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With nine minutes left in the Bucs’ Week 6 contest against the Eagles, Tampa Bay led, 28-14. But the team faced a 4th-and-2 from the Philadelphia 45-yard line, needing a first down to avoid putting their wilting defense back on the field. Head coach Bruce Arians wisely kept the offense on the field to go for it, but Tom Brady and co. couldn’t convert.

“I was trying to ice it and trust our offense to get it done,” Arians said after the game. “Then we didn’t get it done. You win some, you lose some.”

The Bucs rolled out in 12 personnel on the critical play call, taking Antonio Brown off the field. That was their first mistake. Brady looked over his options quickly, and was protected wonderfully. Eventually the Bucs star quarterback opted for O.J. Howard on a corner route, but couldn’t connect.

“No, we just missed him,” Arians said on Friday. “We went for the corner route and had a couple other guys that maybe could’ve gotten the ball. They had good pressure on [Brady] and we just didn’t make the play.”

There’s not a lot of detail in that description by Arians, so let’s take a look.

At first glance, we can see right away that Arians is mistaken about pressure. The offensive line does a great job on the play, and Brady has a completely clean pocket. At the snap, Brady looks to the field, where Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are in isolation. I struggle to understand making Godwin the least likely target on this play, in situations where he’s been so good for the Bucs.

Either way, Brady moves on quickly, perhaps too quickly. If he hangs in there a second, Evans comes open with a strong route. But Brady knows he has Howard against a linebacker with leverage from the snap on his corner route. The single-high safety makes a pretty good read, but won’t get there in time to make a play. Unfortunately, Howard flattens his route off rather than breaking at a proper angle. Combine the poor route break with a slow release, and the fifth-year tight end never creates ideal separation.

Perhaps Brady could have stuck a tight window throw in to Cam Brate or Gio Bernard, but the defenders on both players have some leverage. It would be a close call for either to pick up the first down in that situation. The Eagles deserve a ton of credit for covering this very well for the most part. There is no obvious place for Brady to go with the football.

I have small quibbles with Brady not sticking to the field concept on this play, but his process in throwing the corner route is sound. If Howard runs an acceptable route, there’s a chance this play hits. But that’s why you trust your best players in these situations, and have Brown on the field. That coaching error, combined with Howard’s ugly route, nearly cost the Bucs.

The Eagles scored on their next drive, cutting the Tampa Bay lead to 28-22 on a 2-point conversion. But the Bucs responded with a nearly 6-minute drive to ice the game with three kneel-downs. Tampa Bay is now 2-5 on 4th down this season.

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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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fredster
fredster(@fredster)
1 month ago

Yep that stupid play almost cost Bucs and might have against better opponent. It essentially let Eagles back in a game that was already over. Killed momentum. Just made no sense and Arians can be quite stubborn at times we know. Hopefully if they decide to go again down the road they don’t run Low percent plays on 4th and 2. That other recent quote from Arians “Tryon is playing plenty” was dumb too imo. JPP is hurt and not playing well. It’s like he doesn’t want to hurt his feelings lol. He’s not a bad coach at all but… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by fredster
Naplesfan
Naplesfan(@naplesfan)
Reply to  fredster
1 month ago

Dude – it was fourth down … the drive was already over unless they made a statistically risky fourth and two conversion, either on the ground or in the air. Or punt it. It is all too easy to label a play as “stupid” because the play didn’t work, and “brilliant” when it does work. In the game of football every play has a probability of success built into it. For the entire league to date this season all fourth down conversions amongst all teams total average only a 43.6% probability of conversion. The Bucs 4th down conversion rate is… Read more »

Eddie
Eddie(@oct62020)
Reply to  fredster
1 month ago

Agreed with your assessment on Arians. On top of that is he really on top of his defense and offensive coordinators and coaches? Nice enough guy however

BucHarbour
BucHarbour(@bucharbour)
1 month ago

When you choose to go to the air to pick up a critical 4th down, with just 2 yards to go no less, they should be in 11 personnel with their top 3 on the field. Make it nearly impossible for them to ideally cover all your targets. What’s worse is the only had one route crossing the face of the QB when you only need 2 yards. Our penchant for doing dumb plays at times is the one thing that continually keeps this team from maximizing its scoring potential. Get that 1st down, we likely score again and the… Read more »

surferdudes
surferdudes(@surferdudes)
1 month ago

Quick slant Godwin, Evans, Brown first down.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan(@naplesfan)
1 month ago

Meh – we had to give away the ball anyway if we didn’t go for it on 4th down, and the punt likely would have ended up in the end zone making only a 25 yard differential in field position. Either we trust our offense to do their job, and the defense to do their job, or we lose and go home. What Tom Brady actually sees can only be guessed at, but certainly not by the godseye view provided by game cameras. Could Brady have targeted Godwin? Sure … wouldas, couldas, shouldas by fans. What is important is that… Read more »

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 month ago

Naples: Punts into the end zone come out to the 20 yard line. Your point is still valid in that the Eagles may still have scored on a drive starting from the 20 instead of the 45.

Spitfire
Spitfire(@spitfire)
1 month ago

Look, it was a chance they took, chances are our Defense would have chased Hurts out of bounds 3 times again, but with the lead it was a time to test out plays and chances to know what the players would do and how they would handle it so that when they have to do it later on when it means something it won’t be the first time they’ve felt with it. I’m pretty sure next time that happens, Howard will make a better route choice. Everyone wants to say “Against a better team,” point is that it wasn’t. They… Read more »

chuckbville
chuckbville(@chuckbville)
1 month ago

Wide-open over the middle, probably Godwin who is not included in the offense this year. So pass to a TE who is not 100% Great read. Bad OC call.

Freeman Strickland
Freeman Strickland(@freeman1)
1 month ago

To give some credit to LT Smith, he pancaked his victim, so there was room for Brady to move left in the pocket if he saw it. To me, with the time Brady had, the RB looked like best shot. But, from the posted view, I cannot see if there is a clear passing lane unless Brady does move left. I agree that Brown should have been on the field – but who does he replace? Not Evans or Godwin – not the RB if you want protection – this is really Brate’s kind of situation – I would probably… Read more »

WVBuc
WVBuc(@wvbuc)
1 month ago

I think Tom wanted Bernard to continue into the flat where he was going to be wide open with room to run. It wasn’t the scripted route, I guess, but with the alignment, Howard’s route took the LB’er out of the play had the route gone to the flat.

HomerSimpsonRocks
HomerSimpsonRocks(@homersimpsonrocks)
1 month ago

Yeah I would have definitely preferred to see AB on the field than OJ. way more clutch of a receiver and router runner than OJ.

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
1 month ago

My how things have changed in Bucville from the days of 0-26, Bennett, Williamson, Perkins, Lovie, Schiano and Raheem. Talk about “stubborn”. I find it so comical that there are folks out there who so badly want to criticize the team, coaches and players, in their mind, to show their superior football knowledge, that they actually pick out a single failed play to decipher ………in a victory! Then to put on an exclamation point to their dubious remark, they declare the opponent, “lesser”. Guys/Gals and Whatevers, it was the execution, not the play call. Yes, the play had some risk… Read more »

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