Before you scroll down any further – yes, the officiating was awful, and it negatively impacted the Bucs far more than it should have in Tampa Bay’s 20-19 loss at Chicago on Thursday Night Football. The Bucs also negatively impacted themselves far more than they should have with sloppy penalties – a total of 11 infractions for 109 yards.

Offensively, there was definitely some encouraging aspects of the Bucs’ scheme and even some aggressive offensive play-calling, mixed with bizarre situational coaching, decision-making and personnel deployment, never more-so than on Tampa Bay’s penultimate drive of the game.

Bucs HC Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady

Bucs HC Bruce Arians and QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images

Oh, you mentally blocked it out already? I’ll remind you. With the Bucs up 19-17 with 2:48 remaining and Chicago carrying all three timeouts, Tampa Bay essentially needed a first down to seal, or at least nearly close out, the victory.

On first down, a run out of 13 personnel – a three-tight end formation. Why is this a terrible idea? The Bears are already expecting the Bucs to run, and running into a 9-man box is always a terrible idea. This was not a smart play call by offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.

If the Bucs come out in a lighter personnel grouping, for example three wide receivers, the Bears will respond by removing defenders from the box, opening more space for Ronald Jones II, who had 106 yards on the night, to pick up a few yards and eliminating defensive variables that could make a play in the backfield.

Instead, the Bucs bring bees to honey with their personnel grouping, and the Bears respond with SIX defensive linemen in the game. That means either Tanner Hudson, Cam Brate or both will end up blocking a defensive lineman on the play. With the game on the line, did the Bucs want essentially two big wide receivers blocking defensive linemen? That’s not a strategy for success.

Sure enough, Bears defensive tackle Brent Urban ran through Hudson’s feeble block attempt (he looked confused as to his responsibilities), dropping Jones for a loss of two to set up second-and-17. Chicago immediately called a timeout. That put the Bucs in a situation where they had to throw on second down, when essentially a gain of even a couple yards on first down would have allowed for a wider array of options on their next two plays.

I loved a lot of the man-beating route concepts the Bucs used to open up receivers early in the game, but where was that stuff later in the contest? How do you not have an automatic completion to gain a few yards in your second down play call, forcing the Bears to burn a timeout or ensure some clock is run? I know Chicago didn’t end up needing their remaining timeouts, but it’s still a very poor process by Tampa Bay.

Instead the Bucs come out in 13 personnel again, but keep two tight ends and Jones in to protect. That’s an 8-man protection against four Bears rushers, with just two receivers running a route, both of which are run beyond the sticks. That’s your best play call to gain a few yards and keep the clock moving on the biggest play of the game?

Did it help that after Jones check-released, he looked like he had no idea he could be thrown the football? Did it help that Brady was hit as he threw after center Ryan Jensen was beaten very quickly and the Bucs allowed almost immediate pressure despite having an 8-on-4 initial advantage in protection?

No, but the play-call was destined to fail from the beginning, and players also happening to execute poorly didn’t change that. Even good execution in that situation is realistically a 2-yard completion to Jones on a check-release out of the backfield. There is no reason the Bucs coaching staff should have expected that play to succeed, and it didn’t.

People will point to the 3rd-and-12 incompletion as another moment of failure, but there aren’t a lot of play calls for that situation, especially against a defense that can simply sit at the sticks in that situation because they know you have to throw there or the Bears are getting the ball back in great field position. The clock didn’t really matter after the second down incompletion, because the Bears still had two timeouts.

Based on what we can see from the broadcast angle, there’s no real option for success on this play. Rob Gronkowski is the only player open after he chips and releases, and he’s five yards behind the line of scrimmage. There’s no chance he gets to the marker unscathed, and Brady has to get a first down for the play to really matter. There’s no clock or field position advantage to be gained by throwing short of the sticks.

