Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston led the NFL in passing with a franchise-record 5,109 yards. He was also second in the NFL in passing touchdowns with a career-high 33 in 2019 – also a Tampa Bay record. But Winston also led the league in interceptions, and had the dubious honor of becoming the NFL’s first 30-30 QB to throw at least 30 TDs and 30 INTs in a single season.
Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians said a couple of times during the 2019 campaign that not all of Winston’s interceptions were the quarterback’s fault. In fact, at times, he would indicate that nearly half of those turnovers weren’t Winston’s fault – much to the delight of Winston’s supporters, and much to the chagrin of Winston’s detractors.
So just how many of Winston’s 30 interceptions happened because of poor decisions by Tampa Bay’s controversial quarterback? Let’s go to the league’s All-22 film to breakdown all 30 INTs in great detail, examining as much context as we possibly can to find an answer as close to the truth as we can get.
Buckle up, Bucs fans. This is going to be one wild ride with a surprising outcome.
The All-22: Winston’s 30 INTs
Shown above is Winston’s first interception of the season against the San Francisco 49ers – it won’t be the last from this game that you will see. In this clip, the Bucs were in a first-and-10 situation on the first play of the drive ahead 7-6 on the scoreboard with just less than three minutes left in the first half.
Wide receiver Chris Godwin motioned pre-snap, which allowed Winston to recognize the coverage concept. With the single-high safety, this could either be Cover 1 or Cover 3, but after the snap, the cornerbacks playing with outside leverage and the linebackers dropping back into hook/curl zones told us it was Cover 3. Given that Winston knew the Bucs were going to have three receiving options to his right (1 WR, 1 TE, 1 FB), there was a high percentage that one of them would find a hole between the hook/curl zones of the linebackers, so that’s where the progression started.
Winston’s hot read on this play was with Godwin as the No. 1. But as cornerback Richard Sherman stared him down, this forced Winston to look elsewhere. He found tight end O.J. Howard in a soft, albeit tight, location in one of the middle zones and hit him in the hands. Howard let the ball fly off his hands and it was picked off.
This turnover was obviously not on Winston, as it was more the fault of Howard. However, I did want to point something out. I feel as though people who watch this clip might see running back Peyton Barber with a lot of space around him on the short left side of the field as the ball was thrown to Howard and wish that Winston threw it to Barber instead. For this, you have to understand progressions. Winston was not going to look that way. The play was not designed for him to turn his head that far unless things went very bad on the right side. Barber was likely fourth in the progression there. Because of this, it is unrealistic to expect Winston to look and throw that way, even if there was a man open.
Fault/INT Counter: 0/1
Here’s interception No. 2 on the season and No. 2 from the San Francisco game. In the clip, the Bucs were in a second-and-13 situation during their first possession of the second half after going down on the scoreboard 13-7 following a 49ers touchdown drive to open up the third quarter.
From the defense’s side, this is a zone blitz. Linebacker Dre Greenlaw joined the four down linemen in their attack of the pocket as a late rusher coming through the B gap. The added pressure did force Winston to get the ball out his hand early.
On the offensive side, the player Winston was throwing to on the outside was Barber. Barber really should not have been put in this situation. The Bucs rarely have their running backs in true receiver alignments – especially not Barber and especially not at the sideline like that. Because of his unfamiliarity with routes at the sideline, Barber over ran his route, hence why the pass looked so far off its target.
This was another giveaway that was not on Winston, but it did raise questions as to why Barber was out there in the first place lined up against a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback like Sherman. I assume it was because they did not sub from the play before, but even if that was the case, why call a play where Barber is a target? Mike Evans was the primary read on this play as the slot player on the right side of the line who was running a post over the middle. But due to the quick pressure, Winston was forced to get the ball out before that route could develop. That’s when Barber (the No. 2) became the hot read and the ball went his way right at the time he was running a poor route.
Fault/INT Counter: 0/2
On Winston’s third interception of Week 1, the Bucs were set to start their two minute drill down 23-17 with 2:10 left in the fourth quarter. The play above comes from their own 21 yard line on first-and-10 in the first play of the drive with 79 yards to go.
