For the first time since 1995, the Buccaneers deployed a dime defense as a part of the team's regular defensive package in Tampa Bay's 16-10 victory over Carolina. Just how successful was the dime against Cam Newton and the Panthers offense? Find out in this Pewter Report article.
Pewter Report breaks down the Bucs-Panthers game film to offer up some interesting analysis on Tampa Bay's dime defense, which was used mostly in third-and-long situations.
The Buccaneers unveiled a brand new defense that hasn’t been seen in Tampa Bay since before the Tony Dungy-Monte Kiffin era of defense began in 1996. In Sunday’s 16-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers, head coach Greg Schiano and defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan debuted the dime defense in Tampa Bay.
No matter how many wide receivers teams threw at the Bucs defense over the years while Kiffin and former Tampa Bay head coach and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, the Bucs always responded with nickel defense, which features four defensive linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs. The reason was because the Bucs typically had a talented front four that could pass rush and at least two talented linebackers that could drop into coverage. Playing only five defensive backs – three cornerbacks and two safeties – made the most sense in the secondary.
But Schiano and Sheridan have decided to go with a dime defense more often than not on obvious passing downs and third-and-long situations. The dime features three defensive linemen in Michael Bennett and Adrian Clayborn at the end positions and Gerald McCoy at defensive tackle, two linebackers in Lavonte David and Dekoda Watson, and six defensive backs in Aqib Talib and Eric Wright at outside cornerback, Ronde Barber and Brandon McDonald at slot cornerback, and Ahmad Black and Mark Barron at safety.
“What everybody does is they really try to get their best third down personnel in the game on third downs,” Sheridan said. “If we determine at some point that playing what people call nickel – that’s five DBs instead of six – gives us a better personnel grouping we would use that. Right now in third down and what we’re asking guys to do on third down – either pass rush, blitz or play coverage because it’s 90 percent pass in the NFL on third down – that’s how it works out. Those are the best guys in pass rush, blitz and coverage that we can get on the field right now.
“Every week that could change. You just try to figure out what are they doing on third down and what do we need to do on third down? And who is healthy? Some weeks it could be nickel and other weeks it could be dime. It worked out really well last week for us.”
How well? Let’s look at the play-by-play when the Bucs were in dime defense last week against the Panthers.
On third-and-13 from the Carolina 33 in the first quarter, Watson spied Newton and kept him in the pocket and forced him to throw an incomplete pass to Steve Smith that was broken up by Wright.
On third-and-4 in the first quarter, Newton threw another incompletion as the secondary covered up all of the Panthers receivers.
Third-and-13 at the Carolina 26 in the first quarter, Sheridan called a full blitz with Watson rushing from the outside and David and Barber rushing from the inside. That forced Newton to throw a bit earlier to Smith than he wanted to. The play resulted in a pass break-up by Wright on the sidelines.
On third-and-17 from the Carolina 40 in the second quarter, the Bucs were in dime personnel, but played a prevent defense by rushing just three – Bennett, McCoy and Clayborn – and dropped nine into coverage. David and Watson were eight yards off the line of scrimmage at the snap.
But despite the umbrella coverage, the Bucs zone was a bit too loose and Brandon LaFell was able to find a sweet spot in coverage for a 19-yard gain and a first down. That would be the only time the Bucs would play a prevent defense with dime personnel.
On second-and-4 from the Tampa Bay 35 in the second quarter, McCoy flushed Newton out of the pocket and Barber pushed him out of bounds for a 2-yard sack.
On the next play – third-and-6 – McCoy caused guard Geoff Hangartner to false start.
On third-and-11, McCoy pressured Newton and Watson spied him, keeping the Panthers quarterback in the pocket and forcing him to get rid of the ball. Newton overthrew his receiver and the pass was nearly picked off by Black right before halftime.
In the first half, Newton was just 1-of-5 for 19 yards with one sack against Tampa Bay’s dime defense. Including the false start and the two-yard loss on the sack, the Panthers only netted 12 yards on seven plays.
In the second half, the Bucs defense continued to clamp down Newton and the Panthers. On third-and-5 from the Carolina 35, the Bucs rushed three and dropped nine in coverage. With Watson and David spying Newton and keeping him in the pocket, the Carolina signal caller was able to complete a pass to tight end Greg Olsen for 11 yards in front of McDonald.
On third-and-12 from the Carolina 40 with 10 seconds left in the third, Barber and Watson blitzed Newton, who forced a throw to Smith near the sidelines. Smith was blanketed in coverage by Wright and that allowed Black to swoop in and make an interception.
On third-and-9 at the Tampa Bay 48, Ahmad Black and Watson blitzed Newton while David spied the Panthers QB and kept him in the pocket. Newton was able to get the throw off, but Barron broke up the pass intended for Louis Murphy.
On third-and-18 from the Carolina 14 in the fourth quarter, the Bucs rushed three, but Bennett was able to break free and sacked Newton, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Panthers.
The final result of the Bucs’ 11 plays in dime defense was a resounding success as Newton was sacked twice and threw one interception. He completed just 2-of-8 for 30 yards, but including the sack yardage (minus-4 yards) and the five yards for the false start, Tampa Bay’s dime defense allowed a net of just 21 yards.
“It definitely did work out pretty good for us,” Watson said of Tampa Bay’s use of the dime defensive package. “We just want to come out and make sure we do just as good the same thing we did. Now we have to look out for number 10 (New York quarterback Eli Manning). He’s definitely a huge asset to their team and the leader of their team. If we don’t control him, we’re pretty much done.”
Newton was certainly controlled by Tampa Bay’s dime defense. If the Bucs can have similar success with the dime personnel against Manning, Tampa Bay could be off to a surprising 2-0 start to the 2012 season.
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