Happy And Hard Truths About The 2023 Bucs

October 11th, 2023

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Mark Twain said it more than a century ago — and the man had a point.

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics,” Twain concluded at the time. The NFL hadn’t even started, so there’s no way he was talking about Mike Alstott’s franchise-record 58 career rushing touchdowns.

Some NFL numbers don’t lie. Some swear. There are more than a few statistics through the opening month to explain Tampa Bay’s 3-1 start heading into a dynamic home matchup against the 4-1 Lions.

Ira Kaufman talks results orchestrated from the top.

We’re seeing the results of Todd Bowles enjoying a full offseason to mold a roster and a system in his own image — smart, physical, resourceful. He hand selected Dave Canales to repair a woeful offense and basically parted ways with Bruce Arians on a day-to-day basis.

This is his team now … and it shows. Here are some areas in which the Bucs are thriving, along with a few issues that need attention:

* The Bucs are tied with the unbeaten 49ers for the league lead with a plus-7 turnover differential. A year ago, Tampa Bay finished 20th at minus-2. Those 10 takeaways have impacted field position and allowed the defense to get off the field. Is it reasonable to expect the Bucs to generate 40 turnovers during a 17-game season? If Calijah Kancey returns fit and healthy, this defense has a chance to be special.

* Bowles looked on passively a year ago as 45-year-old Tom Brady averaged an NFL-high 44 throws per game. The results weren’t pretty, so Canales was hired from Seattle, where Pete Carroll traditionally emphasizes offensive balance. Through four games, Baker Mayfield is averaging 31.5 pass attempts. That translates into less stress and strain for a young offensive line and a less predictable look for opposing defenses.

* Canales is cashing in on the money down, prolonging drives instead of turning to outstanding punter Jake Camarda. The Bucs are converting third downs at a 47.4 percent clip that ranks No. 6 in the league. In 2022, Byron Leftwich orchestrated an attack that ranked No. 21 on third down at 37.4 percent.

* When Bowles arrived with Arians in 2019, he made rushing defense a priority and the Bucs responded emphatically as Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea clogged the run lanes. That stout rush defense has been slipping the past few years, but opponents are now averaging only 95 yards on the ground. Only nine teams are more stout against the run, in sharp contrast to last year’s average yield of 121 rushing yards.

* Another area of emphasis was red-zone defense, and the results have been spectacular. Only the Ravens are more stingy inside the 20 as Buc opponents are scoring touchdowns at a mere 27.3 percent clip. What a difference from last year’s lousy red-zone defense, when opponents crossed the goal-line at a 62.5 percent rate.

The Lions are favored by three points on the road against a rested team coming off a bye, so Buc skeptics remain unconvinced this stellar getaway can be sustained.

Struggling Rachaad White.

Detroit’s run defense is top notch and the Bucs want more production from their backs, so Mayfield’s burden will likely increase on Sunday. A healthy Mike Evans would provide a big boost.

While Tampa Bay’s defense excels in the red zone and forcing turnovers, opponents are converting third downs at a 47 percent clip. Only three teams are more hospitable, so Bowles likely spent considerable time during the bye week focused on defending the money down.

Canales worked on being more creative in the red zone, where the Bucs cash in at a mere 50 percent clip. That ranks 20th in the league and it’s a powerful reminder that a drab ground game cripples you when there’s less field to spread a defense out.

Mark Twain would probably get a kick out of those Creamsicle uniforms the Bucs will wear Sunday against the NFC North leaders. Buc fans are excited about this nod to days gone by and an opportunity to remain on top of the division. This game wouldn’t have been flexed to 4:25 p.m. if the Bucs stood at 1-3.

There’s considerable interest in this matchup between NFC division leaders. The Lions have won 12 of their last 15 while the Bucs have rewarded their true believers with winning football.

And that’s no lie.

18 Responses to “Happy And Hard Truths About The 2023 Bucs”

  1. First Name Greatest Says:

    Hard Truth

    Ira’s 6 win prediction looks bad for someone who embraces the “Sage” nickname

  2. Derek Says:

    Ira you predicted the Bucs would only win 6 games.

  3. Buc1987 Says:

    They haven’t won 6 games just yet!

