Stats Are For Losers: Looking At The Worst Aspects Of The 2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers


November 25, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano reacts during the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, we took a look at the average performance of the offense in 2012, revealing that the Bucs’ could not have been any more average when it comes to their offense last year. You can check out that article here. It inspired me to take a look at some of the other statistics that let the Buccaneers down in 2012, and led to a disappointing 7-9 finish to the season. And obviously the amount of passing yards allowed and Josh Freeman‘s interceptions stand out, so let’s set aside the obvious and take a look at bit deeper in the stat books and see a few areas where the numbers don’t lie about the below average 2012 Buccaneers.

Inconsistent Offense

The sum of the season’s performances on offense turned out to be average, but the week-by-week performances were really unpredictable and inconsistent. For numerical proof, we turn to Football Outsiders, who track the variance from game to game of a team’s offense as judged by their DVOA formula. You can check out the numbers and learn more about the stats here. And we find that the Buccaneers ranked 26th in the league in Variance, meaning that only 6 teams had more inconsistent offenses from game to game than the Bucs. The Ravens and Giants had similarly inconsistent offenses, so while this stat doesn’t reveal an awful team, it does show that a stronger defense is needed to overcome the occasional bad day at the office for the guys throwing and running the ball. It also means there has to be a bit of good fortune, and that the “good offense” needs to show up on weeks where the defense needs a bit of help to keep up. The Bucs inconsistent offense did the opposite, and always seemed to come close yet still fall short, sometimes in frustrating fashion.

All Bark and No Bite Offense

October 21, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Tiquan Underwood (11) reacts after he scored a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Seems like I am piling on the offense here, but there’s another statistic that reveals the insufficiency of the Bucs’ offense in 2012. uses Success Rate as a major stat on their site, and it measures the percentage of plays on which the offense or defense succeeded (obviously). A success is determined as a play that increases a team’s statistic probability of winning, which depends on the situation. When taking this statistic into account, and adjusting for the competition, the Buccaneers finished 30th in the league in offensive success rate. In other words, there were a lot of empty yards gained by the Bucs this season that did not directly translate into meaningful yards that lead to wins. The team is capable of moving the ball down the field, but must do it when it matters in 2013, rather than clawing back into games with a “too little, too late” effort.

Bad Third Down Defense

The defense was obviously disappointing, but with a strong run defense, the pass D had less and less to do on third down. That didn’t stop them from finishing in the bottom ten at preventing first down conversions on third down. The Buccaneers allowed opponents to convert 40% of third downs into firsts, which kept the defense on the field to allow more points and more yards. No team allowed a higher percentage of their first downs through the air, meaning this stat can be almost solely blamed on the pass defense.

Nonexistent Pass Rush

December 9, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Michael Bennett (71) sacks Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously the Buccaneers didn’t have many sacks in 2012, but the advanced stats show even further bad news about the Bucs’ front seven. The Bucs ranked 31st in Adjusted Sack Rate according to Football Outsiders, coming in ahead of only the Jaguars, who had one of the worst pass rush units in a while. This stat factors in the opponent face, the down and distance, and even accounts for intentional grounding calls, and the Bucs still fail to move up the charts at all. In other words, everything but the run defense was really, really bad for the Bucs’ D in 2012.

Absolutely No Kick Returning

This should come as no surprise for a franchise that went decades without bringing a kickoff to the house, but the Buccaneers were in the bottom 3 in every kick returning category. They had the fewest yards overall, and the third lowest average in the league on kickoff returns. For reference, the Seahawks and Ravens both average seven more yards per return than the Bucs, setting them up with more favorable positions every time they took the field than the Buccaneers, and also adding in some big plays to take pressure off the offense and defense. The Bucs’ offense was decent, but with no help from the special teams, they didn’t have an edge on opposing defenses.