Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As Bucs bet on Winston & Koetter, champion Broncos double down on defense

TAMPA

Drop back. Throw it. Throw it deep. Throw it often.

Welcome to today's NFL, where the best way to get from Point A to Point B is by throwing the football. And the best way to go from bottom of the league to the top is by racking up the points.

Get yourself a franchise quarterback. That's how you win. Get yourself a Cam Newton or an Aaron Rodgers or a Ben Roethlisberger.

Have a coaching opening? Think offense. Hire a Dirk Koetter or a Bill O'Brien, quarterback whisperers who know how to dial up splash plays, who know how to light up scoreboards. Score. Score. Score.

That will win you ball games. Lots of ball games.

And how do you win a Super Bowl?

Hit the brakes!

That's a whole different story. If you want to win a championship, you better get yourself a defense. Case in point: The team rolling into Raymond James Stadium today to take on the Bucs. The Denver Broncos are living and breathing and sacking proof that defense beats offense and defense overcomes a bad offense.

Flash back to last season.

The Broncos had an aging Peyton Manning, who looked like he should have put on that Easy-Like-Sunday-Morning robe sometime in November. Yet with Manning flailing around behind center, the Broncos beat two of the best quarterbacks in football — New England's Tom Brady and Pittsburgh's Big Ben — just to reach the Super Bowl, where they took on the league's most potent offense, as well as its most explosive offensive player, Cam Newton.

Though their old geezer of a quarterback threw for just 141 yards and though the Broncos amassed a paltry 194 yards of offense and though they converted one of 14 third downs and punted eight times, the Broncos won. By two touchdowns!

Just goes to show that you can have a below-average quarterback with a substandard offense and still be a dominating champion.

And, oh, speaking of Peyton Manning, back in 2013 he threw for a league-best 5,477 yards and a 55 touchdowns. Yet his No. 1-rated offense lost in the Super Bowl to the No. 1-rated defense from Seattle. And it wasn't even close.

Which makes you wonder: Which way is truly the best way to win in the NFL?

"It has never changed," said CBS analyst Solomon Wilcots, who will call today's Bucs-Broncos game. "Even when they change the rules, it never changes. Defense wins."

The league loves offense. The fans love offense. Offense is what makes football fun and the league has a slew of exciting quarterbacks who chew up yards and pile up points.

"I've always said that defensive coaches innovate the game," Wilcots said. "Offensive coaches don't innovate. Know what they do in order to have a spike in scoring and a spike in offensive production? They change the rules. They don't ever change the rules to make sure the defense has an advantage. But you look back over time, and you need to have that great defense."

NFL history is full of teams that won championships almost solely on defense with quarterbacks who merely functioned just not to lose games. The 1985 Bears, the 2000 Ravens, even the 2002 Bucs were defense-first with quarterbacks who did just enough to win.

"And that Bucs team played against a Raiders team (in the Super Bowl) that had the best offense in the league," Wilcots said. "And the Bucs dominated them. Seems like none of those games are close."

Just look at what the Broncos are doing this year again.

Manning retired and the thought was the Broncos would turn over the team to last year's part-time starter Brock Osweiler. But when Osweiler bolted for Houston, the Broncos drafted Paxton Lynch with the 26th pick in the draft and acquired veteran journeyman Mark Sanchez.

Yet they come in to Tampa Bay with previously unknown Trevor Siemian, a 2015 seventh-round pick. And how have things worked out? The Broncos are 3-0, having knocked off three pretty solid quarterbacks in Newton, Indianapolis' Andrew Luck and Cincinnati's Andy Dalton.

What makes it all so impressive is that the architect of this punishing defense-first Broncos team is John Elway, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

"Even a blue-chip quarterback like himself had to admit that you cannot put it on one guy, no matter how good that quarterback is," Wilcots said. "That coordinator on the defensive side and his 11 guys are going to figure out a way to stop that one piece on the chessboard."

Wilcots points out that Elway went out and spent a bank-vault worth of money on defensive stars such as Von Miller, Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward.

"I mean, that's doubling down on defense," Wilcots said. "And on offense, he is going with a kid."

