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FAB 1. Arians Must Be More Aggressive

I’d like to begin this week’s SR’s Fab 5 column with an important message brought to you by this young cheer squad from Fairhope, Ala. in my randomly selected YouTube search.

“Be aggressive.”

“B-E-A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E.”

I’ve heard this cheer for nearly a decade as I coached Pop Warner youth football, and my daughters were on the South Pasco Predators cheerleading squad, yelling it out every Saturday in the fall.

After watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stumble to a 3-2 record thanks to sloppy, penalty-ridden affair in last Thursday night’s 20-19 loss at Chicago, it’s time for head coach Bruce Arians to stop fooling around and set the tone.

Before the Bucs take the field against the undefeated Packers on Sunday before a nationally televised audience on Fox, Arians needs to huddle up with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and state what this team’s identity is from this point going forward.

The Bucs identity needs to be that of an aggressive team that is going for the jugular in all four quarters of every game – offensively and defensive.

Strike first. Strike hard. No mercy.

Cobra Kai-style.

Sweep the leg if you have to, Buccaneers.

If you’re reading this and thinking this is a bad reference and that this tactic won’t work because Daniel LaRusso defeated Cobra Kai’s Johnny Lawrence at the end of The Karate Kid movie, I’ll tell you that LaRusso’s “crane kick” was illegal and that Lawrence should have retained his All-Valley Karate title.

But I digress.

Arians needs to either be aggressive and “no risk it, no biscuit” – or not.

But he can’t be in between.

“In between” was last Thursday night in Chicago where defensive coordinator Todd Bowles played too much soft coverage in the first half before playing tighter coverage in the second half. The result? Letting Bears quarterback Nick Foles get comfortable in the second half and lead his team to two touchdowns and a 14-13 halftime advantage, although one TD came on a short field due to a Bucs turnover.

Bucs CB Jamel Dean
Bucs CB Jamel Dean – Photo by: Getty Images

Bowles dialed up the heat in the second half and finally made Foles uncomfortable after he was barely harassed in the first half. Tampa Bay’s defense finally played aggressive football and came up with seven quarterback hits and three sacks in the final two quarters, and after surrendering a touchdown catch to tight end Jimmy Graham in the first half, cornerback Jamel Dean played much tighter coverage in the second half and had four pass breakups.

The Bucs kept the Bears out of the end zone and held them to just two field goals in the second half.

Imagine what would have happened if Bowles’ defense had played the first half like it did the second half?

I asked Bucs outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, who recorded his third sack of the season in Chicago, if the team should have been more aggressive in the first half to prevent Foles from getting into a rhythm.

“I won’t say he got comfortable, but we gave him that,” Pierre-Paul said. “At the end of the day that game is gone. I feel like we gave them that game and we beat ourselves. I wouldn’t say he got comfortable. I would just say we got comfortable and we beat ourselves.”

I beg to differ. Without much pressure and the Bucs playing soft coverage with a sizable cushion on the Bears receivers, Foles was 7-of-8 for 64 yards on Chicago’s first touchdown drive, and 3-of-4 for 27 yards and a touchdown on the second touchdown drive in the second quarter.

Bucs DE Will Gholston
Bucs DE Will Gholston – Photo by: Getty Images

I followed up my question to Pierre-Paul and asked him if it was a matter of not playing aggressive enough?

“We got caught lacking, basically,” Pierre-Paul said. “We got caught lacking.”

I’m not exactly sure what Pierre-Paul meant when he used the term “lacking,” and didn’t have the chance to ask another follow-up question on the conference call to clarify. Did he mean “lacking in aggressiveness?” Did he mean “slacking?” Did he mean “lagging?”

Because all three of those interpretations mean the same thing, really.

I got the gist of what he was saying.

The Bucs have three press-man cornerbacks in Carlton Davis III, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Dean. Having them play off coverage with the regularity that they did on Thursday night is not playing to their strengths.

It’s the same thing when Pro Bowl pass rusher Shaquil Barrett is asked to cover a running back downfield on a wheel route. That should never happen because that’s not what Barrett does best. Barrett plays much better going forward than he does going backwards.

Players want to play aggressive, and with the talent on this team, Arians, Bowles and Leftwich should let them do just that. But it has to start with the direction from the top.

Arians lets his coordinators call the plays, but he’s the one in charge of game day management. I applauded his effort to be aggressive and go for it with a Tom Brady sneak on fourth-and-1 from the Bucs’ own 19-yard line. Arians trusted his offensive line and Brady to convert that first down. Eight plays later, Ryan Succop nailed a 25-yard field goal to help Tampa Bay build a 13-0 lead.

So why not go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Chicago 7 with 4:52 left?

