While the team’s recent issues have some blaming the quarterback, what’s gone wrong for the supposedly-fearsome Buccaneers’ defense?
Bruce Arians’ team has gotten plenty of attention the last few weeks as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have appeared in prime time in three of their last four contests. There was a 25-23 Monday night win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium followed by a humbling 38-3 setback at the hands of the rival New Orleans Saints on a Sunday evening at Raymond James Stadium. After rebounding for a 46-23 win at Carolina, the Bucs fell short at home this past Monday against the Rams, 27-24.
So Arians’ squad is 2-2 in their last four contests after winning five of their first seven games. Over the past three outings, veteran quarterback Tom Brady has looked somewhat ordinary. There have been just as many touchdown passes (5) as interceptions. In his first eight games, the 21-year pro threw for 20 scores and was picked off only four times. And the head coach has had his share of comments regarding the quarterback’s struggles (via The Athletic’s Greg Auman).
But what has happened as of late to a Tampa Bay defense regarded as one of the best in the league? Todd Bowles’ unit ranked fifth in the league in fewest total yards allowed and was tops in the league against the run entering Week 12. Keep in mind that this was a unit that came a long way last season in the coordinator’s first year on the job. The Buccaneers surrendered only 10 offensive touchdowns in their final six games after giving up 31 such scores during the club’s 3-7 start.
This year, it appears the opposite is happening. During the team’s 5-2 start, Arians’ club allowed a somewhat-respectable 142 points and just 14 offensive touchdowns. But in the team’s last four contests, the Bucs have surrendered the same amount of offensive TDs (11 of those 14 scores through the air) and 111 points.
It’s safe to say that Brady, Arians, and the 7-4 Buccaneers will have their hands at home with the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon. Not unless Bowles’ defense comes up with the kind of effort that made Aaron Rodgers and the Packers look bad in October. In any case, the Tampa Bay defense may bear more watching than Brady and the offensive side of the ball.