The Bucs opted to go with a screen play to open up the drive. Though Tampa Bay did have a long way to go and the defense knew they would likely face more passes than runs, calling a screen on first down is a bit risky. Normally screen are reserved for situations where you know the defense is going to come after the QB, whether that’s because the team notices they’ve been getting more and more aggressive in their pursuit of the pocket or the down and distance calls for a guaranteed pass play. Calling a screen on first down where the defense is more cautious and alert means defensive linemen and linebackers are less likely to over pursue.
That’s what happened in the play above. The two guys who ruined this for the Bucs were 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner (99) and Greenlaw (57). Buckner recognized the screen pass once he saw Bucs running back Dare Ogunbowale transition from his decoy blocking stance to a delayed route. When he saw it, he stopped moving forward and began to back up with Ogunbowale. With Buckner being 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds, Ogunbowale had to decide whether or not to cut in front of Buckner or go around. A few yards farther down the field, Greenlaw also recognized the screen and blew right by Jensen’s block to cut off Ogunbowale as well.
The negative result of this play was a result of a few things. Questionable play-calling in the situation and, as a result, Buckner and Greenlaw making good plays on the screen were out of Winston’s control. You could say Winston should’ve just thrown it into the dirt, which I would hear and wouldn’t fault you for asking for such a thought process. But his offensive line also did not help him at all on that play, making it tough to see everything the way he may have needed to to come to that conclusion.
However, this was not a “must throw” kind of play. It was first down. The Bucs still had the two minute warning and a timeout. Even a sack making it second-and-20 at the two minute warning would have been fine knowing they were in four-down territory. There were parts of this play that certainly didn’t help Winston, but he just can’t throw this ball like that.
Fault/INT Counter: 1/3
After a week where Winston threw for 200 yards, one touchdowns and zero interceptions in the Thursday Night Football win over Carolina, we fast forward to Week 3 back at Raymond James Stadium as the Bucs were in a heated battle with rookie quarterback Daniel Jones – making his first start – and the New York Giants. In the play above, the Bucs were ahead 28-25 facing a third-and-5 with just under 12 minutes to go in the game.
There’s not much to say here, it was just a terrible throw. Watch the end zone version of this one to see why this throw was so off target. As Winston stepped up in the pocket, he was in no way square to his target, and in as unorthodox of a way as he could, let it fly so far behind wide receiver Mike Evans that Evans couldn’t even get a hand on it as it sailed into the defender’s arms.
Fault/INT Counter: 2/4
The following week Winston’s fifth interception of the season came during one of his best games of the year. On the road against the reigning NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams, Winston threw for 385 yards on a 62 percent completion percentage with four touchdowns and one interception. Winston’s lone pick from this game came fresh off back-to-back touchdown passes where the Buccaneers were in a third-and-10 situation up 45-34 with 8:25 left in the game.
This play, where it was partially Winston’s fault, was a fantastic play by Rams Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters. The Bucs were in a “trips” look with three wide receivers to the left. Before the snap, the Rams appeared to be in some sort of 2-high coverage, either Cover 2 or Cover 4 (quarters). After the snap, it looks a little confusing since the field safety sprints up top. But the coverage is still just Cover 2, that safety just moved over there fast to better adjust for the three receivers to once side.
Because of the way it looked, Peters making a move to stop his backpedal and cover the curl route at the sticks was what he was supposed to do in a Cover 2 zone assignment. With Mike Evans in the slot and Bobo Wilson on the outside, I have to believe the primary on this play was to hit Evans on the out at the sticks for the first down — though we can’t be sure there because Winston is just looking in that general direction the whole time. When Winston realized Peters was close to Evans at the sticks, he went for something bigger.
At the throw, Winston was trying to hit the outside receiver streaking up the sideline in the soft spot beyond the corner’s zone but before the safety’s – also called the “honey hole.” But when Peters realized Winston was loading up for the deep throw down the sideline, he smoothly got back into his retreat and was able to cut off the pass – an aggressive, savvy move by him to read and react like that.
Honey hole throws require a lot of zip on passes. Winston didn’t have it there, but there are reasons why. Back in the pocket, Winston was not able to step into this throw the way he wanted to. As he was set to release the ball, his plant foot actually lands right on the foot of offensive tackle Donovan Smith, as to disrupt his base. He also was not able to finish his throwing motion, as his arm was hit just as he released the ball. These are all very valid reasons why this pass did not have the zip or placement it needed to.