Bucs K Ryan Succop
Bucs K Ryan Succop – Photo by: Getty Images

A first down followed by a touchdown would have given the Bucs a 23-17 lead and made the Bears have to go for a touchdown of their own to win the game. Instead, Arians opted to kick a 25-yard field goal to take a brief, 19-17 lead.

The rationale was that the Bucs would take a two-point lead and then have the defense make a stop or two to win the game, but that didn’t happen. The Bears wound up kicking the game-winning field goal with 1:13 left in the game.

Tampa Bay’s defense needed to make a stop after taking a 19-17 lead regardless, right? So if the Bucs went for it on fourth-and-1 and failed, the Bears would have gone conservative and likely tried to run the ball, chew some clock and sit on their lead in the shadow of their own end zone. That likely wouldn’t have worked against the league’s top run defense and my guess is that the Bucs would have prevented the Bears from getting anything more than a couple of first downs before getting the ball back around midfield from a Chicago punt. With all three of its timeouts and the two-minute warning, Tampa Bay would have had plenty of time to try to drive for a game-winning field goal.

Perhaps the Bucs would have been more successful than they were attempting to do just that with 1:13 left and no timeouts the way it played out.

Field goals get you beat in the NFL. Touchdowns win games.

Arians has seen enough football in his 68 years on this Earth to know that.

Arians should have gone for it on fourth-and-1 at the Bears’ 7-yard line.

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

In fact, EDJSports.com produced some analytics that back up that argument. Kicking the field goal to take a 19-17 lead gave the Bucs a 51.9 percent chance of winning the game. Failing to convert on fourth-and-1 would have reduced the etam’s chances of winning to just 43.8 percent.

That’s an 8.1 percent decrease.

Yet, converting for a first down would have increased the team’s chances of winning to 67.1 percent, which was a 15.2 percent increase. That’s a risk that Arians should have taken.

Playing aggressive doesn’t mean playing stupid or taking unnecessary risks. Going for it on a long fourth-and-1 at the Chicago 7-yard line in the fourth quarter would have been a good, aggressive call, whereas it going for it if it was fourth-and-4 at the Chicago 11 instead of kicking the field goal would not have been the right call. Going for it on fourth-and-4 would not have been aggressive – it would have been stupid.

With the way the offensive line was blasting holes all night for Ronald Jones II, who averaged 6.2 yards per carry en route to 106 yards rushing, Arians should have trusted his players to get one yard – especially since they did it earlier in the game from their own 19-yard line.

On Thursday’s conference call, Brady hinted that he would have preferred going for it on fourth-and-1 late in the game.

“Coach is going to make those decisions and he’s going to do what he thinks we need to do in order to win, so he and I talk every day,” Brady said. “He knows how I feel about that. I think any time a coach trusts you like that it empowers you to want to do it and continue to make the plays. So when you go for it on fourth down you know the risk in doing that, and when you make it happen, you know you’re going to get another opportunity. I’ve been on teams where we didn’t get those opportunities do it, and you’re frustrated that you didn’t get those opportunities but sometimes you don’t deserve them. We have to keep earning them and that’s through good execution.”

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers – Photo by: Getty Images

On Tuesday, I asked Arians what the Bucs have to do in order to have success against Rodgers, who has completed over 70 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. His answer?

Be aggressive. That was music to my ears.

“He’s playing at a really high level,” Rodgers said. “One thing [is] you have to get after him – that’s for sure. You can’t play scared. Knowing that the ball is going up – back-shoulder throws, he’s the best there is. You’ve got to cover your guys [and] you’ve got to do a great job. I think more so [it is] the improvisational plays when he gets out of there. That’s really when he’s at his best.”

Arians needs to do his part and not coach scared, either.

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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: sr@pewterreport.com
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eaustinyoung

Losing to Chicago will probably end up more detrimental than not. They will be a team Tampa competes against for a Wild Card spot if Tampa cannot win their division. Packers, Chiefs, and Saints are the big 3 that Tampa needs to win if they want to go deep into the playoffs. Time to put the foot on the gas. If weeks 1-4 were the surrogate preseason, then Chicago was Week 1. That means Sunday should be the expected result of everything coming together. Weapons are healthy, Chicago exposed a lot of weaknesses. Let’s just hope the coaches and players… Read more »

buddah

Tampa Bay always gets screwed with scheduled. First, we play a Thursday night game on the road. Now we have to play both Green Bay and Las Vegas coming off their bye. Still, we have the talent to compete. Forget about wild cards; we want to win the Division. New Orleans has not been impressive.

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BigSombrero

This schedule is 10x easier than last years schedule. Every team plays a Thursday night game, not just Tampa. The Bears played the late game before the Thursday night game, so they actually had LESS time to recover from the previous game, plus it was Foles 1st start of the season.

Tom Brady simply beat himself and became a meme against the BEARS.

Temper your expectations and admit that Brady isn’t the 2020 MVP.

He’s just an OLD GOAT.

