Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith takes pride in his defense’s ability to create turnovers and last night’s effort provided a number of promising moments.
The Bucs picked off starting Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton twice, returned one for a touchdown, and forced and recovered a fumble. All three turnovers came on successive second-quarter Cincinnati drives and resulted in 16 points in a span of just 4 minutes, 49 seconds.
That’s a solid effort for an entire game, let alone a portion of one quarter, but Smith is greedy when it comes to flipping possession.
“We talk about it being in our “Tampa Bay DNA” if you play defensive ball around here,” Smith said during his Tuesday afternoon press conference at One Buc Place. “We do practice it and you need to see some results. But we left a lot on the field in a lot of different areas.
“It’s about getting the ball back. That’s what you’re trying to do when you’re on the defensive side – and score.”
Cornerback Alterraun Verner got the takeaway binge starter when he picked off a tipped pass to Bengals receiver A.J. Green and returned it 24 yards to the house. Three offensive snaps later it was free safety Bradley McDougald snagging a high, deep-middle pass intended for tight end Tyler Eifert and bringing it back 38 yards to the Cincinnati 12.
Following Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon’s 22-yard touchdown pass to receiver Russell Shepard, Tampa Bay’s third and final turnover was a fumble caused when cornerback Mike Jenkins punched a ball free from Jeremy Hill and recovered by linebacker Bruce Carter.
Smith described the forced fumble and recovery as the team’s only “hard takeaway as we see it.” Both interceptions came while taking advantage of Cincinnati mistakes: Green’s tipped dropped pass and Dalton’s sailed delivery to Eifert.
Smith did praise the Bucs’ ability to turn Verner’s interception into an immediate six points, though he thought there was an opportunity to do the same with McDougald’s runback.
“It has to become a habit for us,” Smith said of defenders reading turnover situations quickly and knowing their blocking assignments. “At first you have to get that takeaway, and then from there, yes, you transfer from defense to offense right away. On Alterraun Verner’s that was a good escort into the end zone. Some good blocks there.
“On McDougald’s, though, we had a chance to score on that one. You can’t assume if you get it down there you’re going to score touchdowns. It’s about getting it into the end zone then. We’ll keep working on that.”
Overall, the Bucs won Monday’s turnover battle 3-0. During last year’s two-win debacle of a season, Tampa Bay finished with 25 takeaways and 33 giveaways, a minus-8 differential.
Pingback: Turnovers Good, But Smith Still Wanting More | Buccaneer Bruce
+3 > -8 = 🙂
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