TAMPA — Lost in its defense-driven three-game winning streak is the Bucs' sudden inability to score many touchdowns.
Well, it's not lost on coach Dirk Koetter. His team has produced three offensive touchdowns in its past two games. After scoring on two surgically executed series to start last week's 14-5 win over Seattle, the Bucs were shut out the rest of the way.
Against Kansas City two weeks ago, the Bucs kicked four field goals before a fourth-quarter touchdown put away a 19-17 win.
"Well, it's not a challenge, it's the truth," Koetter said of the touchdown drought. "The numbers always tell the story, and yeah, I'm still disappointed. I'm disappointed in myself. I've got to get us in better plays, and we take a lot of pride in that. Those first two drives (against the Seahawks) were exceptional, and then we had chances to put that game away, and thank God our defense played lights out or we'd all be a lot sadder."
As good as the defense is playing, and with as many turnovers as it is creating, Koetter knows more points on offense are needed today at San Diego. The Chargers rank third in the league in points scored, averaging 28.5 per game. Behind QB Philip Rivers, the Chargers have lost five games this season in which they have scored at least 22 points.
If the Bucs can drive inside the Chargers 10-yard line, however, they should be good to go. The Bucs have been one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL in goal-to-go situations, scoring a touchdown on 13-of-15 goal-to-go drives (86.7 percent), tied for the highest percentage in the NFL with Pittsburgh.
DO YOU HEAR ME NOW? Sometime between DE Robert Ayers telling his teammates to look in the mirror and stop being babies (to put it politely), and DT Gerald McCoy's tearful plea to become a family, the defense has turned a corner.
Not only has it rebounded from the 30-24 overtime loss to Oakland on Oct. 30 and a 43-28 loss to Atlanta five days later — allowing more than 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns between the two — the defense has thrived. The reason is better communication.
The blown coverages, bad run fits — they had a common link.
"That was the No. 1 thing we talked about in the little mini-bye coming out of the (Falcons) game," Koetter said. "We had too many times when the defense would be at the line of scrimmage and guys were palms up, 'What do I do?' And you can't be like that. They've got to be looking at the formation, playing their keys, knowing the tendencies by formation, and we have done a way, way, way better job the last few weeks."
The remedy was simple.
"There was a lack of actual talking," McCoy said. "There's nonverbal communication, and then there's verbal communication. We were actually not talking enough, like saying out loud what you thought the check was or what we were in. It was causing guys to make mistakes because they thought somebody was doing one thing and they were thinking another."
QUIZZ NO? RB Jacquizz Rodgers was expected to play today, but don't expect him to take many carries away from Doug Martin. With Charles Sims (knee injury) expected to be recalled for the final four games and rookie Peyton Barber, the team will have a crowded backfield again, though it's a nice problem to have.
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"That's going to be a little bit tricky working that out as we get healthier at running back," Koetter said. "We went from dire straits to an abundance of guys we like, and that's even going to get better next week, knock on wood, if we can stay healthy this week because we are going to get Charles Sims back next week (off injured reserve). So there will be a little trick to that."