Buccaneers’ abysmal area place not serving to a struggling offense

Probably the most irritating features of the Bucs’ struggles of their 6-7 document this season is that all the workforce is complicit.

Tampa Bay’s offense has taken a considerable step again — on target for not even half as many touchdowns because the workforce had a yr in the past — however the protection and particular groups have additionally had a hand in that, particularly within the full lack of quick fields to make life simpler for a struggling offense.

When the 49ers kicked off to open the second half Sunday, rookie receiver Deven Thompkins took the kickoff 54 yards to the San Francisco 44, Tampa Bay’s longest kickoff return in additional than a decade. It additionally ended a equally jarring drought, marking the primary time underneath any circumstances that the Bucs offense had began a drive in “plus territory” — on the pleasant aspect of the 50-yard line — since Week 4.

That is eight full video games with out a single return or turnover to provide the Bucs nice area place. And naturally, the Bucs offense took that uncommon alternative and gave it proper again to the 49ers, as on third down Tom Brady threw considered one of his two interceptions on the day.

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Subject place has been a nightmare for the Bucs all season. Contemplate landing drives of fifty yards or fewer. In 2020 on the way in which to a Tremendous Bowl championship, the Bucs had 18 such drives, most within the NFL. Final season, on the way in which to a 13-4 document and a division title, the Bucs had 16 such drives, second-most within the NFL.

This yr, the Bucs have one such drive, all season.

In 13 video games, they’ve one landing drive of fifty yards or fewer, matching Washington for the NFL low. Within the final 10 seasons, just one workforce has gone a whole season with just one landing drive of fifty yards or fewer — the 2016 Bears, who went 3-13. The Eagles have 13 such drives already this season. And the one one the Bucs have all yr was a largely meaningless rating, with an interception by Sean Murphy-Bunting with 5 minutes left in opposition to the Chiefs, trailing 41-24, to arrange a 34-yard landing drive.

The common size of a Bucs landing drive this season is 76 yards. That is 12 yards longer than Tampa Bay’s common within the Tremendous Bowl season, and an particularly lengthy solution to go when the Bucs have struggled to create huge performs.

What about quick fields that at the very least end in area targets? Certainly, there should be a few of these when accounting for the Bucs’ struggles within the crimson zone this season, proper? In no way. The Bucs have not had any scoring drive that began in opposing territory since Week 4, in opposition to the Chiefs. They’d one field-goal drive that began in plus territory in every of their first three video games, then the landing late in opposition to the Chiefs, and none in 9 video games — half a season — since then.

Tampa Bay’s opponents haven’t any such issues. They’ve had 10 scoring drives beginning in Bucs territory, a perform of poor kick protection and offensive turnovers by Tampa Bay, tied for the fifth-most within the NFL this season. The Chiefs had landing drives of 20 and 21 yards, as a consequence of Rachaad White fumbling the opening kickoff and Brady dropping a fumble on a sack. The Steelers returned a kickoff to the Bucs’ 12-yard line, establishing a simple area objective. Even that Bucs drive to open the second half Sunday went the opposite means, because the Brady interception arrange the 49ers on the Bucs’ 38, resulting in a landing two performs later.

That is shared to not take any important blame away from the Bucs offense, which has failed to maneuver the chains persistently irrespective of the place a drive begins this season. Scoring drives of 75-plus yards, with no assist from the protection or particular groups? The Bucs have 11 this yr, which ties for twenty fourth within the league. Final yr, that they had 26, third-most within the NFL, and in 2020, that they had 23, eighth-most. However this yr’s offensive issues have been exacerbated by having to go a lot farther to search out the top zone.

Bear in mind when “points off turnovers” was a factor? Nothing says complementary soccer just like the offense making the most of a defensive splash play to provide them the ball and convert it to factors. 

The Bucs as a workforce have seven whole factors off turnovers since Week 4 — over 9 video games. The one time they’ve transformed a takeaway into any factors was Devin White’s compelled fumble in opposition to Seattle in Munich, which led to an 87-yard landing drive (once more, it is by no means straightforward) for a 21-3 lead. To place it extra globally blunt, the Bucs have not scored a single level off a turnover whereas taking part in in the USA since Oct. 2.

To finish this on a barely constructive be aware, there’s precise cause to suppose there might be quick fields briefly order for the Bucs offense. Their remaining 4 opponents — the Bengals, Cardinals, Panthers and Falcons — all have allowed opponents to start out at the very least 16 drives in plus territory, all rating among the many NFL’s 10 worst on this statistic. They’ve allowed a mixed 43 scoring drives that began on their aspect of the sector, virtually one per sport. 

So the Bucs offense ought to — OK, might — catch a much-needed break in some unspecified time in the future within the last month of the season.

Greg Auman is FOX Sports activities’ NFC South reporter, protecting the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He’s in his tenth season protecting the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having frolicked on the Tampa Bay Occasions and The Athletic. You possibly can observe him on Twitter at @gregauman.

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