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Keys to the Buccaneers' Success

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have shown us the good, the bad and the ugly at one point or another through 10 weeks of the 2020 NFL season. The New Orleans Saints have been their kryptonite. Unfortunately for them, that makes being in the same division all the more troublesome.

Rebounding from a poor performance has proven to be a vital trait for any successful team in today’s NFL. Coming off the blowout loss to the Saints in Week 9, Tampa was able to turn it around and stage a convincing win over the up-and-coming Carolina Panthers.

Let’s take a look at which variables ultimately determine whether the Buccaneers end up in the win or loss column each week.

Third-Down Efficiency

The combined record of the top six teams in terms of third-down conversion percentage is 43-11. Teams that are able to find rhythm moving the ball down field, extend drives, tiring out the opposing defense and putting themselves in a position to find success.

Offensive Third-Down Efficiency (Wins vs. Losses):

  • Wins (7 games): 48.07% conversation rate (would be top 5 in NFL)
  • Losses (3 games): 26.05% conversation rate (22% drop)

Defensive Third-Down Efficiency (Wins vs. Losses):

Wins (7 games): Opponents are converting at a 36.76% rate

Losses (3 games): Opponents are converting at a 42.43% rate

Saints Game vs. Panthers Game


  • 11% third-down conversion rate vs. Saints
  • 62.50% third-down conversion rate vs. Panthers
  • 51.50% jump between the two


  • 64.29% third-down conversion rate (Saints)
  • 11% third down conversion rate (Panthers)
  • The Panthers converted on 53.29% fewer of their third downs than the Saints

Pay attention to this moving forward, as the Buccaneers’ opponent in Week 11 is the L.A. Rams, who are converting third downs 45.97% of the time, good for seventh in the NFL.

Protecting QB Tom Brady

The Buccaneers have excelled when keeping QB Tom Brady on his feet.

  • Average Pressure % in Wins: 18.9%
  • Average Pressure % in Losses: 40.20%
  • Average Number of Pressures in Wins: 8
  • Average Number of Pressures in Losses: 18.67

Establishing the Run Game

Even for teams that rely heavily on the passing game, like the Buccaneers, establishing the run has proven to be what makes the passing attack so effective.

The Buccaneers are averaging:

  • 119.4 rushing yards in wins
  • 66.67 rushing yards in losses (10 fewer rushes per game)

Run/Pass Ratio in Wins vs. Losses

  • Wins: 40%, 60%
  • Losses: 26%, 74%

Of course, when a team is trailing, the run game is oftentimes abandoned, and a team’s run game is increased if they are leading late.

But the point here is that Tampa’s game plan simply must reflect some sort of rushing attack.

In Tom Brady’s career with the Patriots, New England averaged 121.8 yards on the ground in wins and only 83.8 in losses.

Tampa’s Success Rate Running the Ball

  • Tampa’s overall success rate running the ball in wins is 44%
  • Their overall rushing success rate drops to 38% in losses
  • They have virtually the same success rate running the ball in the first half of both wins and losses -- 45% in wins and 43% in losses

This may point to the fact that Tampa doesn’t always have to establish the run game early to win games. However, there is something to be said for their ability to run the ball effectively late in games in order to drain the clock and close out wins.

    • Tampa’s second half success rate running the ball is only 24% in losses, but 44% in wins

EPA Tells a Similar Story

      • Tampa’s highest average rushing EPA/play in wins, appears in both the third and fourth quarters

Taking Care of the Football

In Tampa’s seven wins they have won the turnover battle.

        • In three of the seven wins (42.86%), they managed 0 turnovers
        • 5 total turnovers in seven games (averaging less than one a game)
        • In Tampa’s three losses, they have a total of 6 turnovers (averaging two per game)

Discipline Index

Tampa has struggled with discipline, noticeably so in each of their three losses. Brady has always been a big proponent of playing a clean game; protect the football and limit the penalties and good things will happen.

In the seven games they have won:

        • Tampa is averaging 4.57 penalties per game (4 penalties fewer than in losses)
        • They are allowing 38.29 penalty yards per game (45 more penalty yards in losses -- 83.67)

As the year has progressed, Tampa has gotten better with their discipline. Down the stretch, they are going to have to continue to avoid putting themselves in situations where they aren’t giving their opponent free opportunities to capitalize on.