What happened to the Bucs’ run defense?

by Gary Shelton on January 6, 2022

in general

Suh, teammates, need to stop the run./© JOE MESTAS

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Even now, you think of them as immovable. Even now, you imagine that other teams are doing the Tampa Bay Bucs a favor when they run the ball.

But is that still the case?

As the season goes on, more and more teams are finding daylight against the Bucs. Second and nine has turned into second and three. Opposing offensive coordinators no longer seem reluctant to run the ball.

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The Bucs' run defense has slipped to sixth in the league. In four of the team's last six games (and eight of its last 12), the Bucs have surrendered more than 100 yards to an opponent (Washington had 94).

Suddenly, the run defense isn't the stifling force it once was.

"I think we’ve lacked tremendously when it comes to our run game," defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. "It’s something that we pride ourselves in and we haven’t prided ourselves enough to really hone into the details. This is a copycat league and teams are finding ways to repeat plays against us and we have not stopped them.

"This is going to be a big test for us going against a team that wants to run the ball, and they made a point to do that against the New Orleans Saints. We didn’t accomplish our particular goal of stopping the run when we played against the Jets. Ultimately, it’s about stopping the run and then transitioning from that standpoint.”

Time was, teams feared the Bucs' run defense. In weeks four and five combined, the team gave up just 38 yards rushing.

Anymore, that isn't the case. Sunday's game against the Jets -- when Tampa Bay surrendered 150 yards -- demonstrated that.

"I believe it is ‘any given Sunday’ in this league," Suh said. "I believe each and every single team has great, elite athletes and they want to amplify them. I think when we look at a team like Carolina, they are trying to figure out what they want to be as an offense. We saw a lot of different things whether it was Cam [Newton] playing, whether it was Sam [Darnold] playing – they had some tricks. Same thing with the Jets – they had tricks, they had things up their sleeves that they wanted to run against us. For a lack of better words, they had nothing to lose and they want to execute and find ways that they can prepare for the next season or things that they want to do for their particular team. We need to be aware of those things, we need to adjust and adapt, and that’s what a great defense does. We have found ways to do that in the past and I think we will find ways to do that in the future.”  

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