I’ve written about the Bucs’ offensive successes and failures in five straight Bucs Briefing columns now, but one thing we haven’t touched on is how they have handled pressure as a unit this season. While play under pressure is often seen as a quarterback statistic, or even a rare offensive line statistic, the reality is there are a lot of aspects that have to come together to make an offense consistently successful against extra pressure from opposing defenses.

Against the Chiefs on Sunday, Tom Brady was 4-of-10 (one sack) for 90 yards and two interceptions while under pressure. On the season, Brady is Pro Football Focus’ 25th-ranked quarterback (out of 29) in adjusted completion percentage and NFL passer rating (if you’re into that stat) while under pressure.

Before you pull your hair out, Aaron Rodgers is ranked 24th, Deshaun Watson is ranked 23rd and Patrick Mahomes is ranked 21st in adjusted completion percentage. Even great quarterbacks struggle under pressure, so the key is creating high percentage situations for them to win when under pressure, especially when mobility doesn’t work in the passer’s favor.

Most of the Bucs’ issues against pressure on Sunday vs the Chiefs came when the Chiefs sent extra blitzers – meaning more than the Bucs could account for in the protection scheme. That’s okay, as Brady is one of the sharpest quarterbacks in NFL history with knowing where to go with the ball in extra blitzer situations – he just needs his receivers to be on the same page.

On the Bucs’ second possession of the game, they faced a third-and-3 out of empty, before Brady motions Antonio Brown back into the backfield from the slot.

In talking to two different quarterback experts, both agreed that the lack of a hot route against overload pressure forces Brady into a throwaway here. One believed that Brown should be hot out of the backfield on this play, settling into the flat for a quick outlet for Brady. Another told me Gronkowski should be the one adjusting his route when the Chiefs blitz both linebackers, which makes the most sense to me, as his area of the field is vacated by the extra pressure.

Either way, the point is that there is absolutely no chance for Brady to succeed on this play. Everyone is covered, or their routes are too long-developing for Brady to be able to find them against unblocked pressure. Receivers have to identify that stuff pre- and post-snap and be able to adjust their routes to give Brady options in these critical situations. And coaches have to be communicating this stuff all week in practice, especially given how often Steve Spagnuolo’s Chiefs defense loves to send pressure.

On the Bucs’ third series of the game, they faced a third-and-2 out of empty, which they decided to operate with three tight ends on the field. Why, I have no idea. But that isn’t the point here.

Throwing from empty, Tampa Bay’s offensive line is in a four-man slide, with Tristan Wirfs isolated one-on-one on the back side against defensive end Frank Clark. Front side, Brady has his three tight ends running in-breakers to the middle of the field, but all of them seem totally unaware that pressure could be forcing Brady to get rid of the ball early in an empty situation.

Sure enough, the Chiefs send their weakside linebacker and drop their MIKE, leading Brady to throw hot to avoid a sack on third down. But none of the Tampa Bay tight ends are ready to catch the football, with Auclair running a half-speed route and Brate late to get his head around and find the football. The ball whistles through Brate’s hands for a huge drop on a third down that would have been crucial early in the game.

Let’s also look at the other side of the field, where the linebacker over Mike Evans blitzes against what the Bucs receiver knows is empty protection. Evans should know as soon as that guy blitzes, he has to sit down in that vacated space and give Brady an option. Instead Evans continues vertically up the field, and Brady has no options backside. Now, Evans may not even be coached to do that, and Brady doesn’t even look backside for a hot, so these flaws could extend beyond the players to the coaching. In fact, they almost certainly do. But they are flaws nonetheless.

Later in the game, the Bucs again failed to adjust routes against pressure, leading to Brady’s second interception of the game.

Before the snap, the broadcast showed Brady communicating to Evans that he was hot on the play if the Chiefs sent extra pressure. As soon as the ball is snapped, the blitz is in Brady’s face, but that should be okay, because Evans has been alerted that he’s hot … right?

Unfortunately, no.

Evans should be seeing that overload pressure to his side of the field and sitting down in the space right behind it, wide open for Brady to hit quickly. Instead Evans continues to the middle of the field, right into the path of the dropping linebacker. Brady is forced to adjust in a fraction of a second when Evans isn’t where he’s supposed to be, trying to throw through the line quickly in order to hit Evans before the dropping linebacker arrives. With no throwing lane, the pass goes off a helmet and is intercepted on the deflection.

One of the issues with Evans missing hot routes this season has been the fact that wide receivers typically don’t run them as often as tight ends, and the fact that he’s playing way more in the slot than ever before in his career, which is where hot routes are far more common. Head coach Bruce Arians shed more light on the issue when he spoke to the media on Monday.

