Currie Ford way. Click to start shopping!


“We stop the run, then we hunt.”

That’s been the mantra of NFL defenses ever since George Halas and Vince Lombardi patrolled NFL sidelines, cussing out officials.

But times have changed — and it’s time for Todd Bowles to change.

The 2019 Bucs topped the league in rush defense, taking on some of the best backs the NFL has to offer and spitting them out. Christian McCaffrey was neutralized twice while Saquon Barkley, Todd Gurley, Derrick Henry and Leonard Fournette combined to average only 35 yards on the ground.

Ira Kaufman wants a Todd Bowles to tweak his focus

No doubt about it, Tampa Bay’s rush defense was sensational. Credit goes first to the twin towers inside, Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea, who made running between the tackles a fruitless assignment.

The Bucs took great pride in stopping the run, and opposing offenses noticed. As a result, Tampa Bay faced an aerial assault that included an NFL-high 664 passes attempted, 53 more than any other club.

The overall results weren’t pretty.

Tampa Bay allowed the second-most completions and only two teams yielded more passing yards. The 30 TD passes allowed tied for seventh-most in the league.

Led by Shaq Barrett, the front 7 did its part. Nobody blitzed more in the NFC, as Tampa Bay led the NFL in QB knockdowns and averaged three sacks per game.

Last year’s numbers suggest that excelling at rush defense may not be worth the emphasis and resources utilized by teams like the Bucs.

For example, of the 12 stingiest run defenses last season (fewest yards per carry allowed), only two teams — the Steelers and Bears — boasted a Top 10 scoring defense. That’s right — the Bucs, Jets, Giants, Raiders, Titans, Eagles, Rams, Colts, Lions and Cowboys couldn’t crack the Top 10 in the category that counts the most … points yielded.

In contrast, four of the 12 most porous run defenses qualified for the Top 10 in fewest points allowed — the Ravens, Chiefs, 49ers and Packers. By the way, those teams combined for a 52-12 record.

So much for the links between stout run defense and overall success.

Net Loss

The NFL’s pass defense stats tell quite a different story. There are lots of ways to gauge passing efficiency, but I’m partial to net yards per pass attempt.

In that regard, seven of the 10 stingiest pass defenses made the playoffs, with only the Steelers, Bears and Cowboys as outliers.

The Buc defense ranked 20th in net yards allowed per pass attempt and out of those 20 teams, only five qualified for the postseason.

As reporting day beckons for Buc veterans, Bowles knows he has a long way to go in building an elite pass defense. Tom Brady played with one last year as New England went 12-4, despite a pedestrian attack.

Although Tampa Bay’s defense improved down the stretch, Bowles has been in this league long enough to realize lazy assumptions get you beat.

“You start over every year,” he says. “I know we ended up pretty good and played a few good games ending out the season, but every year is a new year. You can’t rely on the past. But the fact that we’ve got the same guys back, there’s some continuity and the fact that they’re starting to get it mentally with each other, as well as the opposition, is encouraging.”

If you believe defenses win championships, you know that pass defenses lead the way. Tampa Bay fans know that first-hand because the 2002 Bucs featured one of the iconic pass defenses in NFL history. And while nobody is expecting Sean Murphy-Bunting to turn into the second coming of Ronde Barber, a young secondary likely holds the key to Buc fortunes this fall.

Fielding a stout rush defense may sound like a worthy goal, but it’s what happens when the ball’s in the air that counts.

In Year 2, Mr. Bowles should have his beady eyes set firmly downfield.

Enjoy Mike Alstott’s June interview on the Ira Kaufman Podcast.

Bill Currie Ford
5815 N. Dale Mabry Hwy.
Tampa, FL 33614

Ira Kaufman’s column is presented by Bill Currie Ford. Click on Ira to visit BillCurrieFord.com. GM Sean Sullivan will help you personally in every way he can. Superior service and body shop, too. Joe has used both!

13 Responses to “Flip The Script”

  1. Cainishere Says:

    Nice Post!! My personal belief is that if you can have a shut-down secondary,
    that forces teams to have to confront the deadly teeth of the Buccaneer defense.
    Brady isn’t the only player with a target on his back… they all got that same target. Our team has to learn how to play elite and not be hurt. It is possible.
    GO BUCS!!

  2. stpetebucsfan Says:

    Maybe we’ll actually become a balanced defense. We don’t care if you run it or throw it you’re not advancing the ball on us. I think we have the players and coaching in place.

  3. Alanbucsfan Says:

    but it’s what happens when the ball’s in the air that counts.
    Spot on , Ira

    Turnover differential:

    Packers +12. Only 4 interceptions
    Ravens +10 Only 8 interceptions
    Chiefs +4 Only 5 interceptions
    49ers. +4. 13 interceptions

  4. Youngbucs Says:

    Hey Ira you forgot about big will he’s a big part of the run D.

  5. Youngbucs Says:

    Alanbucsfan come on now why you post that? Didn’t you get the memo in Tampa turnovers don’t matter you can win with those 🤷🏽‍♂️🤦‍♂️🙄.

  6. Jean Lafitte Says:

    Now that we don’t have Winston gifting opposing offenses the ball on our side of the 50 all the time those run defense stats will make a difference when a team has to drive 70+ yards for a score instead of one first down and already in scoring position.

  7. unbelievable Says:

    Winston definitely put us in some bad positions but he also gave us the lead late in the game multiple times only to have the defense choke it away. Plenty of blame to go around.

    The reality is our defense last season was a tale of 2 teams. First half of the season they were great against the run but absolutely terrible against the pass.
    Second half of the season our pass defense improved immensely.

    What happened when we turned it around?
    JPP came back and VH3 was finally booted. Instant improvement.

  8. BucEmUp Says:

    This is why zone defense has become obsolete for 85 percent of the game. S3cond half of the season the bucs corners played well in man coverage with the top rushing defense.Forst half of the season they played a lit of zone and 15 yards off the line or scrimmage. It was scheme and coaching the mike and lovie smith out of the players.

    Pretty sure Todd Bowles knows how to coach defense, and that will show as long at !!!!!CORONA VIRUS !!!!!!!! Doesnt take out all the starters.

  9. Buczilla Says:

    Cool article Ira. Hopefully we’ll be good against the run as well as the pass this year.

  10. JimbobBucsFan Says:

    I am confident TB has his “beady eyes set firmly downfield” by now.

    I believe we drafted Antoine Winfield Jr. to help us downfield for example. This at the earnest behest Mr. Bowles.

    I also expect TB to raise the bar by raising the complexity of his defense this season. I think he will install new wrinkles as he goes along. Unfortunately, because of the virus that process has been nullified or at least largely stunted because of the off season that we have not had.

    We shall see!

  11. REDZONE BA Fan Says:

    Right on, @Ira! Last few years was painful watching career back-up’s and rookie QB’s carve up our secondary. Especially when Bucs had lead in 4th QTR, late in games.

    Winston contributed to losses with untimely INT’s. Yet, there were so many games that were that were lost in Q4 and not Winston’s doing (unpopular concept on this board). See Seahawks, Giants games as two examples, in 2019.

    Bring it on, JW-haters. Just sharing facts.

  12. «Delusional Intelligence» Says:

    Thanks for another great article Sage!

  13. Cometowin2 Says:

    Beady eyes?