TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Forcing turnovers has been a bright spot for the Buccaneers, with them now up to 13 takeaways on the season, which is tied for third-most in the NFL.
They’re also ranked sixth in the league for fewest points allowed, averaging 17.3 points per game. One area they believe they can tighten up, though, is not giving up big plays in critical moments, like at the end of the Falcons game to Kyle Pitts.
“Every week, you don’t want to give up explosives,” said Bucs’ co-defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach Larry Foote. “We’ve got to play together. We’ve got to communicate. From a defensive guy – defensive standpoint – we’ve got to keep the score down. We want to be the difference. We want to make that play. Young guys are learning. A couple plays really dictate every game. Even if you win going away, there’s still two plays, three plays here that dictate the outcome of the game. We’ve got to be focused. You’ve got 60 minutes.”
“In order for us to be the defense that we want ourselves to be, we’ve got to have not a perfect game but a near-perfect game where we don’t give up big plays like that,” said Bucs’ outside linebacker Shaq Barrett. “We could have plays that we might make a mistake and give up 10-15 yards, but not big 30, 40-yard gains and stuff like that – long-distance touchdowns. I think we can do that. We have the capabilities. Our coaches put us in the right position, and we can execute when we’re out there, and I think we’ll be able to get it done.”
Third down is another area the Bucs’ defense would like to see improvements going forward.
“Getting them into third and longer situations but then also making sure that we execute on third downs when we get in those situations, making sure we make the play so we can get off the field,” said Bucs’ safety Antoine Winfield Jr. “That’s all you can really do – try to make it third-and-long as much as possible and then execute at the same time.”
Winfield Jr. is coming off another huge performance, highlighted by the hustle play of the game, forcing the fumble on Falcons’ quarterback Desmond Ridder in the 4th quarter, exemplifying the effort the whole team is striving for every play.
“I was just trying to get there,” Winfield Jr. said. “Push him out of bounds or something, and I just seen the ball, and then I had a perfect opportunity to kind of come in there and punch it out and just got it in the nick of time.”
“With his play, he’s a leader,” Foote said. “He demonstrates that on a week-to-week basis. What a better way to learn – to see our best player make that play. That should raise the standard for everybody – all the young guys. If our best player is fighting, defending every blade of grass, everybody should be doing it. That’s the example. It’s better to show it than talk about it.”
“That’s what we need – all 11 guys doing that,” Barrett said. “That’s how we get to where we need to get as a defense – chasing plays down from no matter where you’re at. You’ve got to believe you can make that play; take an angle to make the play. That’s what I’ve been trying to do better. Everybody on the defense is trying to do better – been harping at it at practice because there was one play in the Detroit game that didn’t look too good, and that’s not who we were. That’s not who we want to be. We don’t ever want to put stuff like that on film again.”