“They had a blitz zero package that we didn’t handle well the first couple [of times] – who was hot [and] what they were supposed to do,” Arians said. “[We] kind of ironed it out on the sideline, [but] it led to another interception late when the ball went off the helmet. It was the same blitz, but we just didn’t correctly adjust. Tom [Brady] was perfect on it and we didn’t adjust to the right angle of the route for the zero blitz. Other than that, I thought when we adjusted, we played pretty, pretty solid.”

Here’s what it looks like when the Bucs handled it correctly.

Cam Brate sees the blitz, recognizes he’s hot, sits down right behind the pressure and picks up nine easy yards on 1st-and-10. It’s a completion nobody remembers, but it’s indicative of getting the small details right that keep drives alive. It’s what the Bucs offense is missing far too often this season.

A common refrain this season has been miscommunications between Brady and receivers, which has manifested itself on hot routes before. On Sunday, the problems were egregious, and they cost the Bucs offense dearly.

These things should simply not be issues to this degree in Week 12, especially given how often Kansas City has been sending extra pressure and utilizing zero blitzes this season. Coaching had the Bucs offense too under-prepared for success on Sunday, and that was a huge reason why Tampa Bay managed just 24 points on an afternoon where it could have had – and should have had – far more point production.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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BigSombrero
1 month ago

On the first play highlighted, Evans was open and shielding the defender, yet Brady tossed it out of bounds toward AB. Pressure came from left and right? Why didn’t Brady make that read to Evans who had single coverage on the crosser? Also, I’d love to hear Brady blame Evans for the “hot read” interception he bounced off the KC defensive linemans helmet. Check out #27 at the top of the screen on that play. His awareness is a good example as to why he is on the sidelines. Last thing, on that play, Brate looked like the better option.… Read more »

cgmaster27
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 month ago

Yeah his awareness on an interception should definitely sideline him. Sure thing. Maybe fournette wouldve ran over and caught the ball, get tackeled by the wind, and then fumble. You have zero point here.

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BigSombrero
Reply to  cgmaster27
1 month ago

RoJo might have ran over and swatted at it making it incomplete if he saw it doinked up in the air, but he wasn’t even paying attention. Film doesn’t lie. Ignore it all you want. Just don’t ask why Fournette is in the game on passing plays.

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RW
RW
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 month ago

You sure are missing something!!! Do you read the article where it says Evans went to the wrong place on the field on the 2nd interception? Brady tries to get it to him and it bounces off a helmet and is intercepted. Even Arians says “Tom was perfect on it” . Can you put your hate for Brady aside and try to be objective? Probably not.

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BigSombrero
Reply to  RW
1 month ago

I heard Romo during the game say WRs are NOT accustomed to making those hot reads on blitz pressure, but TEs are since they have to block more often.

I don’t care. Blame Mike Evans. Doesn’t matter to me. He’ll be next on you superfans list to get rid of since he’s not up to Toms lofty standards. Right there with Arians, D.Smith, Leftwich, etc.

If Winston bounced a pass off a lineman’s helmet, you jackasses would be calling him Mr. Interception. When Brady does it, it’s Mike Evans fault??

Yeah. Okay.

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RW
RW
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 month ago

I can blame Evans for screwing up but it doesn’t mean I want to get rid of him. He’s played inside enough this year to know where to go when there’s a blitz. Heck Brady even told him he was the hot receiver.
I think he is like many physically gifted players; they rely on their natural ability but don’t become students of the game. sort of like Jameis Winston.

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drdneast
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 month ago

No, you aren’t missing missing one thing your missing two,. awareness and intelligence. Brady doesn’t even have a split second to make a decision. It’s faster than that. He who hesitates gets sacked. And Brady didn’t blame Evan for the INT but he did go over and talk to him and you could see Evans was upset with himself. It was on the broadcast and pointed out if you watched it. As far as Jones missing a block, not good but I saw Tippy Toes miss one that was even worse. On the long ball to Godwin, Tippy Toes had… Read more »

BigSombrero
Reply to  drdneast
1 month ago

Awareness and intelligence, huh? Ouch. My feelings are truly hurt. I don’t call you names or insult you.

I simply asked a couple questions after watching the plays above. It appeared no one mentioned RoJo, yet all are perplexed as to why Fournette is on the field.

I offer a possible reason and get my head bit off.

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Last edited 1 month ago by BigSombrero
drdneast
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 month ago

I didn’t call you names, I suggested you lacked two qualities. I did recognize that Rojo missed that block but Fournette missed his as well.
What this all amounts to in Brady is playing at a much higher level than the rest of this team and it is they and the coaches who need to pick their game up to meet his level, not him. Brady is at 10-2 and the rest of the team and coaching staff is at 7-5,

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BigSombrero
Reply to  drdneast
1 month ago

Saying I lack intelligence was an insult, but whatever.

