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Todd Bowles on the Bucs woeful defense: "We’ve got to fix it.''

Tampa Bay is allowing 31.5 points per game, second only to the Miami Dolphins
Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles believes getting young talent to play better, including rookie Jamel Dean, is just one step to improving the unit's performance. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 7
Updated Nov. 7

TAMPA — Halfway through the 2019 season, the Bucs defense is allowing 31.5 points per game.

That’s the biggest reason why the team is 2-6.

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles started four rookies in last Sunday’s 40-34 loss at Seattle. But the team’s lowly points allowed ranking — just one notch above the 32nd rank Mimi Dolphins — doesn’t concern him as much as improving enough to win games.

“It’s frustrating losing,'' Bowles said Thursday. "We’ve got to win. It’s frustrating losing, it’s not so much of being a top defensive coach, it’s about getting these guys experience and getting them to play together more than anything. For me, it’s about losing. If we win these ballgames, it’s not a factor. We’ve got to make sure we cut down on the mental mistakes. Getting beat physically, that’s one thing. But getting beat mentally, and beating ourselves, that’s what we’ve got to stop.

“We’ve got to keep the score down one point lower than the offense scores, whether that’s 10-9 or 31-30. You want them to play great defense. You don’t want them to get into the end zone. But when they get in the red zone, we’ve to convert more field goals than touchdowns and I think that’s where we’ve got to get better.''

The Bucs are playing on an uneven football field. Tampa Bay’s offense is fourth in the NFL in scoring, averaging 28.8 points per game.

But a young secondary that has been torched by opposing quarterbacks for an average of 293 passing yards per game, second only to the Raiders. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw five touchdown passes ― three over the head of rookie cornerback Jamel Dean.

“It’s a little bit of everything,'' Bowles said. "We’ve just got to fix it. We’ve got to make plays. It’s a play here or there. Sometimes we play well then one guy messes up whether it’s mental or physical and then they costs us the ball game. We’ve got to make plays and we’ve got to make sure we’re focused the whole time. They play hard. There’s no complaint there. They come with a lot of energy, there’s not a complaint there. We’ve just got to make plays. Football is about making plays. We either make them or we don’t.’’


  1. Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (26) is part of a young core of defensive backs the Bucs hope will solve their long-running pass defense problems. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    John Romano: Could Sean Murphy-Bunting and the young Bucs finally be the answer?
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon III Hargreaves kneels in the end zone after a Nov. 13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He was cut by the Bucs and picked up by the Texans. JOHN FROSCHAUER  |  AP
    A day after the Bucs release the former first-round pick, he finds a home.
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith, seen here celebrating after breaking up a pass during a preseason game against the Miami Dolphins, was dismayed that fellow cornerback Vernon Hargreaves was released by the Bucs. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    The reaction to the release of the former 2016 first-round pick ranged from dismay to acceptance.
  4. Bucs punter Bradley Pinion (8) and his wife, launched their "Punts for Pups" program in partnership with the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center where they'll sponsor a dog for every punt he kicks within the 20-yard line. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The Buccaneers punter and his wife will cover the fees of adopting a dog at the shelter every time he drops a punt inside the 20.
  5. Nearly 40 high school teams, including Durant and Sickles, and more than 1,000 girls participated in the Bucs inaugural flag football tournament earlier this year. Now the team has created an academic scholarship fund for girls who play.
    The team’s foundation has created a national scholarship fund for girls who play football.
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (27) enters the field at Raymond James Stadium before the start of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, November 10, 2019, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Last week’s game at Raymond James was the lowest-attended Bucs game in the stadium’s history. What’s your take on dwindling attendance?
  7. Vernon Hargreaves was the Bucs' first-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft. On Tuesday, the Bucs released him. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    Rick Stroud: He didn’t hustle and they didn’t want to be hustled
  8. Linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59) and the Houston Texans will play the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 21. ERIC CHRISTIAN SMITH  |  AP
    The league previously left the game’s date and time undetermined.
  9. Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett runs past Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III in a game earlier this month. Before being released by the team Tuesday, Hargreaves produced one interception, four passes defensed and 39 tackles in nine games. SCOTT EKLUND  |  AP
    With the team releasing Vernon Hargreaves, only one of the seven players selected by Tampa Bay remains on the current roster
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon III Hargreaves (28) on the field during warmups before the Bucs game against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium on September 8, 2019 in Tampa, FL. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Tampa Bay selected the former Florida Gators and Wharton High star with the 11th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft.