The Tampa Bay Buccaneers limped home Sunday Night after their 34-24 loss to the Los Angeles Rams with more question marks than answers. The Rams appeared to have their way with the Bucs defense moving the ball up and down the field at will.
Why is the defense playing so poorly? These are essentially the same players who were dominant down the stretch last season and helped the Bucs win the Super Bowl.
There is a lack of an effective pass rush. With no pass rush, it is extremely challenging for the defensive backs to cover receivers for an extended period when playing man to man.
Bruce Arians however had his answer as to why the defense has underperformed this season:
It was some communication and some just really bad technique. They knew the coverage. They just played it really s****y.
Arians called out Dee Delaney and Ross Cockrell as the best players in the secondary against the Rams:
Delaney gave up one play where he got picked a little bit, but he might have played the best in the secondary that we had, and Ross Cockrell probably was next best. The rest of the guys, they need to pick it up. And when we have interceptions right in our hands, we’ve got to catch them.
The Bucs rank 30th in sacks, and that is the stat that concerns head coach Bruce Arians the most:
The sacks are probably the biggest thing that disturbs me. Now, we’re getting close; we’re not finishing deals.
On the play of the secondary, which seems to struggle every game, Arians had this to say:
We can’t ask for our secondary, especially with the shape it’s in, to go play a ton of man to man, which limits you, and the ball’s not going to be held for sacks to happen.
So it’s a little bit of both. We’ve got to do a better job of getting some man-to-man pressures and going in there and getting after the quarterback. And then also when we’re playing zone, we’ve got to get home. So the secondary and the front are just right now not meshing very well.
In the second quarter, cornerback Jamel Dean went off the field with an apparent ankle injury, compounding the Buccaneer’s secondary woes.
After three games, the Bucs defense has let all three opposing quarterbacks pass for over 300 hundred yards. Sunday afternoon, Matt Stafford lit up the Buc’s defense for 343 yards and four touchdowns. The Bucs defense hit Stafford four times on 38 pass attempts and generated one sack.
With Jason Pierre-Paul out with the shoulder injury, the Bucs generated very little pressure on Matt Stafford from that side of the field. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka was a non-factor in this game. It looks as if Pierre-Paul will miss the upcoming game against New England as well.
Here is where the Bucs rank defensively after three weeks:
- Total defense: 26th -402.0 yards/game
- Pass defense: 31st 338 yards per game
- Scoring defense: 27th 29.3 per game.
- Third-down defense: 29th 53.2 percent
- Sacks: Tied for 30th with three
- Completion percentage: Tied for 28th with 72 percent.
As we can see, the Bucs are playing nowhere near championship-caliber defense. Todd Bowles and the defensive staff have their work cut out for them to right the ship on defense.
Remember, the Bucs had some games that looked like it was their first time playing together last season. They corrected the mistakes and got on that eight-game winning streak culminating in the Bucs winning the Super Bowl.
The Bucs will be favored however in most games they play the rest of the season. They have plenty of time to get the issues corrected. Sunday night in New England however, would be a perfect time to start.