The Bucs defense has had many issues this season. Sure, statistically, they might be considered a top 10 defense, but anyone with a pair of functioning eyeballs can see that's a fallacy. The Bucs' "top 10 defense" also gives up the most points per game within those top 10 defenses at 25.3 points per game, which is in the bottom 10 in the NFL this season.
Another alarming statistic is that the Bucs defense is giving up an astounding 69.5% completions to opposing quarterbacks this season, which is the worst any defense has given up this season. It's worse than the Saints, and it's worse than the Giants. The good news is that it's not really a big deal to the Bucs' head coach.
“First off, the completion rating can be misleading," Lovie Smith said on Monday. "You have to look at the context of how it’s happening. I don’t really go by that an awful lot. You can dump the ball off and get a one-yard gain and there’s a completion so I don’t put a lot into that.”
That's a cute way to try and make your defense sound a little better, but the harsh reality is that the Bucs are giving up over 6 yards per pass attempt. If opposing quarterbacks are completing 70% of their passes against the defense, the math just doesn't add up in a positive way for Lovie Smith and HIS defense.
Another statistic that tells the story of the Bucs season defensively is that the Buccaneers are 1 of only 5 teams to allow an opposing quarterback rating of over 100 this season. The other teams who allow this same staggering rate are the Saints, Lions, Browns, and Titans, none of which are even close to playoff teams. Oh, and it might help to point out that the Bucs have not faced Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford, or Phillip Rivers this season...all of which are among the league leaders in QB rating.
To counter that point, the Bucs have faced the following quarterbacks and given up very high passer ratings to them:
Week 1 - Marcus Mariota - 158.3
Week 12 - Matt Hasselbeck - 100.8
Week 15 - Case Keenum - 158.0
Week 16 - Jay Cutler - 100.8
All four of these quarterbacks have a lower season QB rating than Josh McCown, if that tells you anything.
The Bucs need better talent on defense, but they also need new energy and better coaching as well. Lovie Smith has missed on several hand-picked free agents to help his defense over the past two off-seasons, which has led to him saying his defense is now a finished product, yet.
“It’s not a finished product," Lovie said. "When I say it’s not a finished product, the way you get a finished product is, first off, you have to have the type of player that you are looking for in every position. We’re not there yet. When I talk about not being able to rush one-on-one and beat someone or cover, it’s that. You can’t put that with all the other defenses we’ve had. It’s just not as simple as that. You continue to build and you strengthen some positions and we need to strengthen more. After 15 weeks that’s the conclusion I’ve come to.”
Funny, but if Lovie's hand-picked free agents of Michael Johnson, Alterraun Verner, Mike Jenkins, Chris Conte, Major Wright, etc...would have worked out, he'd probably be singing a different tune. Of course, if Darrelle Revis would have just fit into his specific and complicated defense, which has taken the current players two years to still not master, Lovie might be singing a different tune as well.
I know, I know, Lovie hasn't gotten any high draft picks on defense. Well, I've got news for you, the Bucs have struck gold over the past two years in having their draft picks come in and immediately contribute. That isn't always the case. To rely on rookies to fully fix the problem on defense during the 2016 season is a naive approach. If anything, rookies will likely make more mistakes as they try to learn Lovie's complicated defense, thus making the Bucs defense worse in 2016 with rookies than it was this year with players who have been in the system for 2+ years.
Keep making your excuses, Lovie.
Stats may be for losers, but with these type of statistics piling up, we can all understand why the Bucs have turned back into losers again this season.