Knowing that Winston’s platform to throw was compromised, I cannot blame him for not putting the needed velocity on this pass. Therefore it’s not on him.
Fault/INT Counter: 2/5
Following the victory over the Rams, Winston put together his second turnover-less performance of the season in Week 5 against the Saints, but that one came with a loss. That brings us to the Bucs’ Week 6 match-up against the Carolina Panthers in London – a game that was probably Winston’s worst game of the year.
Winston’s first of five interceptions in this game – yes, that’s right, five, so buckle up – came on the first play from scrimmage. In it, the Bucs were in a first-and-10 situation with the full 15 minutes to go in the first quarter with the ball at their own 25 yard line.
The Bucs were in 12 personnel with a tight end on each side of the line of scrimmage, and to counter what appeared to be a simple run formation to get the game going, Carolina went aggressive with a far off Cover 3 look in the secondary and five players at the line of scrimmage. But the Bucs didn’t run the ball. They didn’t even pass out of play action (they probably should have). At the snap, the Bucs ran two curl-flat concepts, one on each side. Each wide receiver was running an 8-yard curl while each tight end came off the line of scrimmage and into the flat out by the sideline.
This concept is a great way to attack Cover 3 when the cornerbacks are in off coverage. The way it works against off Cover 3 is the wide receiver is supposed to run straight at the off corner as fast as he can. He can’t look down at the ground or at the spot where he’s going to turn as to give anything away. He has to make the corner think he could be going deep as to make him continue to retreat to create space. He also has to maintain inside leverage (which Evans did). Meanwhile the flat route is supposed to open up the throwing lane, as it will naturally fade the curl zone defender to the sideline. If you want a good look at what it is supposed to look like and how it is supposed to work, look at the top (right) side of the play where Godwin was running.
But the play didn’t go to Godwin (it wasn’t designed to initially); Evans was the primary. Evans did a good job of running straight up the field towards the cornerback. But as Evans started to run up field, instead of continuing to retreat to keep the potential vertical route in front of him, cornerback James Bradberry veered to the right as Cameron Brate moved into the flat. Then when he saw Winston loading up for Evans, Bradberry was close enough to jump in front of it due to him not retreating like he usually would in that situation – this could just be the result of good film study.
Winston had to put this ball a little to the outside due to how close Luke Kuechly was monitoring the curl route from his zone. However, Winston was far too late in his timing getting rid of this ball, and that is ultimately what allowed Bradberry the time to cut it off.
Fault/INT Counter: 3/6
For Winston’s seventh interception of the season we stay in the game against Carolina (get comfortable, we’ll be here awhile). It was a slow and ugly game, to this point, and in the play above the Bucs were in a third-and-12 situation down 10-7 on the scoreboard with 9:37 left in the first half.
There’s no reason to make a mountain out of a mole hill on this play. The Bucs were in a 3 x 1 set with three receivers to the left side of the field. Knowing Tampa Bay had to travel far to pick up their first down, the Panthers were backed up with plenty of space in what appeared to be a form of Cover 7 with combo coverage. The cornerback to the bottom of the screen appeared to be in a “MEG” (Man Everywhere he Goes) assignment while the rest of the coverage looked to be in a zone match. The nickel corner and the linebacker were in a match assignment with the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, so that’s why you saw the nickel player go to the flat while the linebackers retreated outside first then spun around to help inside.
The Bucs run a good play call here with their three receiving options to the left side. With their two outside options, they split at the sticks combing an out route with an in route to create space. As primary reads, if one of them were give too much space and could be open, that’s what you hit. If not, then spreading like that creates a one-on-one opportunity for the shallow flat route by Howard, which isn’t as ideal since he would then have to have a very good run after the catch to give them a first down, but it’s possible.
Neither the out route or the in route were open at their breaks, so Winston looked to just dump it to Howard and see what he could do with it. However, as Winston started his motion to throw, Panthers pass rusher Bruce Irvin was able to get around Bucs’ backup right tackle Josh Wells and made contact with Winston’s arm as he threw it. You can see from the end zone view that the ball’s spiral was directly affected because of this, and that is why the ball sailed as poorly as it did.