I would have loved to see the Bucs’ route combinations work the field more horizontally on third down, but chances of picking up a first down in that situation are minimal at best. The drive was lost by Leftwich’s poor play-calls and poor personnel deployment on first and second down, and with the short field and plenty of time on the clock for the Bears, the rest was history.

One of the worst things you can do as a coach is give your star quarterback zero shot to be successful in the biggest moments of the game, and that’s essentially what happened here. I get wanting to put it on Brady’s shoulders to be the guy, but he can only play with the hand he’s dealt. Throughout the entirety of this game, from players to coaches, Brady was dealt a terrible hand.

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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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TysonsFury
9 months ago

I agree 100%. Very astute observations. I was wondering why we ran the ball.straight into the Bears’ den! Never made sense to me.

eaustinyoung
9 months ago

Byron Leftwich just looks in over his head. No creativity or vision. And Bowles just read that offense HORRIBLY. Playing like Foles is some vertical powerhouse. He aint Russell Wilson. Should’ve played much tighter. Look how successful Dean and Davis were when they were plastered to the receivers..

Ron Potter
Reply to  eaustinyoung
9 months ago

I was surprised how often we got burned by that lob, swing pass.

Dman
Reply to  eaustinyoung
9 months ago

Exactly – Dean and Davis are both big physical press corners. In the first half Davis was physically abusing Allen Robinson. Having these guys play soft let Foles and Robinson play pitch and catch in the second half without being contested. Dumb.

plopes808
Reply to  eaustinyoung
9 months ago

Felt like I was watching Mike Smith’s defense smdh

Ron Potter
9 months ago

Great article, Jon! In general, it felt like we ran the ball on 1st and 10 all the time. Leftwich seems too predictable and I’m surprised RoJo had 100+ yards last night. Fans have been complaining about Leftwich’s play-calling for quite some time now. It’s a shame it takes a game like last night’s to bring all this attention to it. The tone after this game seems very somber. Maybe too much. We’re still dealing with a major pandemic and our country has fumbled in its dealings with it. I’m personally saddened we’re taking this loss so hard in the… Read more »

Selmon-63
Reply to  Ron Potter
9 months ago

Agree. RoJo gained 100+ yards in spite of Leftwich.

Naplesfan
Reply to  Selmon-63
9 months ago

You unintentionally make exactly the same point I made in my comment here in this thread. When the plays don’t work, the critics blame the play calling. And when the plays do work, they credit the players. You exemplify that perfectly!

Play calling matters vastly less than does play executing. Always.

Ron Potter
Reply to  Naplesfan
9 months ago

They’re equally important. Not vastly less, not vastly more. I wouldn’t want Khalil Mack knowing what I was going to do next. Would you? And my main point was, why does all this matter anyways in light of the circumstances? It’s all dumb.

bucballer
Reply to  Naplesfan
9 months ago

A bad play call is a bad play call. Even if u execute the play called but the defensive alignment nullifies it by flooding the box. It’s still a bad play call. If BL can’t do it then mic down it a bit and let Brady call the damn plays! He’s been doing 10x longer than BL. BL is in over his head and without a clue on how to sustain a drive. Come on man… u got the GOAT at QB for a very limited time. Make the best of it damn it! If not give Brady the choice… Read more »

Ron Potter
Reply to  Selmon-63
9 months ago

Exactly. I thought that was extremely impressive!

BigSombrero
9 months ago

“Hudson looked confused as to his responsibilities”, but who did Wirfs block?????

Wirfs put a single hand on Urban, then disengaged and went downfield. Meanwhile Urban split them and blasted RoJo.

Why wouldn’t the OT block on a running play??

BigSombrero
9 months ago

Indy ran all over the Bears last Sunday. I think RoJo had a great game, so why wouldn’t you run it? The OL was at their best running it.

I also remember Fournette closing out the game on a similar play earlier this year and Ledyard criticizing that call too.

If RoJo gets past the line, he’s out the gate and it’s game over. If not, the clock runs.

