Contrary to what the popular phrase suggests, practice does not make perfect. Not in the NFL it doesn’t. A good practice can, however, make a difference, and the Bucs are a good example of just how much of a difference it can make
Winners of two straight and four of their last six, the Bucs have been playing some of their best football of the season the last month and a half and their improved practice habits may be the reason, according to coach Dirk Koetter.
“You can definitely see it on film,’’ Koetter said Friday after the Bucs wrapped up a week of practice in preparation for their game Sunday against Seattle at Raymond James Stadium. “Since the bye week, our practices have definitely taken a step up from a tempo standpoint.’’
“From a coaching standpoint, you are always trying to increase the tempo in practice, but it’s really got to come from the players, because when the players start to do it, you know things are looking up and we’ve seen that here lately.’’
According to one player, it was seen in particular a week ago during safety Chris Conte’s fourth-quarter interception of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith in the end zone.
Conte picked off Smith several steps inside the end zone and instead of accepting the touchback he brought the ball out and ran it back 53 yards to the 48 to set up the Bucs game-winning touchdown.
“We didn’t quit on that play,’’ defensive end Will Gholston said. “The interception was phenomenal but then we just started blocking for him, just like we have been in practice.
“And that’s what allowed him to get the return and set up the offense. We’ve really started to transition well from the way we’re practicing to how we play in the games.’’
Those new practice habits are in turn creating game-winning situations. For example, after a slow start in the turnover area, the Bucs have become one of the league’s best takeaways teams.
With Conte’s pick and a fumble recovery last week at Kansas City, the Bucs have now taken the ball away 15 times in their last six games, the most in the league over that span.
Thanks to the offense, which has given the ball away just six times the last six games, the Bucs also lead the league with a plus-10 turnover ratio over the last six games.
Again, it’s largely a result, Koetter said, of how the Bucs are practicing.
“We’re playing with a lot more confidence; we’re playing faster; we’re communicating better, and it starts with that,’’ Koetter said. “And we all know that success breeds success and confidence breeds confidence.’’