This giveaway was also not primarily on Winston.
Fault/INT Counter: 3/7
After going three-and-out in their first possession of the second half, down double digits on the scoreboard, Tampa Bay found itself in a first-and-10 situation at their own 25 yards line following a Carolina field goal to make the score 20-7 midway through the third quarter.
In the pre-snap, the Bucs aligned themselves in a 12 personnel look with two tight ends to the right side of the line of scrimmage. If you look at the “hat on a hat” probability (meaning how many blockers there were to occupy the amount of defenders in front of them), this looked like a favorable play, if it were a run play. But with the Bucs down two scores, Carolina bet Tampa Bay wouldn’t run the ball, and it didn’t.
On the back end, Carolina had a very aggressive look out of a Cover 3 shell with every player in the box close to the line of scrimmage, while both outside cornerbacks were playing press coverage. The Panthers paired that with extra pressure by bringing a sixth rusher to the pocket, which forced Winston to get the ball out rather quickly. Though running back Ronald Jones II struggled a bit to pick up the extra edge rusher, the line picked up the pressure pretty well.
With the added blitz, the linebackers were in zone coverage. In sort of a savvy move, Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly (who eventually made the interception) did some quick math in his head, and that’s how he positioned himself to make this play. Kuechly knew that with the added pressure, the ball was going to likely have to come out quick. That’s why it can be advantageous to ask your cornerbacks to play press coverage paired with pressure. The closer you play, the less window the quarterback has to throw, as long as you can hold it for the amount of time it takes for the rush to get there.
Kuechly took that principle into his zone coverage. Knowing that he had fellow linebacker Shaq Thompson to his right Kuechly decided to jump the tight end, as to get up into the receiver if the route was to the right. If it was to the left, he knew he had help with Thompson. Kuechly also knew that, though there were two tight ends on the line, if both of them went out for a pass, the blitz was going to get home immediately. So he bet only one tight end would go out for a pass, and he was right. That’s why he was able to jump to the right at the snap.
As Bucs Howard ran to the inside, Kuechly communicated the drag route to Thompson, who picked Howard up as he entered Thompson’s zone. With Kuechly jumping to the right at the snap, Winston did not anticipate him being able to come back into the middle, as to undercut the post route. But he did, and that’s how the turnover happened.
A fault of Winston for not recognizing the linebacker, but a good play by Kuechly for a lot of underlying reasons.
Fault/INT Counter: 4/8
For Winston’s ninth interception of the season (and fourth of this game), the Bucs somehow, someway found themselves with a chance, albeit a small one, to still win the game against Carolina. At their own 45 yard line, Tampa Bay was faced with a tough fourth-and-10 with 2:31 left in the game down 37-26. This ball had to be completed past the first down marker or the game was over.
This was a tough situation for Winston, and there were a few factors that went into whether or not it was his fault. First of all, this pass had to be beyond the sticks. It had to be a first down or that was it. Knowing that, Carolina’s defense had complete advantage. The Panthers paired a six-man blitz with far off coverage to keep everything in front of them and give the coverage players the opportunity break on the ball. The offense had to throw the ball far no matter what, yet the extra pressure meant the ball was going to likely come out quick. This was a bad deal for Tampa Bay.
In off Cover 3, both outside cornerbacks were able to have their eyes on Winston the whole time. At the snap, the primary read was to the right side where Tampa Bay had more numbers. Godwin was on the inside and Bobo Wilson was on the outside. The Bucs tried to pair a first down out route from Godwin in the slot with a go route from Wilson on the outside, hoping that the go route would clear the outside Cover 3 corner up the field so Godwin could have space to make a catch at the sideline. But due to the fact that the Panthers pressure forced the ball out early, and knowing that the Bucs were unlikely to go to Wilson 20-30 yards down the field in the most crucial play of the game, the outside cornerback was able to read Winston’s eyes, break on the pass and pick the ball off.
Because of the situation, I am only putting half the blame on Winston here. He had to make a throw or the game was over, the pressure forced him to get it out relatively early, and the defense did not respect Wilson’s go route at all. This really was the only throw he could have made to give the team a chance. However, he could have placed this ball farther to the outside. The bad odds just didn’t work out for them, as you would expect.