They shouldn’t have passed it one single time. They should have ran the ball and clock and made Chicago use their timeouts.

drdneast
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 months ago

I don’t think they ran out of the same personnel group against Carolina and if they did they did it with OJ Howard, not Tanner Hudson. That call stunk and so did the next two. Lefty is an idiot and unfortunately, just like Koetter with Mike Smith, Lefty is Arians little prodigy and we won’t ever be able to get rid of him.

eaustinyoung
Reply to  drdneast
9 months ago

I do grow so tired of the Good Ol’ Boys Club mentality in professional sports coaches. Just because someone is your friend doesn’t mean they’re good at their damn job. It’s so nepotistic.

Donkey_Hunter
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 months ago

Indy “ran all over the Bears” last Sunday? Lol…

BigSombrero
Reply to  Donkey_Hunter
9 months ago

Busted!

RoJo outrushed the ENTIRE Indy backfield 106 to 103.

Also, Rivers only attempted 29 passes for 190 yards! Yet, Indy totally dominated the Bears in Chicago. It was 19-3 with 2:00 remaining when the Colts ran “prevent” defense and let the Bears burn the clock out.

#gameover

Donkey_Hunter
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 months ago

I’ll give you credit for admitting you got exposed with your horrible take.

Kudos to you.

BigSombrero
Reply to  Donkey_Hunter
9 months ago

Indy has a legit #1 defense. That was the actual difference. I wouldn’t depend on Rivers to win big games any more than Brady at this point.

It will be obvious in the end.

Michael76
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 months ago

The numbers don’t align with your statements. The Colts (legit #1) defence gave up 28 yards on the ground, 241 in the air for a total of 269. And with the 2 pt conversation, 11 points. The Bucs (not legit #1?) defence gave up 35 yards on the ground, 208 in the air for a total of 243, yet with the shorten field allowed 20 points (special teams and the fumble AND FREAKIN PENALTIES ) Granted you don’t like Rivers any more than Brady, but what is the Colts record? Like Jon… I think the defence should have used more… Read more »

Last edited 9 months ago by Michael76
RW
RW
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 months ago

Brady far superior to Rivers at this point.

RW
RW
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 months ago

I would have thrown a short swing pass on 1st down. If Bears are going to stack the line than put the ball in Brady’s hands.

drdneast
9 months ago

Jon, if you read this could you please explain to me why the Bear were able to burn the Bucs at least three times on practically the same dump off pass to Foles left side of the line. The Bucs got burned continuously by it usually on blitizes.

eaustinyoung
Reply to  drdneast
9 months ago

Seemed like Bowles was playing bad zone coverage like Foles was going to go deep and left scrubs like Cordarrelle Patterson completely uncovered. Which kept Lavonte David and Devin White occupied in the middle for the blitz. And he made no adjustments to deal with it.

Naplesfan
9 months ago

Meh. Critics always say that when plays don’t work the playcalling was terrible. And when the plays do work, they compliment the players not the playcalling. Showing run in a 13 personnel formation isn’t dumb when you are deep within your own territory, when you only have a minute to score or you lose the game, and the defense has been making a hash out of your offensive line and quarterback the entire previous quarter of play. This is the smart play. But no matter how smart the play, you still have to execute and win on the play. We… Read more »

BigSombrero
9 months ago

“Brady was dealt a terrible hand.” says Ledyard.

#NoExcuses

#MarketingMovesDontWinGames

#GamesAre4QuartersTom

He only has a top 10 defense, the deepest and best TE room, and the best WR group in the NFL.

Eddie
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 months ago

Were you able to read the injury report on TE and receivers before the game started?

BigSombrero
Reply to  Eddie
9 months ago

He had Evans, Gronk, Brate, and Miller amongst (many) others.

NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 months ago

3 of the 4 you mentioned had limited participation throughout the week. Thanks for answering the question lol

BigSombrero
Reply to  NaplesFan2.0
9 months ago

Excuses, excuses.

I don’t remember you or anyone else considering the Chargers missing 11 of 22 starters when Tom came back from a 17 point hole he dug at home vs backup scrubs!!!