I didn’t say RoJo missed a block.

He was going out on a route parallel to Evans. He isn’t even looking back for the ball. Watch his delayed reaction AFTER the interception. He was totally unaware of what was going on.

My guess is the coaches watch film. I’m not sure why Fournette gets so much time considering the difference in results, but that play might be a clue.

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bucballer
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 month ago

Yes! U r. Ur an idiot!

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BigSombrero
Reply to  bucballer
1 month ago

Don’t get your blood up bucballer. Gonna give yourself a coronary. No need to call names.

It was an honest observation. If you’d like to build on the concept, or offer a retort, I welcome your high football IQ.🤓🤓🤓

Otherwise probably best to STFU and GTFOH! 🤡🤡🤡

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bucballer
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 month ago

Idiot, as usual

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Thunderman
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 month ago

Not missing the point you hate Brady.
I really miss old Buc ass Bob, at least his comments were amusing

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drdneast
Reply to  Thunderman
1 month ago

Please don’t say that or bring that name up.

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BigSombrero
Reply to  Thunderman
1 month ago

I just hate the Brady double standard. It’s always bothered me. Goes back to the “tuck rule”.

Whatever tho bud. I’m sure BucAssBob would be happy to hear you miss him.

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drdneast
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 month ago

When a dozen people tell you that your are drunk BigSombrero, go lie down.

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RW
RW
1 month ago

This is what makes Mike Evans a good not great receiver. He has great physical talents but seems to lack some football smarts. Making the right reads about coverage separates great from good receivers. He also requires far more targets than great receivers to make his numbers. Godwin’s catch rate this year is near 82% and yet Evans is at 59%.

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drdneast
Reply to  RW
1 month ago

I concur.

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bucballer
1 month ago

I don’t quite understand. Why is it that our opponents r able to pickup the Buc’s defenders when we blitz, but our Offense can’t seem to handle the blitz from our opponents? R other teams just better prepared?

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RW
RW
Reply to  bucballer
1 month ago

It is coaching. Other teams are better prepared and are able to make adjustments throughout the game. The Bucs seem to have this “let’s just go play some ball” mentality on both sides of the ball.

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drdneast
Reply to  bucballer
1 month ago

Yes.

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tnew
1 month ago

This stuff has been going on for the past two seasons… The thing is now that Brady is here, everyone doesn’t take the easy way out and blame Winston for everything. This was a primary reason I wanted Winston out. This high risk system requires a good defense and great special teams to win. Last season, with Succop as the kicker, the Bucs are 9-7 maybe 10-6. Its really easy to forget about last season’s killer opening schedule, a defense that featured VHIII and JPP not returning until mid season. Then a team going 5-1 until WR1, WR2 and WR4… Read more »

drdneast
Reply to  tnew
1 month ago

I agree with a lot you have to say, especially concerning Winston.
If the Bucs don’t clean this up, I hope neither BA or Lefto is here next year.
Seriously, if you look at Lefto’s body or work over the last year do you think anyone would hire him as an OC, least of all a head coach.
If BA can’t clean this up, I suggest the Glazers fire BA and Lefto and give Bowles a 3 year deal.

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drdneast
1 month ago

BTW Jon, that was excellent film study and analysis. Not just because it put the onus of the mistakes on the coaching staff and the supporting cast of players, but because it focused on key mistakes, why they were being made and how they affected the game. Great job!

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Joseph
Reply to  drdneast
1 month ago

I agree Jon has been a great addition. I agree with alot of what he says and It’s fantastic that he doesn’t just parrot what everyone says about the offense and defense.

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seat26
1 month ago

Buc fans freak if you make any criticism of Brady. It is hysterical. He gets a pass, no matter what he does. I am thrilled that we are 7-5. I never thought we would look this good at this point, but it is clear, that we are a long way from being a Super bowl team. And Brady’s play proves the old adage, “If you hit a QB enough, he will make mistakes.” It was great to see Marpet back in the lineup even if he was a little rusty. It looks to me we need to keep Gronk helping… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  seat26
1 month ago

Excellent post Seat. I concur with every point you made. Folks here are always seeking someone to blame. Often the blameless. Once they focus on the target, their entire narrative is to support the predetermined agenda, right or wrong. All designed to utter the words they enjoy repeating, “I told you so.” Mahomes is one of the best QB’s I have ever seen. His skill-set is simply uncanny. Truly amazing to witness live. Carlton Davis should have never been tasked to “go it alone” against Hill. No doubt that big #50 would have helped. Heck, if Derwin James could get… Read more »