Fault/INT Counter: 4.5/9
The Bucs began their final drive of the game still down 37-26 with 1:12 left in the game and zero timeouts. Barring a quick touchdown, a successful 2-point conversion, a successful onside kick and enough time to get into field goal range again, this game was over. After back-to-back catches by Godwin to get them into the red zone, the Bucs went hurry up with 28 second left in the quarter (the game was over).
Against soft quarters coverage, Winston just tried to throw a ball up there for the 6-foot-5 Evans to be able to go up and maybe grab over the defender. But with the defender totally ready for it, he was able to come down with it before Evans could even turn to fight for it. If we’re being picky, this ball should have been fired to the very back of the end zone for Evans to either toe-tap catch in the back or no one could catch it at all. For that, I’ll say this is half to blame on him. But I cannot give Winston full blame here due to the lose-lose situation he was in before the ball was even snapped. Evans admitted he didn’t have a great game, and didn’t give great effort on this final throw.
Fault/INT Counter: 5/10
After the disaster of a game against Carolina, the Bucs traveled to Tennessee fresh off their Bye Week. This game ended up being a loss for Tampa Bay by the score of 27-23, in which Winston threw for over 300 yards with two touchdowns but had a 48 percent completion percentage and two more interceptions. This was also the game where head coach Bruce Arians said after the game that, “Jameis didn’t throw one damn interception that was his fault. His receivers let him down today.”
In the play above we find the Bucs in a second-and-13 situation with 1:22 left in the first quarter where they are down 7-3 on the scoreboard. Looking to take a shot down the field on second-and-long, Winston loaded up for Godwin, who was in the slot of a 2 x 1 set with numbers to the weak side. The Titans appeared to be in off quarters coverage with each member of the secondary playing with their backs to the sideline. The Bucs’ two outside receivers both ran curl routes to the sticks, and when Godwin turned on a curl route, too, that made us think that perhaps this was an “All Curls” concept where all four receivers were supposed to run curl routes at the first down market, hoping one finds a soft spot in between zone coverage.
But when Winston threw this ball, it was way over Godwin’s head, so much so that it didn’t appear to be a regular miss of accuracy, but rather a miscommunication on what route Godwin was supposed to run. Remember, the Bucs have option routes in Arians’ offense, which is something that Dirk Koetter’s playbook didn’t have.
Though we don’t know the exact play call, Arians’ comments after the game tell us that it wasn’t an All Curl concept, and that Godwin was likely supposed to go vertical up the seam in the middle, as was Brate off the line on the strong side.
Fault/INT Counter: 5/11
For Winston’s final interception of this game, the Bucs were down 27-23 facing a second-and-10 situation on their own 36 yards line needing to go the full field in 26 seconds – so they needed to take a shot. Because of this, their route concepts got more vertical, which Arians is never afraid to do. But though the length of the routes increased, the execution of them did not. After the game, Arians also said that, “Guys stopped on routes that were supposed to go down the middle. The last play was supposed to go down the middle, it was supposed to be a big play.” The “guys” he was talking about was Breshad Perriman.
Needing to cover a lot of ground fast the Bucs went 3 x 1 with three wide receivers to the strong side. At the snap, that’s where Winston’s eyes went. The Titans, knowing the Bucs only chance to win was to push the ball, came out in a 3-3-5 formation with a MOF (Middle of Field) defender right in between the deep safeties and just beyond the linebacker level in a “robber” type of zone. But the Bucs’ play call still attacked the heavy defensive coverage well.
By design, the Bucs tried to combine an in route from the No. 1 receiver on the outside with a post route from the No. 2 slot player. This opened up the middle of the field as well as they could have asked against a lot of coverage players. But when Winston threw the ball to hit the post down the middle, Perriman wasn’t there; he was just going straight vertically.
Arians’ comments after the game once again put this mistake on the shoulders of Winston’s cast more than a big miss by him. Perriman should have gone inside, which is where the ball went.