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Spitfire

New Orleans is limping on its last leg. We are a much better team and hopefully start to prove that without a doubt moving forward.

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eaustinyoung

Also Arians needs to swallow his vertical gunslinging 1980s offense pride a little bit and feed the RBs. Eat up the clock, exploit the Packer’s bad run defense, keep Rodgers off the field. Theres 4 good RBs (McCoy is borderline but we know hes got some skills) – feed them til they’re sick of eating.

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Last edited 15 days ago by eaustinyoung
DerLutz

The bucs are a pass first team. There we have our best players. Running the ball on first down to get a long 2nd and 3rd down will make the bucs leave the field way faster. Mix the run in but do not force it

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eaustinyoung

RoJo was eating up the Bears until they abandoned it and had to start throwing because of a weak ass call to settle for a FG putting them behind. Don’t force the throws either.

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Captain Sly

Haha 1980’s offense about sums it up!
Going all the way back to last season this team has been an “Anomaly” (no identity). BA talks no biscuit but plays tight in close games. I agree let’s just scrap all of the slick slogans, line up & run it right at them. Cheers!

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eaustinyoung

It reminds me of Gruden putting the big rock in the locker room for the RAH RAH POUND THE ROCK hype. Which everyone laughed at as cheesy and dated last year but Gruden actually looks like he’s adapting the Raiders to the modern game. I can’t say the same about BA right now.

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Captain Sly

Yep! Though I have never been a Gruden fan Gruden knew how he wanted to beat you and close out a football game. Can’t say the same thing for BA. Hopefully by the end of the season he he changes my mind. Nice Comp!

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eaustinyoung

Yep. Never thought I’d be jealous of Gruden over Arians – and my tune might change Sunday. The Raiders defied all odds and took out the King In The West Chiefs. Hopefully BA can do the same. Raiders are trending up. Bucs are a question mark.

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FLBoy84

Luckily the refs didn’t see Smith’s obvious hold on RoJo’s 37-yd run. With what’s likely to be a reduced cap next year and his maddening inconsistency even after 6 yrs in the league, going to be hard to justify paying him $14.25M with Marpet and Jensen making $10M+ as well. Moving Wirfs ($3.7M) to LT and resigning Haeg or drafting a RT might be a wiser option. Only 35 guys under contract for 2021, not including Barrett, David, Godwin, Suh, Fournette, Gronk, etc.. Going to have to make moves somewhere. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please… Read more »

BigSombrero

I’ve been saying it for a minute.

Super Bowl or Bust.

This team has a 1 year window, 2 if they are lucky. The old guy at HC, QB, DT, TE, and DE only have so much left in the tank.

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Spitfire

Yes, Smith is the weakest link on the Oline and we 100% need to find a replacement in the offseason. This line can be special if our LT spot gets locked down. BUT! I have been watching every team we play obviously hold the ever living hell out of us every game and not call it, so us getting away With one is just fine Haha. I watch Vea burst through the middle sideways while being obviously held about 5 times a game right in the QBs face. You’re telling me the Refs don’t see that? Not a chance. I’m… Read more »

Spitfire

I actually don’t understand why they don’t go ahead and make it an official rule that if you hold a guy between the pads then it is not holding, anything else is holding. Then the Refs can more easily find the blatant holds and everything is laid out instead of being a sometimes calls sometimes not weird kind of guessing game.

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FLBoy84

Agreed on the “hands inside the pads”, but even that wouldn’t have helped Smith on that run. Had his around the back of the pads and even spun his man around. What’s most frustrating is that he “has” the physically ability to be a solid LT, but he’s weak and lazy mentally and evidently unwilling to make the changes necessary to overcome it. Donald Penn was similar, and it took him being released to provide the wake-up call needed to improve his play when he went to Oakland. In Smith’s case, I’m doubtful even his release will provide the needed… Read more »

Last edited 13 days ago by FLBoy84
Michael76

The Bucs strength is the passing game. Beyond the fact that we have the best receivers, above average TEs, and arguably the smartest QB… the Oline strength is in pass protection. The running game has dramatically improved, in part due to some improvements in the Oline… but RoJo has truly blossomed Last year the Bucs were one of the best efficiency play action teams in the NFL (yards/attempt). This year we are again in the top two for play action efficiency. Brady has always been one of the best play action QB, and is typically the Pats were in the… Read more »

stlbucsfan

The Bucs are simply not putting players in the best position to succeed like they claim. Shaq has 19 sacks last season and what do we do? Switch the side of the ball he’s primarily rushing from and his numbers have dipped. Our CBs were drafted for press coverage yet to prepare a game plan that has them primarily in off coverage. The running game was effective in the 1st half vs CHI so they open the 2nd half and barely feature the running WHILE HAVING a lead. Bruce has been praised as this offensive genius but the reality is… Read more »

Naplesfan

Offensive penalties don’t happen in a vacuum. Both holds and early starts are most often associated with a offensive line that is getting beaten by the defense’s front seven. So it’s not simply a matter of “don’t get penalized” – it is really a matter of “You have to do a better job of blocking”. Given that the biggest offender on the team is Smith, and he is not only getting more holding penalties but also allowing more sacks and pressures on TB-12, then the real problem is that Smith isn’t playing very well. Certainly not up to the level… Read more »

ScottC543

I’m going to interject, mid-read, to disagree when you state that one of D. Smith’s holding penalties “didn’t count as it was offset by a personal foul”.

