Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Let’s hear it for the Buccaneers defense; best in the league of late

Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire

Back in the days of Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch, the men that made up the Buccaneers defense used to tell the offense “Give us 17 points and we’ll take care of the rest.’’

The men that currently make up the Buccaneers defense have been saying pretty much the same thing to the offense, but if they wanted to do they could actually lower the bar a bit.

The Bucs have won five straight during a period in which their offense has struggled because the defense has been playing as well as any in the league in the most critical areas.

For example, a Bucs defense that began the season allowing an average of 34.5 points per game through the first month has allowed an average of just 12.8 points per game during the streak, tops in the league.

How have the Bucs become so stingy? Well, there are several reasons. One of the biggest, though, is their dominance in goal-to-go situations or plays inside their own 10-yard line.

After shutting out the Saints in that area of the field during their 16-11 victory on Sunday, the Bucs have allowed just two touchdowns in seven goal-to-go situations the last five games.

As that stat suggests, the Bucs aren’t even allowing their opponents to get into goal-to-go situations much these days, and that is largely a result of their sudden penchant for taking the ball away.

After recording just two takeaways in their first four games, third-fewest in the league during that span, the Bucs have taken the ball away 14 times during their five-game winning streak.

That’s the most in the league over that span, and with the offense doing its part to avoid giveaways, the Bucs have produced the league’s best turnover ratio over the last five games with a plus-9 mark.

With all those takeaways you would expect that opposing quarterbacks are probably producing some rather lower passer rating figures, and that has indeed been the case of late.

The Bucs, who limited Russell Wilson and Seahawks to just five points and Saints quarterback Drew Brees without a touchdown, have limited opposing QBs to a 62.5 rating the last five games, lowest in the league over that span.

Oh, and that number they did on Brees on Sunday was pretty special. The Bucs became only the second team (joining Houston last year) to deny the Saints a touchdown during the Brees-Sean Peyton era.

In addition, they limited Brees to just 257 passing yards and a 61.0-completion percentage, both season lows, while allowing him to produce a 48.5 passer rating that was his worst since he produced a 37.6 mark against the Falcons on Nov. 29, 2011.

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