What Got Into The Bucs?

A look into how Tampa Bay went from 3-13 last year to 7-3 this season.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Wednesday, November 24th, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Categories: 2010 Season, Ryan Mink, Week 12 vs Buccaneers

How does a team go from 3-13 one season to 7-3 the next?
 
There are many reasons, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ complete reversal essentially comes down to four factors : winning the turnover battle, running the ball, pulling out close games and youthful impacts.
 
That’s a winning formula in the NFL, making the Bucs a more-than legitimate threat heading into M&T Bank Stadium Sunday.
 
“It’s not a fluke,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s just a really talented football team, and they’re for real. So, it’s going to be a heck of a game here come Sunday afternoon.”
 
Perhaps the most drastic change in Tampa Bay has been in the turnover column.
 
Last season, the Bucs’ Josh Freeman had the worst interception rate of any NFL quarterback who played at least eight games. He threw an interception once every 16 attempts. This season, Freeman has thrown an interception once every 58 attempts, one of the best percentages in the league.
 
On the other side of the ball, the Buccaneers rank second in the NFL with 15 defensive interceptions. Cornerback Aqib Talib leads the team with five and veteran corner Ronde Barber has three.
 
Tampa Bay has improved its run game, largely due to the addition of rookie LeGarrette Blount, whom they picked up after he was cut by Tennessee. Blount, the team’s leading-rusher, has added more physicality to a backfield already containing the playmaking Cadillac Williams.

The Bucs have gone from 23rd in the NFL in average yards per rush (4.0) to 12th this year (4.3).
 
“This running back, LeGarrette Blount, is a downhill masher,” Harbaugh said. “Cadillac Williams, he’s one of the premier backs in the league, and he’s become kind of a third-down option for them. So, he’s playing really well.”
 
The Buccaneers have been winning the close games. Last year, they were 1-3 in games decided by three points or less. This season, they are 4-0 in such contests. All four wins have come via fourth-quarter comebacks and two wins have come in the final 10 seconds.
 
Tampa Bay is buoyed by a core of young impact players on offense, who have blossomed perhaps quicker than expected. Rookie wide receiver Mike Williams (43 receptions, 681 yards, 6 touchdowns) was a fourth-round draft pick. Blount went undrafted after being suspended at Oregon last year. And Freeman has shown great maturity in his second year.
 
The Bucs currently have the youngest roster in the NFL and are led by the league’s youngest head coach, Raheem Morris.
 
“They are a young, aggressive football team that believes in themselves,” Harbaugh said.

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