TAMPA – There is only one thing an NFL pass rusher likes better than a sack and that’s a sack-fumble. They’re hard to come by, though. Like Caspian Tigers, they’re difficult to hunt down and capture.
Sack-fumbles usually only come as a result of a rare blend of skill, technique and timing, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers second-year defensive end Noah Spence seems to have the formula down.
When Spence ran around Chicago Bears right tackle Bobby Massie to take down and knock the ball loose from quarterback Mike Glennon early in the second quarter of the Bucs 29-7 victory on Sunday, it marked the fourth time in 17 NFL games that he’s created a sack-fumble.
The Bucs helped put that in perspective by noting that throughout his seven-year NFL career, five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has forced only six fumbles of any kind, while defensive end Robert Ayers has forced eight fumbles in eight years and 108 games.
Spence, a second-round pick of the Bucs in 2016 who now has 6.5 career sacks, attributed his latest big play at least in part to the fact that it had been more than three weeks since he or anybody else with the Bucs last got a chance to play in a game.
“There was a lot of built-up energy,’’ he said. “We had to go out there and just let it loose. We came out and everybody was hungry. We came out there like savages. We were ball hungry.’’
The sack was the only one of the day for the Bucs, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t get to Glennon. The Bucs recorded eight quarterback hits on their former backup, including four by McCoy.
Like everything else the Bucs did on defense Sunday, that was pretty much in keeping with where they left off a year ago, when the Bucs 21 sacks in the last eight games of the year were the fifth-most in the NFL over that span.
“Yeah, you look at the that second half last year and they were a dominant defense,’’ Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “So, (what they did Sunday) really wasn’t that surprising to me. The D stole the show today.’’