Excuse me, but “offsetting” something that is going to move us 15 yards forward AND give us a first down is a major freaking loss. Period.

Nothing is “offset”. The penalty punished us severely.

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Last edited 15 days ago by ScottC543
BigSombrero

The Bucs were lucky the Bears were flagged for roughing on that play. Wirfs was soundly beat by Mack and simply completed the tackle because the rookie was trying to hold TOM UP.

Also, Reynolds keeps saying D. Smith was beat by Mack on this play, but he too isn’t paying attention. I’d say Smith did a good job blocking and it was a bs call on him.

Watch the play.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMm1iwTeiL8

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Last edited 14 days ago by BigSombrero
Buc stops here

Green Bay’s run defense ranks near the bottom the league. So does its pass defense. Where they are good on defense is one thing – rushing the passer and getting sacks. It is the only thing their defense is good at. Short passes and running will keep the offense moving. If you force an immobile Brady to sit in the pocket and wait for receivers to get open, it will result in sacks which plays into Green Bay’s hands. The Bucs are going to need at least 30 points to have a chance of winning, so TDs are important as… Read more »

bucballer

We r a passing team that can run the ball. A nice balance of run/pass on first down is what we need. Establishing the running game against the Packers is key. A feared run game will allow play action, which Brady is good at, to set up the big chunk gains to Evans, Godwin and Miller. How about some quick hits to the TEs on some crossing patterns? I think the Bucs finally put forth a complete game on n offense. The defense will set the tone for the game though! Gotta keep the pressure/heat on Rodgers and don’t let… Read more »

EastEndBoy

Fab 1: Maybe Arians subscribes to your movie analogy approach…”never tell me the odds”.

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drdneast

Packers smackers. The Pack has played one game against one formidable opponent in the Saints. Their other three opponents were the Lions, Vikings and Falcons who have a combined one win. The Falcons have already fired their head coach and it would no surprise to see the other two go, maybe before the season ends. Not only did the Bucs and the refs beat themselves last week but Justin Whitehead had a big hand in it too with numerous mistakes in coverage on Cordell Patterson. I hope someone made Whitehead do some film study this week because he blew like… Read more »

Spitfire

Scott, you’re obviously watching Cobra Kai on Netflix aren’t you? 😂 It’s actually a pretty decent show.

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Spitfire

Just sayin that because they talk about that kick being illegal Haha

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Horse

Ugh! The time is now! Go Bucs!

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BigSombrero

Now wait a minute… I thought Tom Brady’s quick release was going to fix all the problems with the OL. I thought the Brady factor would raise the level of play by everyone from players to coaches to water boys. So now you’re telling me this team is actually WORSE than last year on penalties? Also, the nerd sponsored fake news narrative about drops was flatly rejected by Bruce Arians, so kudos to him. It’s best to avoid feeding the nonsense that is Adjusted Completion Percentage which factors average depth of target and undue credit to QB’s for inaccurate incompletions.… Read more »

Michael76

BS …. number of sacks of QB up or down? STFU
Penalties Caused by Brady up or down from Winston last year? STFU
Fake News? Are you for real? Theses are subjective as everyone has said, but are you suggesting that none of the throws in question where questionable? STFU

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FinkleisEinhorn

Getting a little tired of every quote from White about how cocky he is. Yes, confidence is good, but Devin – you have absolutely sucked at the task you were brought in to do. Stop patting yourself on the back and start covering RBs.

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Spitfire

RoJos running the past two weeks has been very promising, but the game against Chicago was the one that gave me so much hope. The spins moves and the cuts were so professional and he actually seemed to be dead on with his hands and catching the ball for once. IF! And I know it’s a BIG IF, but IF he can play every game like the one against Chicago, he could be one of the top RBs in the league. It probably has a lot to do with Fournette being hurt and RoJo getting the bulk of the carries,… Read more »

flashgordon

https://www.footballdb.com/stats/penalties-player.html?tm=30&yr=2020&sort=other

So, most of the penalties are Donovan Smith and Carlton Davis. I’d like to think most of the pass interference are ticky tack.

This link suggests there’s little in the way of personal fouls and such; but, then it says there’s like 12 or 13 “other” fouls. I don’t what these other fouls could possibly mean but some kind of personal foul penalties.

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