Not having open locker room at One Buccaneer Place and restricted media access to players this year due to COVID-19 has forced me to do less feature segments on players and more analysis on the games. So I’m using the Fab 3 section – called Rewind – Fast Forward – to share some observations from the Bucs’ last game as well as my analysis in previewing the next one. Enjoy.
REWIND: Week 9 vs. New Orleans Saints
• The Saints rushed for 138 yards against the Bucs’ top-ranked rushing defense in Sunday night’s 38-3 win over Tampa Bay. That’s the most rushing yards the Bucs have allowed since the Seahawks ran for 145 yards in a 40-34 overtime loss at Seattle on November 3, 2019.
Saints QB Taysom Hill and Bucs ILB Devin White – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
New Orleans saw what the New York Giants were able to do against the Bucs on Monday Night Football in rushing for 101 yards by using two and three tight end sets to overpower Tampa Bay at the line of scrimmage. The Saints used multiple tight ends and a power running game featuring backup quarterback Taysom Hill as a runner, and he led the way with 54 yards on seven carries (7.7 avg.), including a 23-yard run.
“I think it’s more to keep us out of nickel,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “In base defense, you only can do so much. Nickel, you can get pretty exotic with them. I think the three tight ends is something that tries to get you in base defense to throw the ball more than run it. Taysom Hill – we just didn’t stop the power play. We stopped [Alvin] Kamara really well, but we didn’t stop Taysom Hill. In the Giants [game] we got out of our gap twice and tried to do too much. I’m not concerned with the running game right now. I think we’ll bounce back pretty good against a really good, talented backfield.”
• Tampa Bay curiously played more zone coverage and blitzed New Olreans quarterback Drew Brees fewer times than most expected in Sunday’s loss. But both Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said that the Bucs tried both man and zone defense and rushing with four as well as blitzing and nothing seemed to work. Quarterback Drew Brees had four touchdowns against Tampa Bay, including three in the first half as New Orleans built a 31-0 lead at halftime.
Saints QB Drew Brees – Photo by: USA Today
“Going back, we blitzed more than I even thought we did on the field – it’s whether it was blitz zone or blitz man [and] we went zero [coverage] a couple times,” Arians said. “We got him off the spot, but Drew did a great job last night of moving in the pocket and still being accurate. Guys were getting ready to hit him and he threw some really good balls down the field accurately. It was the best I’ve seen him play in a while. Defensively, our safeties and our inside linebackers did not play very well. There was really, really poor communication.”
FAST FORWARD: Week 10 at Carolina
• The Bucs just lost to the Saints, 38-3, and have been outscored by New Orleans, 72-26, combined in both meetings. Tampa Bay has a rematch against Carolina, a team it beat 31-17 in Week 2, and the danger in this game is not just the fact that the Panthers are better than their 3-6 record would indicate. It’s that offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s offensive system is similar to that of the Saints, as he spent time in New Orleans learning under Sean Payton before calling plays at LSU in 2019.
Arians sees some of the concepts in Carolina that New Orleans has in its offense, including having the quarterback get rid of the ball quickly.
“I think a lot of similarities,” Arians said. “I think Teddy [Bridgewater] was able to adapt really quickly because he played in the offense, knew the terminology [and] there was a familiarity. Getting the rest of the guys up to speed – which it looks like they’ve done pretty quickly – [was important] because they’re playing really, really well on offense right now.”
Carolina scored a season-high 31 points in a 33-31 loss at Kansas City last Sunday, and lost the game on a missed 67-yard field goal.
Bucs ILB Devin White and Panthers RB Mike Davis – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
• Carolina ran the ball successfully against Tampa Bay in Week 2, rushing for 87 yards behind Christian McCaffrey’s 59 yards and two touchdowns. McCaffrey is out with a shoulder injury and will be replaced by Mike Davis in the backfield. The 5-foot-9, 221-pound Davis is more of a power runner than McCaffrey is and could pose some real problems for the Bucs defense. He’s averaging 4.2 yards per carry this season and has rushed for over 66 yards three times in McCaffrey’s absence.
Davis is also an excellent receiver and has 43 catches for 278 yards and two touchdowns in 2020. Davis had eight catches for 74 yards in Week 2 against Tampa Bay.
“I think [there is] a little more power running because Davis is such a powerful runner,” Arians said. “He’s also still a really good receiver. I think a lot of the same concepts – [Curtis] Samuel is doing a little bit more. He’s in the backfield, he’s running [and] he’s catching, so they’ve got dynamic players at the skill positions. I think (Carolina offensive coordinator) Joe [Brady] is doing a heck of a job with them.”
• The Panthers have two big weaknesses that the Bucs should be able to exploit on Sunday in Carolina. First, the Panthers only have nine sacks in nine games and can’t get to the quarterback consistently. That should help the Bucs offensive line, which struggled in pass protection last week, surrendering three sacks and nine QB hits against the Saints. When Tom Brady has a clean pocket to throw from he’s proven to be deadly for opposing teams.
Bucs DT Ndamukong Suh – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Secondly, Tampa Bay should be able to take advantage of left guard Chris Reed and right guard John Miller. Miller had a rough outing in Week 2 when Ndamukong Suh had two sacks against him. Miller also allowed two QB hits, four pressures and was penalized twice in a nightmarish outing in Tampa Bay. He’s given up 14 pressures in nine games nad been flagged a total of three times. Reed didn’t play against the Bucs in Week 2, but he has allowed one sack and nine QB pressures and been flagged three times in the last seven games, while earning a 40 pass protection grade from Pro Football Focus.
• The Bucs have rebounded from their first two losses of the season in convincing fashion this year. Tampa Bay lost at New Orleans in Week 1, 34-23, and trounced Carolina, 31-17, the following Sunday. After losing at Chicago, 20-19, on Thursday Night Football, the Bucs bounced back at home by beating Green Bay, 38-10.
Tampa Bay was defeated by New Orleans, 38-3, on Sunday night, so if this pattern holds up, expect a Bucs win in Carolina – perhaps by a wide margin.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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