TAMPA – Despite the presence of a couple of players who can lay claim to being among the best defenders in franchise history, no one is going to confuse the current Buccaneers defense with the greatest Buccaneers defense of all time.
That group of marauders that terrorized NFL offenses back around the turn of the century was nothing short of special for more than a decade and one of those units has even earned a place among the best in league history, according some chroniclers.
That said, you have to go all the way back to those halcyon days to find the last time a Bucs defense did one of the many things the Bucs did in suffocating the Jets during their 15-10 victory at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.
In addition to generating six sacks, or two less than they had all year , the Bucs also did a great job of stopping the Jets on first- and second-down, creating eight third-down situations in which the Jets had to go 11 or more yards to make the conversion.
According to Bucs archivist Scott Smith, whose data only goes through the 1999 season, that’s the most in any one game for a Bucs team since at least 1998. And just as you might expect given the final score, the Bucs did a good job of getting off the field on those third downs as well.
Against a Bucs defense that came into the game ranked last in the league in third-down efficiency, the Jets converted just three of 15 third downs overall, including just two of those eight third-and-11-pluses, one of which was the result of a penalty.
That penalty, of course, was the roughing the passer penalty assessed against defensive tackle Chris Baker that sparked a bit of a row on the Bucs sideline after the Jets took advantage of the new life it gave them to score their only touchdown.
That touchdown left a blemish on what was arguably one of the best days ever by any Bucs defense, which is why Baker got an earful from fellow lineman Robert Ayers, who wasn’t the only player or coach who wanted a piece of Baker after he took that penalty.
“I think when that penalty happened pretty much everyone on the sideline wanted to get in a fight with Chris Baker, including me,’’ Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “But he’d beat me up, so I didn’t. Chris is a very smart player but that was not a smart penalty.’’
It came, though, on a day when the Bucs defense played about as smart and almost as well as it ever has.