TAMPA, Fla. — It truly is a tale of two defenses for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team has the best rushing defense in the National Football League and one of the worst run defenses in the league.
First, let's take a look at the good. The Buccaneers defense hasn't surrendered more than 76 rushing yards to any of its first four opponents this year. Dating back to the 2020 playoffs, the Buccaneers run defense has allowed just two teams to run for more than 100 yards against them, the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
In the most recent game, the Bucs defense allowed negative one-yard rushing in the game. That's not a misprint, the New England Patriots ran for negative one yard against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night.
For the season, the Bucs rush defense ranks first in rushing yards allowed (190), first in rushing touchdowns allowed (1), and first in average yards per rush (2.7).
While that's a Super Bowl-caliber run defense, the pass defense is, in a word, bad. But, that's also a function of the stellar run defense as teams have no choice but to throw the ball early and often.
The Bucs pass defense ranks dead last in passing yards allowed (1,310), and 30th in passing touchdowns allowed (11). In 2021, the Bucs have surrendered at least 330 passing yards twice this season (391 in Week 1 to Dallas; 331 to Los Angeles in Week 3).
Unfortunately for the Bucs, this is a recent trend. In the final 8 games of the 2020 season, Tampa Bay only gave up 300 passing yards twice, once to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15 and the other time in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers.
Compounding the problems in the pass defense has been injuries as multiple cornerbacks have gone down to injuries leaving the secondary very thin against some of the better quarterbacks in the league, namely Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan, and Dak Prescott.
But, things may get a little easier on the Bucs' passing defense as the team looks ahead over the next four games.
The Bucs play the Dolphins, Eagles, Bears, and Saints before their bye week in Week Nine. None of those teams have a superstar level quarterback, though Philadelphia may have the best in the bunch as of Week 4 in Jalen Hurts.
In fact, the next time the Bucs take on a quarterback who can truly be considered a superstar at his position won't be until Week 14 against the Buffalo Bills.
If the Bucs can turn on the pass defense just a little against underperforming quarterbacks in the weeks ahead, starting with Miami this weekend, the concern over the Bucs' pass defense woes will likely subside.