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Already up 10-3 against the New York Giants, the Bucs were poised to put the game away early on their third offensive possession. Cameron Brate motioned from the outside tight end spot in a hip formation to an off-set fullback position. Tom Brady, under center, took the snap and fired the ball past receiver Tyler Johnson to Mike Evans, looking to take advantage of the soft outside cornerback. The ball bounced off Evans’ chest right towards a leaping cornerback Adoree Jackson. And just like that, the Bucs — as they’ve done several times this season — put their opponents back in the game. 

The mistake came after a dazzling touchdown drive to open the game that featured play fakes, screens, sweeps, and end arounds.

“That’s good? The way we doin’ it?” asked Byron Leftwich, sitting next to Brady on a sideline bench with a tablet in hand. 

“Sssso good!” said Brady with an emphatic snap of his head. 

The offense continued marching on their second possession by methodically picking apart the Giants’ two-high coverages. The Bucs used tempo. They passed on first downs, setting up short runs on second downs. And Brady even moved the chains with a third down scramble for 10 yards, leading to a red-faced and expletive-riddled celebration. Although the offense fizzled out in the red zone and settled for a field goal, the drive was impressive. 

Yet, on Tampa Bay’s fourth offensive possession, the stakes felt much higher than they should have. The Bucs were at risk of fluttering after an early turnover, as they had a week prior in Washington. Thus, the third-and-3 from their own 29 yard line was a pivot point. Move the chains and work towards a touchdown, or go three-and-out and think, “Here we go again.”

Leftwich lined up his offense in a 1×3 formation, isolating Rob Gronkowski to Brady’s left. The Giants showed another two-high coverage pre-snap. However, after the snap, New York rotated their weak side safety, hoping to cut off crossers from the offense’s trips side. The coverage was effective, at least initially. Brady went through his progressions and reset in the pocket.

Gronkowski, recognizing that he wouldn’t be targeted in-rhythm, adjusted his route on the fly. He stemmed up-field — prompting the free safety to open his hips — and then cut across into open space. 

On the very next play, it was Evans who stayed alive on his sit route against the Giants’ quarters coverage. 

Though it was only a 6-yard gain, it created a favorable second down. Historically, this has been an issue for the Bucs under Bruce Arians — largely due to first down play selection. 

A few plays later, Tampa Bay faced second-and-10 from the Giants’ 18 yard line. Brady hit his first read — Brate on an out route — perfectly against quarters (again).

As an aside, this is a good example of a would-be full field read. On a recent Pewter Report podcast, I spoke with Jon Ledyard about the difference between full field and split field reads, and why they matter when evaluating a quarterback’s decision-making. On this play, had Brady not thrown the out to Brate, he would have had a natural progression to Chris Godwin and Evans on their drive concept. 

Ronald Jones II capped off the drive with a power run on first-and-goal from the Giants’ 6-yard line. Tampa Bay’s offensive line continued their dominant play by denying any early penetration. And, from another hip formation, the tight ends created an excellent double team to displace the defensive end. 

According to Sports Info Solutions, the Buccaneers have already called power 20 times this season. In 2020, playoffs included, they only used it 22 times despite it being their most efficient run play. This is just another example of how the Bucs have benefited this season from diversifying their run game.

Even though the fourth drive occurred mid-way through the second quarter, it was a game changer. The numbers back this up, too. Per nflfastR’s model, the possession increased the Bucs’ win probability by 17 percentage points the highest change from any drive all game. 

The Buccaneers offense proved that it can refocus after an unforced error. Their next goal will be to avoid that error altogether.

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About the Author: Paul Atwal

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Naplesfan
Naplesfan(@naplesfan)
1 month ago

Gronk is the reliable safety valve for Tom Brady, and both of them know it. TB-12 held onto the ball longer against the Giants than he did the week before against the WFT, where he all too often dumped the ball off to Fournette for a short gain. Gronk, on the other hand, averaged nearly 12 yards a reception. The reason Brady can confidently hold onto the ball a bit longer and not take the sack is that he knows Gronk is there and will find a way to get open when others often don’t.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly(@captain-sly)
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 month ago

Also add there was no WFT Johnathan Allen to speed up his clock.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly(@captain-sly)
1 month ago

Nice read Paul. You can see the difference early on with the Bucs using tempo to keep the defense guessing and on its heels. Subtle but effective especially when you factor in that Both WFT & NY Giants are built identical. Credit the coaches for making the necessary adjustments needed to get the W. However we need a better game plan Sunday against Indy! Go Bucs

bucballer
bucballer(@bucballer)
1 month ago

Shut down Taylor and u win the game. It’s that simple. Time for our run defense to show why u don’t run on the Buccaneer Defense! Vea back in the middle helps a lot. Shaq should have have a comeback game against Colts. Shaq gets two sacks. Look for David and White to run sideline to sideline and have an active game as well. Would love to see JTS get a couple of sacks as well. With all the losses this past Sunday and on Thanksgiving in the Buc’s favor, it would really be nice if we could get a… Read more »

Mb Nfl Double Your First Deposit Football Team Vs Bucs Pewter 728x90 Jpg