Finding the Statstics That Help Explain the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 0-2 Start


Sep 15, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback

Josh Freeman

(5) sets to throw during the second half of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to blame the referees (of the NFL and its rules) for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ slow start to the 2013 season. It’s also easy to blame Greg Schiano and his coaching styles and ideals. Likewise, you can blame Rian Lindell or Lavonte David for their seemingly game-losing errors.

But the Buccaneers have had opportunities to be better as a whole, and those play out in the statistics. So let’s take a look at some of the sobering numbers that show just why the Buccaneers are 0-2.

Josh Freeman is the Least Accurate Passer in the NFL

Pro Football Focus does the job of many fans who come up with excuses for quarterbacks. “His receivers dropped passes.” “He was under pressure and had to throw the ball away, that’s why his completion percentage was bad…”

If you stop by their Accuracy Percentage signature statistic (subscription required), you can see the amount of passes a QB throws accurately. That means they take into account dropped passes, spikes, and throwaways.

You’ll also find that Josh Freeman is 35th in the NFL among players who have thrown at least on pass in being accurate with his passes. The only players in the NFL this season who have been less accurate are Jeremy Kerley (a wide receiver who threw one pass, which was incomplete) and Nick Foles (who also threw one incomplete pass filling in for Mike Vick).

Freeman has dropped back to pass 58 times, and has thrown 53 passes. Only 30 of them were on target. That’s an accuracy percentage of 56.6%, which is more than 10% worse than Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, and Terrelle Pryor. Even if you add in a couple of the plays where Freeman’s receiver fell down, he’s still very close to the bottom in the league in placing his passes accurately.

The most concerning part of all of this is that Freeman hasn’t been better when he’s had time to throw. We’ve documented over and over on this site how much better Josh Freeman is when he’s not under pressure, but this season, that’s not the case. Freeman has an accuracy percentage of 56.3% on plays under pressure, and actually has a better QB rating when facing pressure according to Pro Football Focus.

The Offense has been Absolutely Awful

October 23, 2011; London, ENGLAND; Detail view of sideline personnel holding a yard marker and down marker on a sideline during the first quarter in the NFL International Series game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears at Wembley Stadium. The Bears defeated the Buccaneers 24-18. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Josh Freeman has been bad. And thanks to Freeman’s inability to complete important passes, and the offensive line not consistently providing running room for Doug Martin, the Buccaneers have gained the fewest first downs this season.

To put it into perspective, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gained 26 first downs so far this season. There are 17 teams, including the Cleveland Browns, who have 26 or more first downs just via the pass.

The Bucs’ offense is in the bottom 5 in the NFL in yards gained, and passing yards gained. They’ve only scored three touchdowns in two games. There’s not a lot of good things to say about the Tampa Bay offense this season.

Penalties are the Undoing of the Defense

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have allowed 43 first downs this season on defense. 25 have been via the pass, 9 have been via the run. The other 9 were surrendered via penalties, which is the second most in the NFL (the Broncos have allowed more first downs by penalty).

No other defense has allowed more than 6 first downs by penalty, with most teams only surrendering two or three such conversions.

If the Buccaneers didn’t allow 9 first downs by penalty, they’d move from 23rd in first downs allowed to 10th.

The team is ranked in the top 15 in yards allowed per pass attempt and yards per rush attempt. Yet they’re 0-2.

And after Week 1, the team was in the Top 5 of Football Outsider’s DVOA rankings for defenses. This is a very good defense which has allowed penalties to extend drives and nullify some excellent performances.