  4. BillyBucco Says:

    Ira was definitely drinking the Koolaid preseason. It’s not hard to see why after last year’s team, but as they say, the team takes on the personality of their leader, that would be Brady, who wasn’t 100% invested going through a divorce. Who would be? The timing sucked, but the team still had a core who won a SB. Baker is a better leader this year, and I wouldn’t even say he is THE LEADER. That would be Bowles. These guys are playing HARD for him and Sunday will be no Different. The Creamsicles remind EVERY Tampa Fan of losing football and the TEAM knows this. I suspect they wear it with Pride and yes, WRECK SH!T.

  5. Casual Observer Says:

    Maybe he meant they would win 6 games by mid-season.

  6. orlbucfan Says:

    Bowles is finally the Bucs HC. He is concentrating on the D, Canales was hired to do the O, and that ST coach hasn’t been too shabby either. Bet Canales is relieved to know he’s got a competent ST backing his O up cos he’s learning, too. I’m one Bucs fan who will be wearing the FL orange, white, and red with pride. Looking for a Cardiac Bucs win. Kudos to Jason Licht, too.

  7. Dwayne Cone Says:

    With the only options at 4:25 being Eagles vs Jets or Cardinals vs Rams I can see why the NFL would want to add something that will be potentially more exciting.

  8. Bojim Says:

    About time White breaks out. If not look elsewhere? I like White but we need to be a bit more effective. Sunday would be a nice time to start.

  9. SlyPirate Says:

    Detroit lost a starting CB and S last week. They have 1 legit CB to cover the best WR duo in the league. Canales knows this. Baker knows this. Evans and Godwin know this. We’re going to light them up.

    Detroit will turn 1-dimensional after the Bucs get the league. Our pass rushers will pin their ears and hunt. Goff will get sacked. The Bucs will get turnovers.

  10. BigDaddySewell Says:

    Wow, SlyPirate, that is delusional at best.

    So many inaccuracies I don’t have time to point them all out. The entire first paragraph reads like fiction.

    Did you mean to use your sarcasm font? LOL

  11. First Name Greatest Says:

    Bucs are going 3-10 the remainder of the season if you believe Ira LOL

    Guy knows more about Bette Midler and Beet Salads than football

  12. unbelievable Says:

    Lions are going to be tough to beat. They are physical, and have playmakers at every level on both sides of the ball.

    Bucs will need to play smart, limit turnovers and penalties, and get SOMETHING going on the ground. Hopefully the defense can cause a few turnovers as well.

  13. AtlBuc Says:

    6 wins was the number decided upon by the National Association of Talking Heads. If Ira goes against that prediction, he will lose his HOF vote.

  14. Larrd Says:

    It’s did good working with that dead horse Mark Twain quote. I don’t remember or care what he said preseason—he seems spot on here and he’s fun to listen to.

    The Bucs need to tighten the screws on third down. That means doing even better against the run, though. Both lines are improving, hopefully.

  15. Obvious Says:

    Hey Sly Pirate,

    I liked your prediction. It might not turn out to be exactly like that, but it might be close and With us WInning this game!

    Dare to Dream! GO BUCS!

  16. Fred McNeil Says:

    Pontiffs like our good friend Ira and all those other pontiffs that I never read, and don’t give a rat’s patootie about, have got to toe certain Shianoian lines lest they look more like cheerleaders than serious pundits.
    That said I relish the admissions from Ira that we are better than he was forced to predict. Those admissions were not to belittle our eyebrow raising accomplishments to date like dozens of other pundits who cannot possibly be wrong. He seems to celebrate our BUCS accomplishments. I salute you sir! Loved the column! Go BUCS!

  17. garro Says:

    The real question is are all these da** stats sustainable?

    Some are some likely are not. Sadly

    Twain got it right!

    Go Bucs!

  18. Esteban85 Says:

    Old Twain would’ve spun up quite a tale about the creamsicle Bucco Bruce whose jaws clenched a dagger. Something about being Shanghaied in a carribean pirate port while being drunk off pure sugar cane moonshine. Waking up on a 23 gun privateer double masted schooner with eyes on Spanish gold coming from Punta Rassa. Or something like that