Fault/INT Counter: 5/12
Following the tough loss to the Titans, the Bucs travel out to Seattle where Winston put on a fantastic performance. Though it came with a loss, Winston threw for 335 yards with two touchdowns, a 65 percent completion percentage and zero interceptions. The next week, back home in Tampa Bay, Winston threw for over 300 yards, but this time two more interceptions came with it. The first of two is shown above. This was the first offensive possession of the game for the Buccaneers in a 0-0 game on third-and-7.
Seth Galina, who coaches football and is generally just a very smart football mind, broke down a bunch of Winston’s interceptions himself on Twitter. In his Twitter thread, he started by saying that, at times, it just seems like Winston believes his arm is better than it really is. This interception above is one of those example where I would agree with him.
Remember Winston’s second-to-last interception against Carolina in London? This play design was very similar to that one. In the play above, the Bucs had a 3 x 1 look with three receivers to the strong side. The Cardinals were trying to counter it with a Cover 2 Man shell, meaning the two high safeties were covering the deep halves while the rest of the defenders were in man coverage in front of them. When Godwin motioned from the outside in, cornerback Byron Murphy followed him. In the play, the objective is to get the outside receiver to carry his man up and away from the sideline using a go route. Then when Godwin breaks to the outside on his out route, he should have plenty of space to get separation and make the catch. Against Carolina it failed because the defense didn’t respect the go route. Here it failed because Winston just didn’t throw it hard enough.
When you have passes like this, they have to be fast, hard and to the outside. This pass didn’t seem to be any of those. It almost looked like Winston took juice off of this throw, which is a big no-no. If the pass isn’t hard and fast, you give the trailing cornerback the time to catch up and potentially get a hand on the ball. And even worse, if it’s not to the outside, the you open yourself up for the corner to not only recover, but undercut the pass. That’s exactly what happened.
I’m not sure if Winston just thought that was enough zip on the ball or what, but it clearly wasn’t.
Fault/INT Counter: 6/13
For the next interception we jump forward to the second half of the Cardinals game. In the clip, the Bucs found themselves tied 10-10 with their backs against the wall on their own 10-yard line facing third-and-11 with 2:17 to go in the third quarter.
As guardians of the sticks (the first down marker), the Cardinals were playing in Cover 3 with a single high safety and deep thirds coverage from the outside cornerbacks, but it wasn’t a vanilla, straight forward Cover 3 shell. Arizona was playing what is called “3 Buzz” where the linebacker is responsible for one of the flat zones while the extra safety stays over the middle. Meanwhile that weak side linebacker and also the nickel corner were in a technique commonly referred to as “buzzing the flat”, where each player doesn’t jam or re-route a receiver but rather immediately drops into the zone. That brings us to that safety over the middle.
Winston’s primary read on this play is actually Evans to his left. After the snap, he saw the middle linebacker dropping into a curl zone, which would have made it difficult to get the ball to Evans. Winston then goes to his next progression, Godwin over the middle. With one linebacker to the flat and the other in Evans’ curl zone, Winston must have just not seen the safety and thought that because the linebacker veered towards Evans he wouldn’t make it to Godwin and let it fly. But the safety was clearly right there, made contact at the catch point and the ball was intercepted.
That’s on Winston.
However, Godwin might have run this route a yard or two longer than he was supposed to. If it was designed as a curl at the sticks, Godwin runs two yards too far, which is a lot when it comes to timing. Godwin is also heavily contacted either right at or I would say before the ball arrives. Because of those factors and an unlucky bounce up in the air, I’m only putting this half on Winston.
Fault/INT Counter: 6.5/14
To this point, all but once, when Winston had a multi-interception game he was able to bounce back the next week. After throwing two interceptions against the Cardinals in Week 10, Winston was not able to bounce back against the Saints, throwing four interceptions in the blowout loss.
For Winston’s first pick, the Bucs were faced with second-and-10 down 6-0 after giving up points to both of the Saints first two drives.
There’s no need for a ton of words or an in depth schematic breakdown for this one. The Saints were in their traditional Cover 3 shell. The Bucs were in a 2 x 1 with a tight end coming off the line of scrimmage late on the strong side. Howard (the delayed tight end) ran a drag route over the middle, and the pass went straight off Howard’s hands and into the hands of the defender for the second time this season.
Not on Winston at all.
