The emotional rollercoaster that is NFL football often leaves us in a fog. We tend to remember questionable rulings late in the fourth, clutch throws, and game-winning kicks. But when points are at a premium, as they were against New England, there are a ton of pivotal moments throughout the game worth a second look.

The sequence before halftime in Week 4 is one of those.

With 3:22 remaining in the second quarter, Mac Jones was leading his offense down the field with a chance to take a 14-3 lead. On 2nd-and-11, Shaquill Barrett blew by Patriots tackle Yasir Durant for a critical sack on Jones.

It looked like a drive-killing play until Josh McDaniels called a double pass; the nifty design gained 16 yards. On 3rd-and-18, the Buccaneers were playing a 2-high zone defense that was (wisely) focused on not being beat deep. However, with the ball on Tampa Bay’s 44-yard line and only two yards needed for a first down, it seemed that the Patriots’ scoring hopes were still alive. 

Bill Belichick decided otherwise. There has been a lot of focus on the fourth quarter decision to send out Nick Folk for a field goal on 4th-and-3. In my opinion, this second quarter decision was equally as interesting. The Patriots lined up on offense before quickly subbing in their punt team with the play clock winding down. Rather than giving the rookie quarterback an opportunity to gain two yards and end the half with a score, Belichick put the ball back in Tom Brady’s hands.

The Bucs were backed up on their nine yard line with 1:25 remaining in the half on second-and-six. Brady scanned the field and felt the pocket breaking down with interior pressure. He double clutched, rolled right, and delivered an on-the-run strike to Chris Godwin for a gain of 28 yards. Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich trusted their offense in a situation where many might be too cautious. Godwin and Brady delivered.

On the ensuing play, the Bucs moved to a 2×2 set by motioning Antonio Brown to the boundary. Brady knew that the Patriots were likely playing man coverage because cornerback Jonathan Jones followed Brown across the formation. Further, with the pressure New England was showing, Brady knew that it would likely be a single-high coverage. Brady caught the snap, saw the secondary rotate, used his eyes to hold free safety Devin McCourty to the middle of the field, and then tossed another perfect pass to Godwin. It’s only fitting that Brady would find success with Hoss (hitch/seam) in his return to Gillette Stadium.

It may have felt underwhelming when the Bucs ended the drive with a field goal. But the sequence of Barrett’s sack, Belichick’s fourth down conservatism, Arians’ aggression from his five-yard line, and two great plays from Brady and Godwin was as important as any for the Bucs. In a game where the Bucs struggled to generate points, maximizing every possession was critical. In a key moment, Arians understood that and trusted his quarterback. Of course, Brady delivered.

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About the Author: Paul Atwal

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Captain Sly
3 months ago

Perfect Analysis! Nobody else even mentions this but it was the difference in the game. 4th & 3 and you don’t trust your young QB to get you those 3 yards, instead you trust an old, inconsistent kicker in inclement weather, with a bad plant foot to kick darn near 60yd field goal. Bucs Escaped this one because of the patriots lack of playmakers, however don’t expect to beat many teams playing this way.

JSW
JSW
Reply to  Captain Sly
3 months ago

The Bucs played that way, because that was what it took to beat Belichick. This was about X’s and O’s, not Jimmy’s and Joe’s… Brady and Arians both understood that. They won’t play the same style against other teams, because they won’t have to. There’s only one Belichick. It sure makes you appreciate having Arians and Brady. I think two factors kept the game much closer than it might have been otherwise, besides the obvious (injuries): 1) the weather 2) the Boston mafia, who obviously had a ref, or two, on the take… (and the NFL wanted it that way…… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by JSW
Captain Sly
Reply to  JSW
3 months ago

Ouch! Conspiracy

chefboho
3 months ago

well said! perfect analysis of having a rookie QB instead of a goat at QB. The one thing that was kind of baffling to me was Godwin’s lack of involvement. From what i saw he only had three targets the whole game but caught all three including two clutch catches before half. For as good as the Patriots have been playing the slot on defense there’s no way any of them are capable of covering Godwin all game without getting toasted. Leftwiches game plan was a little odd at certain points, but a win is a win. I’m curious what… Read more »

Captain Sly
Reply to  Paul Atwal
3 months ago

Right again! Brady knew Belichick wants to control the middle of the field essentially erasing Godwin. There were very few opportunities over the middle. Godwin’s fine, credit BB’s scheme

Captain Sly
Reply to  Captain Sly
3 months ago

Let me add that BB’s scheme almost worked!

Naplesfan
Reply to  Captain Sly
3 months ago

It was a very close thing, for sure … about 2-3 inches too far left on a 56 yard FGA, to be exact.

Spitfire
3 months ago

Everyone was makin such a big deal about the Patriots showing one coverage ore snap and shifting into another after the snap. Shouldn’t that be standard? QBs and even armchair QBs now know how to decipher Defenses based on pre-snap motion. Why isn’t it standard practice to mix up showing one coverage pre-snap and QBs having to guess whether you are switching or staying in that coverage?

Captain Sly
Reply to  Paul Atwal
3 months ago

It was the scheme discipline. When Brady signaled pre snap motion BB’s defense disguised the coverage making tougher for Brady to read. Nothing Exotic but effective.

Naplesfan
3 months ago

Well, yes and no. The result of Arians aggression, or be it Tom Brady’s selection of targets downfield, resulted in many more long passes in the rain that simply failed to connect, zero red zone passing touchdowns, and a very low completion rate for Brady – less than 55% vs 79% for the rookie Mac Jones. Fewer passing yards too. There are times when dink’n dunk makes perfect sense. Short passes tend to have much higher completion rates, as evidenced in this game. And we’d much rather see a 5 to 10 yard completion from the 20 that gets into… Read more »

Buc on the Move
3 months ago

Great deep dive on some of the game changing minutiae that can be easily overlooked, yet result in Ws.

surferdudes
3 months ago

It’s easy to be aggressive when you have the best QB of all time. Belichick has a rookie making his 4th start, what don’t you get? By the looks of your picture, Bill’s been doing this before you were a sperm. Folk was making kicks pregame of 60 yards according to Arains. Maybe go back to journalism school, you’re no coach.

IDGABuc
Reply to  Paul Atwal
3 months ago

LOL I LOVE the reply! Yours was spot on and while I’m surprised you answered his at all, I thought you should and it is a perfectly appropriate response, esp. considering he was so nasty with his. It was also great that you didn’t let him off too easy for his garbage take. Stick up for your work and don’t let a person who wrongly disses it get a lazy freebie! Classic. Looking forward to more of your articles AND your replies!

Captain Sly
Reply to  surferdudes
3 months ago

This was an excellent article that spoke directly to that which you’re ranting about! Why are you so Angry?

1bucfanjeff
3 months ago

I really feel that the Pats were going to run a fake punt on that one play. However, when the Bucs remained in their normal defense it caused the Pats to take a delay of game. Bucs coaching win.

scubog
Reply to  1bucfanjeff
3 months ago

I thought the same thing Jeff.

This game wasn’t about Bucs offensive play-calling or coaching; it was about execution. The plays were fine, but how often is Brady hovering around 50% completion? N.E. knew they couldn’t run, so they used the dinks against our depleted secondary. Only time they completed a long pass was the two trick plays. “Grasshopper” hung in there, completed 3/4 of his passes, but at the end. “Close but no cigar”.