ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Since his arrival in Tampa Bay, we’ve heard coach Lovie Smith talk a lot about “Buc Ball". But what that meant exactly never was very clear.
On Saturday, we started to get a picture of what Smith’s been talking about. His defense produced three turnovers and a touchdown in a 27-14 preseason victory against the Buffalo Bills. The offense wasn’t spectacular but it was opportunistic.
“I talk about a full game," Smith said. “When I say full game I’m talking about offense, defense and special teams. We talk a lot about taking the ball away. We talk about scoring on defense. It’s not a good defensive game unless we’re able to do that. I thought the defense did a great job of setting the tempo on what type of day it will be.’’
Linebacker Lavonte David forced a first-quarter fumble that was recovered by Mason Foster. That set up a quick touchdown by the offense. In the second quarter, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald scored a touchdown after picking up a fumble that was caused by an Adrian Clayborn sack and a Michael Johnson strip.
Is that what Buc Ball is all about?
“Yeah, man," All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “The defense takes the ball away and puts it back in the offense’s hands and the offense puts it in the end zone. That’s kind of what we want to do. It felt good and we want to keep that going. It felt good to actually see it come alive today and now we have to take this into next week and into the regular season.’’
It had been difficult to see any signs of Smith’s philosophy in the first two preseason games, both losses. The Bucs produced only one turnover and the offense was largely ineffective.
But the offense showed some promise against the Bills. With some of the starters playing into the third quarter, the Bucs built a 24-0 lead before the backups let the Bills back in the game. Quarterback Josh McCown completed 13 of 16 passes for 112 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Doug Martin rushed 12 times for 38 yards, Vincent Jackson had five catches and rookie Mike Evans had three receptions, including one for a touchdown.
That’s a pretty good sample of what Tampa Bay’s offense is going to look like.
“I think we had 17 rushes in the first half," Smith said. “That’s what we want to do. To be a running football team you need to have attempts as much as anything."
We haven’t seen all of Buc Ball yet because the team likely is keeping tricks up its sleeve for the regular season. But what we saw Saturday was a rough outline of the type of product Smith wants to put on the field.