The formula looks as unbeatable as a year ago, and it's just the latest in a demanding gauntlet for the Bucs.

"This is a great team, it's a great franchise and who else should we play but these guys?" Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston said. "We've got them and then we've got Carolina in back-to-back weeks. When you look at that stretch with Arizona, the Rams, Denver, and Carolina — arguably, the best defenses in the whole NFL. So, it's a challenge and that's what all of us have got to come together and just be like, 'We take on this challenge.' This is a great opportunity that we're given."

Here's the scary part for Tampa Bay: The Broncos defense that was so dominant a season ago might be even better this season. Maybe someday, the Bucs will be just like them.

"You just recognize that they are a great defense," Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "Not good, they're a great defense, and it's because of their discipline. So if you do take anything from them it's just, look at how disciplined they are and look at how it's paid off. It got them a Super Bowl."

Great defenses. They have gotten a lot of teams a Super Bowl.

Comments
Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

Five options if the Bucs want to trade down from No. 7

For months, NFL fans have wondered what the Bucs might do with the No. 7 pick in Thursday's draft, producing a wide range of answers, each with passionate support from some of their fans.But as draft nears, and as the interest level in a talented gro...
Published: 04/24/18
Could Washington DT Vita Vea be the Bucs’ real target at No. 7 in the draft?

Could Washington DT Vita Vea be the Bucs’ real target at No. 7 in the draft?

Vita VeaPosition: Defensive tackleSchool: WashingtonHeight/weight: 6-4, 347Draft projection: Round 1Why Vita Vea makes sense for the Bucs: Vea's combination of size and quick feet is rare. He ran a 5.1 40-yard dash and bench pressed 225 pounds 40 tim...
Published: 04/24/18
Important questions and answers about Bucs’ draft parrot

Important questions and answers about Bucs’ draft parrot

The final days leading up to the NFL draft can be a busy time, but rarely do you call someone you trust from a team and say: "What can you tell me about the parrot?"Yes, the Bucs will have a parrot — specifically a Catalina macaw named Zsa Zsa ...
Published: 04/24/18
Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Garcia doesn’t care about NFL draft: ‘I have a life’

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Garcia doesn’t care about NFL draft: ‘I have a life’

So much of the attention Monday surrounding the Bucs' announcing who'd be announcing their late-round draft picks was, of course, that a parrot would be delivering the name of the fourth-round pick to the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium.But late...
Published: 04/24/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Breaking down the NFL draft with Sam Farmer

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Breaking down the NFL draft with Sam Farmer

On today's Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast, Rick Stroud breaks down the NFL draft with the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer.Farmer coordinates a mock draft with beat writers around the league, and it's usually one of the most accurate prognostications...
Published: 04/24/18
NFL Draft: Date, time, TV schedule and draft order for the April 26-28 draft

NFL Draft: Date, time, TV schedule and draft order for the April 26-28 draft

The NFL Draft starts Thursday from Arlington, Texas, with coverage of the first round beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Here's a look at the broadcast schedule for all three days and the draft order for every round:Schedule(all times Eastern)Thursday, April 26...
Published: 04/24/18
Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Polly want a sacker: Bucs’ 4th-round draft pick to be delivered by parrot

Late-round NFL draft picks are often made on a wing and a prayer.The Bucs' fourth-round pick Saturday will be no different. The team announced Monday that as part of the NFL draft TV broadcast, the team's fourth-round pick will be delivered to an ann...
Published: 04/23/18
How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

TAMPA — The buzz surrounding this year's NFL draft is a class of talented quarterbacks deep enough to challenge the record six taken in the first round in 1983, a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.Th...
Published: 04/22/18
Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Former NFL kicker Jay Feely, who was born in Odessa and starred at Tampa Jesuit, has apologized for a photo he intended as a joke, showing him holding a gun as he poses with his daughter and her prom date."Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a...
Published: 04/22/18
Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

TAMPA — Shaquem Griffin wakes up knowing each day will be better than the last and barely able to wait until tomorrow."It's just a whirlwind,'' Griffin said.On Thursday, he will walk the red carpet with his family, including his twin brother, S...
Published: 04/21/18