Let’s turn the page to the 49ers' Week 14 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brock Purdy will become the fifth rookie to start a game this season Sunday. In his postgame interview after the Dolphins game, Purdy had a funny quote about playing Tampa Bay’s starter Tom Brady:
Brock Purdy’s first start will come against Tom Brady. Purdy just said, “that dudes been playing football longer than I’ve been alive.”— KP (@KP_Show) December 5, 2022
I expected Brady and the Bucs to take off by now and challenge the Eagles, 49ers, and Cowboys for the crown as the best team in the NFC, but that hasn’t happened.
Tampa Bay is 6-6, but they have a negative point differential at -2, which is in line with the Commanders and Raiders. To me, point differential gives you a better idea of how a team performs than their record. The same can be said about average scoring margin.
The 49ers have a +92 point differential with an average scoring margin of +7.7, both numbers good for fourth-best in the NFL. Tampa Bay’s average scoring margin is -0.2, which is 13th in the league, just like their point differential total.
Let’s dig into other data points to learn more about the Niners' upcoming opponent.
2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 1: Win @ Dallas, 19-3
Week 2: Win @ New Orleans 20-10
Week 3: Loss vs. Green Bay 14-12
Week 4: Loss vs. Kansas City 41-31
Week 5: Win vs. Atlanta 21-15
Week 6: Loss @ Pittsburgh 20-18
Week 7: Loss @ Carolina 21-3
Week 8: Loss vs. Baltimore 27-22
Week 9: Win vs. Los Angeles 16-13
Week 10: Win vs. Seattle 21-16
Week 12: Loss @ Cleveland 23-17
Week 13: Win vs. New Orleans 17-16
Yards per drive: 18th
Points per drive: 25th
Turnovers per drive: 2nd
Time of possession per drive: 26th
Drive success rate: 21st
EPA per play: 19th
Success rate: 17th
Dropback EPA: 12th
Dropback Success rate: 8th
Rushing EPA: 32nd
Rushing Success Rate: 29th
What can we glean from the Bucs advanced stats? Quite a bit. Tampa Bay is 24th in adjusted line yards but first in adjusted sack rate. So, Brady gets rid of the ball quickly and doesn’t put the ball in harm’s way, but the Bucs struggle mightily to run the ball.
According to Pro Football Reference, Tampa Bay also allows the lowest pressure percentage — calculated by the number of times you’re pressured per dropback — at 12.5 percent, which is four percent lower than second place.
Brady will be playing hot potato this week. The Saints had an eye-popping 21 pressures on Brady in Week 13. Right guard Shaq Mason allowed seven, left tackle Donovan Smith gave up five, and left guard Nick Leverett surrendered four. Josh Wells, the right tackle, was the “best” with three pressures given up. Tampa Bay’s offensive line was also flagged for three penalties.
Wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans make for a dangerous duo. Using Sports Info Solutions' “total points earned” metric, Evans has earned 20 points while Godwin has gained 19. For reference, Deebo Samuel earned 28, George Kittle 22, and Brandon Aiyuk is 19.
Outside of the Chiefs back in Week 4, Tampa Bay isn’t this high-flying offense despite their weapons. Their inability to block has been a season-long issue, and that’s unlikely to change against the team that lives in the backfield.
Here’s Kyle Shanahan Wednesday on Tampa Bay’s defense:
“They stop the run as good as anybody in this league. They’ve been doing that for a number of years. They’re extremely good in their coverages because they can do anything that they want. They’re good in man, they have all the blitzes, so Todd’s probably going to throw everything at us, and what works, he’ll keep doing it until we figure out how to do it better back.”
And now, for the Bucs’ defensive numbers:
Yards per drive: 3rd
Points per drive: 6th
Turnovers per drive: 28th
Plays per drive: 3rd
Time of possession per drive: 16th
Drive success rate: 5th
EPA per play: 8th
Success rate: 7th
Dropback EPA: 7th
Dropback Success Rate: 9th
Rushing EPA allowed: 21st
Rushing Success Rate: 10th
Outside of forcing turnovers, Tampa Bay has an elite defense. Surprisingly, that rushing EPA number suggests the Bucs give up a fair amount of explosive running plays.
Vita Vea was on Wednesday’s injury report. He’s one of the most dominant interior presences in the NFL. Vea has eight tackles for loss with an average depth of tackle at 1.8 yards.
Vea and Rakeem Nunez-Roches are in the top half for interior defensive linemen for run stops. Edge rusher Anthony Nelson has 16, but losing Shaq Barrett on the other side is a considerable loss.
I’ve long thought the Bucs linebacker duo was overrated. I’d take Dre Greenlaw over both. Some advanced numbers back this up, as Lavonte David has saved 23 points, per Sports Info Solutions, while Devin White has saved 18. For comparison’s sake, Fred Warner is at 26 points saved, and Greenlaw is second among all linebackers at 40.
Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, and Deebo can take advantage of these two over the middle of the field. Both Bucs’ linebackers are allowing completion percentages of over 65 percent in coverage.
As for Tampa Bay’s secondary, they’re banged up at safety but have two very good cover corners in Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis. Dean has the second-highest total points saved among all defensive backs. Davis is having a bit of a down year, but he’s competitive and has nine pass breakups.