BigSombrero
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 months ago

That’s 3 first ballot hall of fame players in Brady, Gronk, and Evans. Shut the f*** up!!!

RW
RW
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 months ago

And he didn’t have Godwin, Howard, Fournette and McCoy. Of the guys he played only Brate was the only true healthy receiver. Give your head a shake!

Dman
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 months ago

I agree that Brady shouldn’t get a pass here. If he’s the “coach on the field” we’ve been hearing about, change the play, take advantage of the D’s alignment, run play action out of the 13 formation and throw a quick, short pass. Brady held the ball when he either should have dumped it off or thrown it away – nobody expect him to tuck it an run. But why take the hits and the sacks? All I heard last season was criticism of our QB of record doing the same things. I know, heresy comparing “The GOAT” to #3.

Spitfire
9 months ago

Well, it is nice that we didn’t get blown out, we should have won if the officials didn’t hand the Bears basically 2 touchdowns in 1 min. We had a lot of early success with guys that have barely ever been out there and then let our frustrations combine with the worst officiating I’ve ever seen and beat ourselves as much as the the officials did. If anything good can come out of this it can be a major learning lesson that despite some early success we still have room for improvement. Hopefully we get most of our guys back… Read more »

twspin
9 months ago

Here it is straightup..no chaser. Give them Maulers credit. Their defense brought it when they had to. Sure we were shorthanded but nobody cares. This is the NFL and you A** will be eaten in this Jurassic park baby. All team have injuries..no excuses. I blame partly our coaches for poor game planning. . They know Mack’s strength is equivalent to maybe..Aaron Donalds.The guy is a straight up beast. He tool Wirfs to school who..held his own on a lot of plays. Yes if we had all hands on deck? Maybe then we could have pulled it out. Chicago was… Read more »

Knightrider79
9 months ago

There’s a common theme in the games where we, as fans, say the officiating is terrible. It seems like it gets in the players and coaches heads. They play and call games like they’ve never done it before. I truly believe that we will play Chicago again. But the next time will be in the playoffs. The next game I believe will be dramatically different. I also believe that we will come out hard against Green Bay and win that game. For some reason I think that we’re gonna play lights out. Usually when we play a terrible game. We… Read more »

revfish
Reply to  Knightrider79
9 months ago

There are two points that are not mutually exclusive. The officiating was bad and it did contribute to the loss. It is also true that if Tampa had scored a touchdown instead of four field goals we win the game. If we can get a first down with three minutes left or so we win the game. And yes, for some reason the defense Not to cover the running backs out of the backfield in coverage which contributed to the loss. Bottom line. They made two touchdowns and we made one

EastEndBoy
9 months ago

Wins have many fathers, losses are orphans. Plenty of blame to go around.

BigSombrero
Reply to  EastEndBoy
9 months ago

Well said sir! Never heard that before!

NaplesFan2.0
9 months ago

I find it amazing that almost the entire organization played poorly and the narrative in the national media is, “Tom forgot the down!” Overreaction to results is a double edged sword I guess. It was a 1 point loss to a good team on a short week. Shit happens. P.S. if we’re looking for a defining play for the game, the Shaq roughing penalty on 3rd and 18 is a good place to start.

lambeau
9 months ago

Coaching may be this team’s biggest problem.What was the plan to contain Patterson on returns, or Mack? The Patriots have 11 penalties this year; the Bucs 11 last night–that’s discipline. The only thing I can think of for playcalling is for Tom to manage up and incorporate his and McDaniels thinking more and more as the year goes on. Maybe his headset goes out at times…

Donkey_Hunter
9 months ago

Spot on as usual, Jon.

The play calling on our last 2 offensive possessions were…well…offensive. Mix that with horrible officiating and an absolute joke at LT, this game was a huge letdown.

