Red zone efficiency & takeaways will be key for Bucs Sunday

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Red zone efficiency is one of the most important stats in all of football. Even the coaches who believe stats are for losers (and we’ve had a couple here in Tampa in recent years) admit their team’s performs inside the 20-yard line often determines the outcome of games.

The Bucs have been no better than adequate inside the red zone so far this year. As they prepare for their game against the Chargers on Sunday the Bucs rank 17th overall in the league in offensive red-zone efficiency and 24th in defensive red-zone efficiency.

Get the Bucs offense a little closer to the goal line or back their defense up against it, though, and everything changes. For the better.

The Bucs will go into San Diego on Sunday tied with the Steelers for the league lead in touchdown efficiency in goal-to-go situations with 13 touchdowns in 15 scoring chances (86.7 percent). Their defense, meanwhile, ranks a respectable seventh in goal-to-go situations.

The Bucs have been backed up inside their own 10-yard line 24 times this year, the second most among the team’s in the top 10 in this department. Through 11 games, though, they have allowed only 15 touchdowns for a 62.5-percent shut-down rate.

One of the keys to the Bucs defensive success inside their 10-yard line is their ability to take the ball away there. The Bucs this year have taken the ball away three times in defensive goal-to-go situations, second most in the league behind Kansas City.

One of those takeaways was the fourth-quarter interception safety Chris Conte recorded against the Chiefs three weeks ago (shown above). And that, of course, was one of the 18 takeaways the Bucs have scored since the start of Week 5, which is the most in the league over that span.

The bottom line here is that the Bucs have been performing particularly well in the clutch, especially on defense. That will have to continue this week, because the Chargers have been just as good at taking the ball away as the Bucs have been of late.

The Chargers rank second to the Bucs in takeaways since Week 5 with 15. They also rank fifth overall in the NFL with 67 points off 23 takeaways. The Bucs rank seventh overall in that department with 64 points off 20 takeaways.

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