Saturday, July 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Koetter shows no confidence in Bucs defense; why should anyone?

TAMPA — A Bucs fan named Randy Flynn had a pretty funny joke on Twitter during Tampa Bay's 43-28 loss to the Falcons on Thursday night.

In the glory days, Bucs defensive great Warren Sapp used to ask the offense to just give him 17 points and Tampa Bay would find a way to win. What does current defensive tackle Gerald McCoy ask this Bucs offense for — 50?

Okay, so if you're a Bucs fan, it's not all that funny. And if you're coach Dirk Koetter, it must be downright irritating. But it has a ring of truth to it. Tampa Bay's defense can't stop anyone.

Tampa Bay has slipped to 3-5 and the prospects of a second-half turnaround don't seem very promising when the defense looks like butter and every other offense looks like a hot knife.

Five days after giving up 513 passing yards to the Raiders' Derek Carr in an overtime loss, the Bucs offered no resistance as the Falcons and quarterback Matt Ryan sliced through Tampa Bay's secondary. Remember, it wasn't long ago that the Bucs defense was stifling the Panthers and the 49ers. Then again, with the Panthers' Cam Newton injured, the Bucs didn't exactly go up against elite quarterbacks.

This has to be the biggest concern for Tampa Bay: It can't stop a team with a better-than-average quarterback. And you get the sense even Koetter knows it.

Here's all you need to know about that:

In the second quarter, the Bucs trailed 10-7. On third and 7 from the Tampa Bay 23, Ryan threw an incomplete pass. On the play, the Falcons were called for a 15-yard facemask penalty.

Most coaches take the penalty, right? Push the other team back. Make a stop. Force a punt.

But instead of accepting the penalty and giving Atlanta a third and 22 from the 38-yard line, Tampa Bay declined the penalty. That meant Atlanta's Matt Bryant only had to kick a 41-yarder for a field goal, and 41-yard field goals are pretty much automatic for anyone not named Roberto Aguayo.

You have to believe Koetter didn't trust his defense to stop Atlanta, and that he was more than happy to give the Falcons three points instead of risk giving up seven on the drive.

At that point, you knew the only chance Tampa Bay had was to win a shootout.

That never happened.

Quarterback Jameis Winston played better than he did in Sunday's loss to Oakland and still couldn't muster enough points to challenge Atlanta.

The Bucs' season is now, officially, half over. The question: Is the glass half-empty or half-full? We've seen teams make the playoffs with an 8-8 record. Heck, two years ago, the Panthers won the NFC South (the Bucs' division) with a 7-8-1 record. But even going 5-3 in the second half seems impossible with the way Tampa Bay's defense plays.

Objectively looking at the Bucs' second-half schedule, there is only one game that even resembles a layup and that's next week against the 2-6 Bears. That's the one game in which you would assume the Bucs would be favorites.

The rest of the schedule looks daunting: road games against the Chiefs, Chargers, Cowboys and Saints; home games against the Seahawks, Saints and Panthers.

What makes that schedule so ominous? It's filled with quarterbacks who can throw the football — something the Bucs can't seem to stop these days.

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