Takeaways Don’t Necessarily Spike On Third-And-Long; But Guess What Does?

August 23rd, 2023

Bucs coach Todd Bowles.

If Joe isn’t watching Bucs games or videos or researching the Bucs, Joe often is inhaling whatever Joe can find on college football.

Yes, Joe is a football nut. Proud of it, too!

Recently, Joe watched the podcast hosted by Adam Breneman, the former All-American tight end and Division-I coach (for those that like quality football content, this pod is good as Breneman often goes to campuses to talk with coaches and players).

Breneman recently interviewed Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz who, like Lovie Smith and Todd Bowles, preached the Gospel of Turnovers.

Breneman asked Diaz how he can practice takeaways if Penn State doesn’t hit much in practice (sound familiar?). Diaz said his analytics show the majority of turnovers occur on third-and-long. So his huge emphasis to get offenses in third-and-long situations and then have his defense ballhawk their brains out.

Penn State last year ranked No. 7 in takeaways.

So that got Joe wondering if those third-and-long stats are similar to NFL numbers. Joe asked Bucs coach Todd Bowles about this today and Bowles couldn’t recall the stats but he believes turnovers are more spread out in the NFL than in college. It varies from game to game, he said.

What Bowles was sure of was that another key play to stop teams from scoring spikes on third-and-longs in the NFL. That would be sacks.

“I think it varies [between] college and the NFL – it’s different each game,” Bowles said. “I’ll have to look at the analytics for sure. We get a lot on first- and second-down, I know for sure.

“We get a lot of sacks on third-and-long if they’re not throwing screens. I know the sack rate is up high but I’m not sure about the turnovers in the NFL.”

Well, if you cannot get turnovers (which Joe considers little more than a game of chance), sacks are the next best thing. Sacks, as documented by handicapper turned stathead Warren Sharp, kill drives.

The Bucs last year had 20 takeaways (split evenly between fumbles and picks). Of those, six came on third-and-five or longer.

So just in one small sample size, the 2022 Bucs got most of their takeaways when it was not third-and-long.

As a reminder, here is what Sharp wrote in his Warren Sharp Football Preview 2023 about the value of sacks.

22 Responses to “Takeaways Don’t Necessarily Spike On Third-And-Long; But Guess What Does?”

  1. Dwayne Cone Says:

    Sacks are great if you can get there with your front 4. I believe this same guy wrote an article about Anti-Aggressive Defense preferring more coverage and less blitzing.

    Guess Coach Yotes’ “we blitz all night’ has become outdated.

  2. Dave Pear Says:

    No surprise that Bowles wouldn’t know the data. He has to go look at the data, look at the film, look at the dead mule, whatever. It’s a wonder that he didn’t just start talking like Homer Simpson after 8 beers.

  3. SlyPirate Says:

    Truthfully, I get more excited about sacks than TDs. Sack fumbles are the best.

  4. Mostly Peaceful Trask Fan Says:

    I thought numbers guys were clueless geeks?

  5. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    It seems to me we also get a lot of penalties on 3rd & long….along with completed passes beyond the sticks…..

  6. Bucs 95 Says:

    We should go after trey lance he has more upside the mayfield and trask combined we have nothing too lose he wont cost much the 49ers named him a 3rd string QB just saying

  7. Infomeplease Says:

    I’m in favor of both! On any down!!! LFG

  8. ModHairKen Says:

    This, from the coach, who says he doesn’t study analytics?

  9. Craig Says:

    Sacks happen, interceptions happen, and schnitzel happens when it happens.

    Good coaches make both offense and defense a chess match. That causes the DBs and safeties to step in front of receivers when the chance is given, same as good QBs do to those DBs and safeties.

    When it happens is when it happens.

    Teams to be more conservative on third and long, if you can’t get it, throw it away and punt, so there is no reason to believe turnovers happen more on third down.

  10. D-Rok Says:

    You’d think some wise analytical-minded person would’ve done an ANOVA or t-test on the factors related to takeaways. It can, and should, be plotted!

  11. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Kancey, Vea, Barrett, YaYa, White, even Winfield Jr- the Bucs have the ammo to get sacks

  12. HC Grover Says:

    Can’t wait for the Vikes game. This has been a lot of fun on JBF soeculating good and bad during the off season and camps. Soon the rubber meets the road an we get to find out who was right and wrong. Most of all I am old enough to remember before we had the Bucs. Even when they suck it is a good thing for Tampa.

  13. J Ghotier Says:

    Speaking of the trend of football analytics, the more popular it gets to go by the analytics, doesn’t it also eventually make it more predictable to know what the opponent (offense or defense) will do based on analytics/reverse analytics?!

    All trends get caught onto and analytics are there to analyze for everyone too. So, does the opposing offense or defense attack the other by knowing the probabilities of what they’ll do analytically.

    It’s best to not be predictable….whether by trends, tendencies OR analytics. The mind, heart and feeling/gut feeling are way less predictable in real time gameplay over stats and universally known analytics. Quite the balancing act for sure though!

  14. Who Says Says Can't Say Says:

    “Bowles couldn’t recall the stats”

    I mean hell he’s only the head coach, how can we expect him to know something useful…

  15. The Beer Whisperer Says:

    All the Bucs have to do, is score more points than the team they are playing.

    All the other fancy stats, is just window-dressing, lol

  16. Larrd Says:

    “It varies from game to game,” says Todd.

    Thanks Todd!


  17. JimBobBuc Says:

    An interesting article about analytics use in the nfl. if you read the BSPN. article “ NFL analytics survey 2022: Teams that use advanced metrics most, least”. I’m a stats and data guy so of course I think the Bucs should do more, as we’re at the bottom of the NFL in use of analytics. The important thing about stats and analytics is that all the coaches see the numbers, and think about why the numbers happen, and what to do in practice and games. Again, the coaches need to know the numbers and why they happen. Numbers without common sense have no value. But sometimes we need to challenge our common sense when facts tell use otherwise.

    For me, interceptions are the product of a good pass rush and DBs looking at the QB. For most interceptions, the defender needs to be looking at the QB and therefore the ball. Our pass rush last year and this preseason has not been good. I hope the first stringers improve a lot and force QBs into bad throws. But a bad throw does nothing if the DB doesn’t have eyes on the QB or ball.

    For fumbles we need pass rushers looking to strip the QB. We need tacklers stripping the ball.

  18. Beeej Says:

    I’d guess strip-sacks are the most common fumble. They and picks on third and long hard to come by if the other team is ahead and trying to run out the clock

  19. Dreambig Says:

    It’s hard to get take aways on 3rd and long when your corners and safeties are lined up 10 yards behind the first down marker.

  20. Voice of Truth Says:

    To Todd’s credit – On our SB run, we rarely blitzed until we were inside our 30 – we played a lot of zone and off, but if they made it to our 30 or so, a safety, lb, c or all of them were coming on an early down and third down to shut down the drive

    Shaq made a living off of it

    The timing of the sack is the most important IMO – sacks when in your own end prevent TD’s and that point differential is what wins games

  21. lambchop Says:

    I would love for coaches to follow stats when they have a less than 6 point lead in the last 2-3 minutes, because most of the coaches turn turtle. I would rather have an aggressive coach or one that continues what’s been working. But, if you don’t have the intestinal fortitude, let stats tell you how to play in that situation because I hate prevent defense. You’re only preventing your win with that soft defense. Prevent defense should only be used with 5 seconds left in a game and protecting a less than 6 point lead.

  22. HC Grover Says:

    If the Bowles Bucs can beat the 6.5 point spread there may be hope. If not. Prepare the lifeboats. That is a stat to look at.