Bucs’ run defense aims at New York Giants

by Gary Shelton on November 2, 2020

in general

White leads the Bucs in tackles./TIM WIRT

Monday, 4 a.m.

There is no air there. There is no light. There is no hope.

For a running back, there is only pain.

There is no daylight here. There is no crease. Running against the Tampa Bay Bucs these days is like running through quicksand. There are sharp teeth. Together, they are the NFL's leading cause of gauze.

Yeah, it's kind of a good thing.

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As the Bucs prepare to play the New York Giants tonight, perhaps the thing you can count on the most is the Bucs' run defense. No, not just because Saquon Barkley is out. But the Giants don't figure to run for a lot of yards because, well, no one runs for a lot of yards against the Bucs.

Check the stats. The Bucs are the toughest team in the league to run against (462 yards in seven games, an average of three yards a carry, both tops in the league). They haven't allowed another team -- let alone a ball carrier -- to rush for 100 yards against them this season. The Bucs led the NFL in rushing defense last year, and they're averaging seven fewer yards per game this year (66).

Christian McCafferty, now injured, gained only 59 yards on 18 carries against the Bucs. It's still the high for an opponent this year. Alvin Kamara of the Saints ran for only 16 yards on 12 carries. Aaron Jones of the Packers ran for 15 yards on 10 carries.

The advantages are elementary. An inability to run means a team is facing a lot of second-and-nines and third-and-eights. It cuts in half the number of ways an offense can hurt you.

All of which puts tonight's hope for the Giants in the hands of their defense and quarterback Daniel Jones.

You remember Jones. He started for the first time against the Bucs last year, and he threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns. Can he do it again? We'll see. There have been gaps in the secondary from time to time this season.

Of course, pass defense is another discussion. But the Bucs have been pretty good on defense all year, even with defensive tackle Vita Vea out. Veteran Ndamukong Suh and inside linebacker Lavonte David and Devin White have been hard on offensive lines this season.

“Lavonte is solid every week," said defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. "He makes us go [and] he’s our leader. He’s our emotional leader, he’s our field leader [and] he’s our general. He just makes plays all over the field, but he plays the right way. He understands run blocking, he understands pass concepts, he understands where he needs to be on the field [and] he understands angles. He’s just a good football player.”

Bucs' head coach Bruce Arians said his team isn't worried about what it has done in the past.

“We’ve got a lot of things to get better at,'" Arians said. "I know we made plays Sunday – and we’re happy we won the ballgame – but we’re still scratching the surface on a lot of things [and] trying to iron out some things. Every week is a new week for us. You forget about it on Monday and you go right back to the next week – which is the game at hand. Our guys do a good job of understanding that.”

“It’s a long season. Like I said, every week you have to forget about it the next day – win, lose or draw. You try to see it the same and prepare for the journey, not just the race at hand. We’re trying to get ready this week and keep it moving from there.”

The Bucs and Giants game begins at 8:20 p.m. in New Jersey.

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