BigSombrero
Reply to  Donkey_Hunter
9 months ago

#ScapeGOAT

It couldn’t be Brady. It’s got to be the lowly Bucs, their dumb coaches, and the lack of talent around the great Tom Brady.

Bucs (players, coaches, owners) are bound to receive the full credit for Tom’s ineptitude. For good measure, let’s add the officials who have a vendetta against Tom.

Last edited 9 months ago by BigSombrero
Donkey_Hunter
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 months ago

Did he play his best game? Of course not. Was he one of the biggest factors in the loss? Of course not.

Moving along…

RW
RW
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 months ago

It sounds like Brady did a dump in your Sombrero and that’s why you are so bitter!

CrackerBall
Reply to  BigSombrero
9 months ago

Brady is a HOF QB… had a rough game, for sure, but it happens (*occasionally). Don’t understand your anti-Brady hot takes however… you prefer we still have our last QB or something?

You are a drama-filled sourpuss at times. Just sayin’

Last edited 9 months ago by CrackerBall
revfish
9 months ago

Great analysis. On first down you could see what was coming… I’m a Brady fan but I would add that Brady did not check out of these two play calls and a great question is why he didnt. He deserves blame too

fredster
9 months ago

There are plays called that don’t work and make you scratch your head every game for every team. The Bucs lost because they sucked all night period! Poor execution and poor discipline. Moving on to Greenbay. I have friends that are Packers fans. They haven’t beat anyone good yet. They know Brady and Bucs is are pissed and they are afraid of this game. Go Bucs let’s see if they can rebound. I like being underdog.

drdneast
9 months ago

Good call Fredster, On to GreenBay. Hopefully the Bucs will be rested and at full strength for the game, except for Vea and Howard, especially our WR and RB corp.
We were fighting the Bears with one hand tied behind our backs.
Only one more reflection.
The next time we our in the same situation can I suggest Arians take over the play calling, I’m still slamming my head on that first down run call with the personnel grouping we used.

thegeebo
9 months ago

It’s very sad and frustrating when week after week, a sportswriter and home analyst pinpoints the same mistakes being made by a terrible coaching staff and playcaller. The hardcore football fans who have been seeing these things since last year from Leftwich with almost ZERO adjustments or improvement have been slamming our heads on the table. IF WE CAN FIGURE OUT WHAT’S WRONG WHY CAN’T LEFTWICH AND THIS STAFF???

AlbJack65
9 months ago

Once again, Jon Ledyard comes off as a know-it-all douche nozzle. Okay Ledyard, since you are so wise and all knowing, please tell us all what football coaching experience YOU have.

thegeebo
Reply to  AlbJack65
9 months ago

Ledyard is providing perfect analysis, and has no attitude of superiority. I see something new in each of his articles. The Bucs coaching staff would be so lucky.

AlbJack65
Reply to  thegeebo
9 months ago

Perfect analysis? How can someone that has never been an NFL offensive coordinator provide “perfect analysis” on someone who is? Tell you what. Let’s have someone who has never done your job come and tell you how you should do it and we will see what you think of their “perfect analysis”. Ledyard is the prototypical “sports journalist” who thinks he knows everything but has no real experience.

RW
RW
Reply to  AlbJack65
9 months ago

Well hindsight is 20/20!

RW
RW
9 months ago

Yes play calling was a problem however the biggest issue was the lack of a reliable pass catching threat out of the backfield. Rojo is still very iffy in the passing game. If Fournette had been healthy this was the type of game that Brady would have thrown to him 6-7 times. That would have helped counteract the aggressive pass rush.

GrafikDetail
9 months ago

same problems that plagued the Buc the last 5 years are still here… bad luck, bad coaching, bad play calling, bad defense, below average running game, mishaps at the worst time especially on the oLine & injuries to key players… on the bright side the young defense is playing much better this season… & the running game has improved…season has been interesting & looking forward to see how the Brady experiment pans out

owlykat
9 months ago

I hope some poor team looks at the Bucs record and hires away Leftwich. That would be a break for the Bucs!