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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs' Mike Smith on failing defense: 'The sky is not falling.'

Mike Smith said a big part of the problem is the growing pains that come with a new system and players have taken turns making mistakes.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Mike Smith said a big part of the problem is the growing pains that come with a new system and players have taken turns making mistakes.

29

September

Mike Smith can find a 101 reasons why the Bucs defense has given up the most points in the first three games of the season in club history.

Poor execution, mental breakdowns, missed tackles and bad calls have all contributed to the league's worst defense in points allowed with an average of 33.7 per game.

But the Bucs defensive coordinator said despite allowing a combined 101 points to the Falcons, Cardinals and Rams, the situation is not as dire as it appears.

“Let me tell you this: the sky is not falling,'' Smith said Thursday. "That’s for sure. I know everybody is frustrated in terms of what we have put out there the first three games, nobody more than me. It’s not any one player’s fault, it’s not any one coach’s fault, it’s my responsibility to make sure our guys understand what we’re trying to get accomplished. And we have not played the type of football that we need to play in the first three football games. We’ve given up way too many explosive plays and it is a handful of plays, but that’s what the NFL is all about.

"You can’t go back and say, “I wish I had that third-and-18 call back. Or I wish that fit had been better.' We’ve got to keep grinding as a staff. We have to keep grinding as a group. I think we’ve done that at times. I think we’ve been inconsistent at different periods of the game.
“Not to rehash the first three games, but there are times when we look like we’re going to play good defense and then there are times when you’re like, “Oh my God,’ and you’re scratching your head. And I’m going, “How in the heck did that just happen?''

Smith said a big part of the problem is the growing pains that come with a new system and players have taken turns making mistakes. Take the 37-32 loss to the Rams Sunday. It was a bad run fit on third-and-18. A blown assignment on a long touchdown pass. A curious blitz on third-and-2 in the fourth quarter that didn't get home.

“Oh there’s a lot of growing pains,'' Smith said. "This is on a completely different spectrum from what these guys are accustomed to. The language and all that. We’re playing for real now.

“You’re going to be judged as a defense ultimately by the number of points you give up. It doesn’t matter where the drive started, how it happened. We’ve got to go out and stop them and we haven’t shown the resiliency. Especially at the end of the half. We did not play well, especially when we had an opportunity to stop. We’ve got to get a stop. I’ve got to call a better game. We’ve got to execute better across the board. But we’re all in this together. There’s one man responsible for it and that’s me.''

[Last modified: Thursday, September 29, 2016 5:47pm]

    

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