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Saturday, Dec 16, 2017
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Bucs journal: Defense struggling to get off the field on third and long

TAMPA — Third and long, normally an ideal situation for an NFL defense, continues to be a problem as the Bucs try to get opposing offenses off the field.

In the second half of Sunday's game, the Dolphins converted six third downs when they needed 8 yards or more, with QB Matt Moore getting enough time to find the holes in the Bucs defense again and again.

"He just had too much time. It starts with that," coach Dirk Koetter said. "You give any quarterback that much time and you're playing zone defense … you're going to find a hole. Too much time, No. 1. Then we still are inconsistent in our zone drops. It wasn't just one guy — it was a guy here and a guy there and a bust on the long touchdown at the end."

The NFL average is for offenses to convert only 23.6 percent of third downs requiring 8 yards or more. The Bucs have allowed opponents to convert 34.8 percent, the highest rate in the league. Normally third and long is a pass-rusher's dream, but not for the Bucs, who have had 66 such opportunities this season but have just two sacks. Only the Eagles have fewer such sacks.

"Like we've been saying all year, the rush, the intermediate coverage and the deep coverage, they've got to work together," Koetter said. "When they don't, you aren't going to like the results, and we didn't like those."

Roster moves

The Bucs continue to churn their practice squad — they have three openings after promoting WR Freddie Martino on Friday, then releasing CB Senquez Golson and OT Justin Murray on Tuesday. … Former Bucs WR Bernard Reedy, waived on Friday, was in Boston on Tuesday and is signing with the Patriots' practice squad, though there was no formal announcement Tuesday. … After totaling five penalties in the Bucs' first eight games, OT Donovan Smith was called for four in the past two games, including a holding call Sunday that nullified a 25-yard touchdown. … Former Bucs Simeon Rice, John Lynch and first-time candidate Ronde Barber are among 27 semifinalists for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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