Bucs' Run Game Stuck In Reverse

December 5 - Tampa Bay's 29th ranked rushing game is averaging only 79.7 yards per game this season thanks in part to the negative runs of Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott. Dunn leads the team with an astounding 23 runs for a loss this season, and 32 percent of his carries this year have gone for a loss or no gain.

The poor performance by Tampa Bay's offensive line this year has greatly contributed to the Bucs' woeful running game, which is ranked 29th in the NFL - just ahead of 0-11 Detroit and 1-10 Carolina. But the offensive line doesn't bear all of the burden all of the time. Sometimes the Bucs running backs will try to venture away from their blocks, especially if there is no hole that the play called for, in search of an opening elsewhere.

"There are a lot of different causes," said Bucs coach Tony Dungy about Tampa Bay's struggling running game. "Sometimes it was a blocking assignment, sometimes, we want to check a run a certain way, and it went the wrong way. Sometimes we're just trying to make too much happen. Instead of going up there and taking our three yards. We're trying to make the big run. There are a lot of different reasons, but we've got to get those negative runs eliminated."

Starting tailback Warrick Dunn has really hurt the running game this year by giving up on the called play too early, straying from his lead blocker or the direction where the play is supposed to go, and freelance. Dunn, who has admitted that he is looking for the big play too much, only has 338 yards on 119 carries (2.8 average), and leads the team in negative runs this year with 23 runs for loss. Those negative runs account for 19 percent of Dunn's runs this season.

Dunn also has 15 carries for no gain, which accounts for almost 13 percent of his rushes. Combined, Dunn has 38 carries for no gain or for a loss, which represents 32 percent of his carries. That means that almost one out of every three of Dunn's carries goes for no gain or a loss.

Dunn was slightly above his average last week at Cincinnati when he had seven runs for a loss and one run for no gain in his 21 carries. Combined, that means 38 percent of Dunn's runs went for no gain or a loss against the Bengals. His eight runs for no gain or loss at Cincinnati was his worst game from a negative rushing standpoint.

Against Chicago earlier this season, Dunn had three runs for no gain and two runs for a loss. After the Bucs lost to the Bears, Dunn was asked to explain Tampa Bay's wretched team rushing performance - 19 yards on 15 carries.

"Horrible. You can blame me for a big part of the problem," said Dunn, who had 12 yards on eight carries against Chicago. "I'm not playing well enough to make the situation better. I can't blame my injury because I'm out there playing. It's about me not producing. My timing has been off and I need to do something about that."

Bucs fullback Mike Alstott has also had his share of negative runs or runs for no gain, but not to the degree that Dunn has. Alstott has rushed for 399 yards on 105 carries (3.8 average) and has a combined 19 carries for a loss or no gain. That means that 18 percent of all of Alstott's carries don't gain positive yardage, but that is significantly less than Dunn's 32 percent.

The big discrepancy comes from the negative rushes. Dunn has 23 carries for a loss, which represents 19 percent of his total rushes, while Alstott only has seven carries for a loss this season, which computes to 6 percent of his rushes.

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