Buccaneer Breakdown: Defense
By Patrik Nohe
The Bucs defense actually played a pretty solid game yesterday if not for one drive. You all know exactly what drive I’m referring to as well, up by three with about 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter the Buccaneers surrendered a ten-play, 77 yard drive to let the Falcons go up for good, 28-24.
That drive, which may be end up being one of the most important of the season for the Buccaneers, was terrible for more than just its timing. It was indicative of a greater problem on the Buccaneers defense and one that absolutely has to be addressed in the upcoming off-season. As I said earlier, the lack of leadership on the Bucs defense is stunning. The offense isn’t off the hook either, but the defense needed to hold it together yesterday.
The Bucs had gone up ten, things seemed promising and then the Buccaneers gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown. That was followed by the offense failing to do anything, going three-and-out and getting sacked on third down. At that point, up by three with just minutes in the game left, it all comes down to the defense. How many times have you seen Ray Lewis circle the wagons, fire up his defense and get them amped to go out and make a big stop with the game on the line? How many times did Derrick Brooks do that? Did you see that from the Bucs yesterday? No.
The defense came out flat, they gave up big plays, they twice committed big penalties to extend the drive for the Falcons, they got no pressure on Matt Ryan and they surrendered a touchdown. At worst, you want to let the Falcons tie it, instead the Bucs D let them go up by four. That all comes down to lack of discipline and more importantly a lack of leadership. I don’t know who Mark Dominik could find to fill that leadership role, maybe someone will grow into it, maybe they do need a veteran presence, but yesterday the defense squandered what had been up to that point a very solid game on one four minute (3:59) drive.
Breaking down the rest of their day, they managed to hold their own for the most part. Despite an early injury to Aqib Talib (one that rendered the White-Talib rematch fairly moot) the Bucs were able to keep Roddy White from going too crazy. He did have a solid day, leading all players in receiving with seven reception for 74 yards, including a fairly back-breaking 25 yard reception on that fateful Falcons TD drive we just discussed. But without their starting free safety and their best corner, the Bucs still managed to hold Matt Ryan to 202 yards on just 50 percent passing (18 of 36) while picking him off twice.
Corey Lynch was serviceable in his first game, he got beat a few times but he also came up with a nice interception. EJ Biggers filled in for Aqib Talib and tied for the lead in tackles with Quincy Black at seven. Nobody had a sack though, and for the most part Matt Ryan had time to work with. The front seven did however do a good job on Michael Turner for most of the game, holding the talented back to just 3.7 yards per carry (88 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown).
You can point out things the defense did well, there are a decent number, but the larger point remains that until this defense gets some better leadership on the field and matures a little, they’re going to continue to turn in inconsistent performances. It’s a young unit, but they play a little reckless at times and they can get knocked back on their heels still. They’ll grow out of it, but the leadership bit really does concern me.