The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 9-7 in 2016. In 2017, the Bucs went 5-11. While that drop is definitely concerning -- the type of result that will crawl into every member of the coaching's staffs minds like a vampire, sucking away sleep for nine straight months -- it's not as bad as it may seem on the surface. The margin between a 9-win team and a 5-win team at the NFL level is far thinner than the standings indicate.
Tampa Bay played 10 1-score games in both the 2016 and '17 seasons. The 2016 Bucs went 6-4 in such games. The 2017 Bucs? They went 3-7.
And while it's never just one thing that causes a 4-win drop year over year, Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken believes red zone offense was one of the primary reasons.
"We chose to suck," Monken said. "We chose to not do it as well as we can do it. That's the way it is... everybody has to take a bite of it. I always say this: We sure as heck want the credit when we win. I do. I want some of the credit. And we've got to own it when we don't. When we don't score, when we don't take care of the ball, when we don't do the little things that allow yourselves to win, and we've got to own it."
Tampa Bay finished 24th in red zone offense last season, but ranked seventh with 53 red zone penetrations. "What’s interesting about that is: it would have just taken five more touchdowns and you jump from 24th to 8th," he said. A key reason for that: a league-leading 26 fumbles, including a league-high six red zone fumbles.
"We did enough things that you can't do -- you do if you're a bad team," Monken said. "Bad football loses before good football wins. We're talking about quarterback/center exchanges, costly penalties, missed opportunities to put games away."