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Friday, Aug 17, 2018
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  • Rick Stroud and Greg Auman

Bucs defense thrived by setting up third-and-long

The Bucs went into Sunday's game with the Jets as the worst third-down defense in the NFL, but had a huge turnaround there, holding New York to just three conversion out of 15 third-down opportunities.

The key? Playing well on first and second downs, especially against the run, to set up third-and-long situations. Of the Jets' 15 third downs, 11 had them needing 10 yards or more, including six of seven in the first half.

"We got ourselves in manageable third downs and situations where we could rush," said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who had one of six sacks for the Bucs. "We stopped the run early and often. Like I always say, if you stop the run, you get to rush the passer. We just did what we are supposed to do."

The Jets got that started, with holding and offensive pass interference penalties on their first two drives to set up third-and-13 and third-and-15 plays, converting neither.

"When the penalties didn't hurt us, they were in the backfield hurting us," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "They played in our backfield all day long. We missed blocks or got penalties. It was just a cluster, and we didn't do well."

The Jets needed an average of 11.3 yards on their third-down plays, easiest the longest for a Bucs opponent this season. Last week's game against the Saints saw New Orleans need an average of just 5.2 yards on third downs, making it easier for them to convert on 7 of 13 opportunities.

The Bucs' offense, meanwhile, had two drives of 15+ plays, converting three third downs on each. They had a 17-play drive, their most plays of any drive this season, that resulted in a field goal, and in the fourth quarter, they had a 15-play drive that lasted 7 minutes and 25 seconds. That's the second-longest drive of the season in duration, trailing only an 8:36 drive from the season-opening win against Chicago.

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