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The Buccaneers defence has made them a potential playoff contender

Credit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Credit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defence has risen to new heights, with them guiding their team closer and closer to playoff contention after a 14-5 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night.

A few weeks ago, it seemed like the Buccaneers were going nowhere – with the Atlanta Falcons embarrassing the now red-hot franchise with a dominant 43-28 victory. The Bucs held a 3-5 record, and with the defence playing poorly things didn’t look so great for Tampa Bay. That hasn’t been the case as of late, with their defence stepping up and guiding them to 3-straight victories over the Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, and most recently the Seahawks to improve to a 6-5 record – the first time they’ve been over .500 since 2012. In addition to creating a 3-game winning streak, the franchise has kept themselves only a game behind the NFC South leading Atlanta Falcons and a game back of the Washington Redskins for the last Wild Card spot.

The Buccaneers’ success lies within the combined effort of their defensive unit, who’ve only allowed 32 total points in their last 3 games. With guys like Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David leading the way, it feels like the Bucs’ defence has found an attitude and energy that they haven’t possessed since their Super Bowl-winning days in the early 2000s. Despite not having the total defensive talent of some of the most dominant defensive teams in the NFL, Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter has found a way to revitalize this defence into one of the more stingy units in the NFL.

Coming into their game on Sunday, the Bucs’ defensive unit knew that they were going to be tested – with the Seahawks averaging just under 30 points per game throughout their 3-game winning streak It’s safe to say that the unit did a great job against the a Seattle offence; holding the NFC West leaders to a mere 245 total yards through 60 minutes of action. The Buccaneers gave their fans something to cheer about, constantly making big play after big play to take down a tough Seahawks team that was ready to battle.

 

In the 1st quarter it was the Bucs’ offence that took control, with Jameis Winston and Mike Evans connecting on 2 early TDs to give their squad a 14-0 lead. Things would take a negative turn in the 2nd for the Buccaneers, with the offence giving up a safety – leading to 2 points, great field position, and an eventual 43-yard FG to cut the lead to 9. Unfortunately for the Seahawks those events would be their only highlights of the day, since the Buccaneers’ defence would start to build momentum by causing problems for Russell Wilson in the pocket.

With 0:55 remaining in the 2nd quarter, the Seahawks were on the verge of getting a quick score to continue their comeback. Wilson received the snap, but the pocket started to collapse; hurrying the Seahawks QB into throwing an interception to Alterraun Verner with 0:53 remaining in the 2nd quarter. It was a great read from a heavy-hearted Verner, who played despite being only 2 days removed from the death of his father. The Bucs’ offence would fail to score before the half, but the defence would continue to impress as the game went on.

In the late stages of the 3rd quarter, the Buccaneers prevented another good-looking Seahawks offensive drive; stopping Will Takuafu on a crucial 3rd down and 1 with 3:08 remaining. The defence would hold the Seahawks to 63 total yards in the 3rd, keeping the quarter scoreless while maintaining a 14-5 lead heading into the 4th. That’s when the Buccaneers would make their biggest plays of the game to ultimately improve their record to 6-5.

With 7:19 remaining in the final period, the Seahawks found themselves on the Buccaneers’ 27-yard line on 3rd down and 3. In the midst of a 36-yard drive, Wilson threw a quick 5-yard pass to Jimmy Graham. It seemed like Graham was going to be stopped short of the 1st down, but Vernon Hargreaves and Lavonte David saw an opportunity to hit the Seahawks’ tight end and ultimately cause a fumble. After a quick scramble for the ball, David would emerge and take the ball all the way down to the Seahawks’ 25-yard line for 53 yards with 7:19 left in the game. But once again, Tamp Bay’s offence would fail to score, giving Seattle one last shot at making a comeback.

The Seahawks would have their most progressive drive of the game, racking up 63 yards in the air to set themselves up in a good position to make things interesting with 1:35 remaining in the game. But the Buccaneers defence wasn’t going to allow their solid performance to get wrecked by a final drive, with Bradley McDougald coming up with a game-sealing interception to lock up the victory for his squad.

This Buccaneers defence hasn’t made it look pretty, but they’ve found ways to get things done and wreak havoc against opposing defences. They’ve now racked up 10 sacks, 5 interceptions, and 3 fumbles in their last 3 games – while holding opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 64.3. Their most impressive performance was this Sunday against the Seahawks, with their 5 points being the lowest allowed by a Tampa Bay defence since 2010.

It’s been a long time since a nearly sold-out crowd of 64,000 at Raymond Jones Stadium went wild, but this Buccaneers defence has managed to get their fan base back on its feet. Even though it wasn’t completely the case against Seattle, the offence has been consistent throughout the regular season; ranking 12th in the NFL. But it’s been the play of the defence that’s brought life into this franchise. With a unit that’s been rejuvenated and an offence that’s more than capable with Winston at the helm, this Tampa Bay team is forming into a legit playoff contender capable of making it to the postseason for the first time since 2007.


All stats for this article are from NFL.com

You can follow Peter Ash on Twitter @peterash_

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