I remember when I first wanted to get into sports broadcasting at the age of 16. The Bucs were preparing to face the Detroit Lions in their first playoff game in my lifetime. As I watched multiple media members from around the area give their respective breakdowns of this matchup, I came up with my own keys for the Bucs to win that very playoff game.
Win the turnover battle!
It seemed obvious to me at the time. If you force turnovers and do not turn the ball over yourself, you’ve got a great chance of winning that or any other game.
As I began my sports radio career and was allowed to host shows on my own, I found myself saying that same “key” week in and week out.
Win the turnover battle!
Since then, I have matured as a broadcaster and expanded my mind to come up with other breakdowns and keys aside from that obvious one.
According to bigblueblitz.com, teams that have more takeaways than giveaways in a game have a winning percentage of .786 over the past 5 seasons.
In 29 games under head coach Greg Schiano, the Buccaneers have become one of the better teams in the NFL when it has come to takeaways on defense and the prevention of giveaways on offense.
Of those 29 games under Greg Schiano, the Bucs have only lost the turnover battle in a game 6 times, while winning it in 13 games.
As pointed out in the graph below, teams that won their turnover battle in a game in 2012 had their chance of winning improve with the bigger margin of turnovers they won by. The graph below is from the entire 2012 season.
|TO Diff||Wins||Losses||Win %|
While it has been fortunate for the Bucs to have either won or tied the turnover battle in 22 of the 29 games played under Greg Schiano, the winning percentage of these games is way below what has been expected when this does occur.
As expected, the Bucs are as dominant as most teams are when they win the turnover battle by 2 or more turnovers. In these games, the Bucs are 7-2 (>+2: 4-1; +2: 3-1). The problem comes when the Bucs win the turnover battle by just 1 turnover (0-4) or tie the turnover margin in a game (2-8). Unfortunately for the Bucs, the winning percentage for them in each of these categories is lower than the average in each category over the past 5 years.
The question that I have been battling with myself over is whether I should be excited over the amount of games the Bucs either tied or won the most important stat on the stat sheet other than the score or be in complete panic mode for not being able to win a lot more games during this span when this aspect of the game was in such their favor.
I also think it could be very telling that the Bucs record when they tie in the turnover battle in a game is so poor at 2-8. Maybe the Bucs just aren’t as good as other teams and need an inordinate amount of turnovers to compete and possibly win these game?
The Buccaneers have done an excellent job of takeaways on defense and protecting the ball on offense, so why have they not sniffed the playoffs in 2 years?
In 2013, the Bucs have forced 29 turnovers (most in the NFL), but have only scored 78 points off of those turnovers.
For comparison, the Chicago Bears have forced just 23 turnovers this season, but have scored the same amount of points off of those turnovers as the Bucs have off of theirs. The Kansas City Chiefs have forced 28 turnovers this season, but have scored 3 more touchdowns off of these turnovers than the Bucs have and have totaled 99 points. Get the entire breakdown of points off of turnovers here.
It was already apparent that the Buccaneers had some offensive concerns, but perhaps the Bucs are failing to win these very winnable games when they win the turnover battle because they are either settling for field goals or not scoring after forcing the most turnovers in the NFL this season.
No matter the reason, this aspect must be corrected in this era of the NFL. Settling for field goals is death in a league where 90 total touchdowns are scored on a Sunday, such as this past Sunday. Whether it is better players or more aggressive play-calling, this aspect of the Bucs must improve in the near future if this team plans to beat the best teams from around the NFL. In 2013, only the Jaguars and Jets have scored less touchdowns (20) than the Bucs (26) have.
Whether it is encouraging to see the Buccaneers forcing so many turnovers and refraining from giveaways on offense or alarming to see a team with this many opportunities not have more victories under their belt, the fact is that the Bucs must start winning a lot more of these games if they want to avoid change again to this franchise. What happens if the ball stops bouncing their way?
Justin Pawlowski hosts Fan Interference with Jim Lighthall daily from 9-12 on 98.7 The Fan.