Fault/INT Counter: 6.5/15
For Winston’s second interception of the game we stay in the first half of the Saints game, but not by much. In this play, the Bucs had the ball at the New Orleans 43-yard line down 20-7 facing third-and-11 with 15 second left in the half and one timeout in hand.
Given the circumstance, Winston was throwing this one no matter what. As long as he was throwing it past the first down marker, even if worst case scenario happened and the pass was picked off, the Saints were likely taking a knee into halftime anyways. The Saints were playing pretty far off in quarters coverage to counter the offense’s desperation, so they were ready for the long throw. The Bucs called a four verticals concept with all four receivers on go routes. Winston goes for the primary target over the middle and the traffic takes over.
A few things here. The offensive line didn’t do Winston many favors on this one. The delayed blitz on the left side gets up and into Winston as he threw the ball (I think the contact gets to him just in time to affect the throw a bit). I would have said Winston should’ve stepped up in the pocket, but if he did Cam Jordan would have sacked him, and you at least want to throw it to give your guy a chance. But at the same time I don’t know exactly how much of this throw was affected. If Winston intended on throwing the ball low, that was the wrong choice. That allows the defender to dive and make a play on it.
The pocket wasn’t ideal, but Winston still has to see that the linebacker is playing inside leverage on the target and put this ball in a different spot, preferably a back shoulder type of placement away from the defender.
Fault/INT Counter: 7.5/16
Winston’s third interception of the New Orleans game came on fourth-and-10 from their own 33 yard line where the Bucs were down 27-17 with 5:19 left in the fourth quarter. By going for it here, the Tampa Bay was basically in a situation where Winston had to throw it no matter what or they were essentially saying the game was over.
The Bucs were a 3 x 1 set with three wide receivers to the weak side. New Orleans went with a deep Tampa 2. In Tampa 2, the two safeties take the deep halves of the field, the outside cornerbacks retreat but then squat at the first down marker, and the middle linebacker drops deep to cover/match any vertical route up the seam. This allowed the Saints to guard themselves against routes to the sticks (the first down) at the sideline, the seam up the middle and of course the deep halves of the field knowing the Bucs had to push it.
This play is tougher to understand because the ball is nowhere near a receiver. Former Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, who played under Bruce Arians in Arizona, recently talked about what it was like playing in in Arians’ offense. He said that there are a lot of option plays that allow wide receivers to be flexible with which route they run depending on movement in coverage during a play.
In theory, the freedom to adjust to coverage on the fly is great, but it heavily leans on chemistry between the passer and pass catcher for its success. If the two are not on the same page, it can go wrong in the worst way. I have to think that’s what happened in the play above. The target, Evans, cut inside to run an in route beyond Godwin’s curl route. But Winston threw this ball more vertically like it was supposed to be a post a few yards farther down the field.
This one might be one Winston, but we don’t know because of the miscommunication.
Fault/INT Counter: 7.5*/17
If you thought the last interception came from a desperate situation, just imagine what it would be like if Winston still had one more to throw in this game. In the clip above, the game was well over with. Down 34-17, the Bucs were at the 1-yard line on third down with 2:40 left in the game.
This throw is just bad. It goes back to the perplexing question of: does Winston just think his arm is better than it is? This ball has to either be thrown with much more pace than this or it had to be arced higher and much farther towards the side of the end zone. Goal line fades cannot in any way be low and short – and there’s no excuse when the player you’re throwing to is the 6-foot-5 Evans.
This was one of Winston’s worst interceptions to this point, if nothing else but for the complete lack of accuracy.
Fault/INT Counter: 8.5/18
For interception No. 19 we fast forward to the Bucs’ Week 12 game against the Falcons in Atlanta. But we don’t have to fast forward too far, as Winston first interception of the game came on his first pass.
As the Bucs had done many times before this, they opened this game in 12 personnel. After rushing for 11 yards and a first down on their first offensive play, they set up in a similar personnel that could have been a run or a pass. The Falcons showed a Cover 3 look with one deep safety and the outside cornerbacks with their backs towards the sidelines to funnel everything towards the middle.
I cannot say for sure whether or not or how many times the Bucs had run this play to start games before this, but they must have at least once or twice, because Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant knew exactly what route Mi