Each week I’ll look back at and break down the Bucs’ most valuable plays from their past game, in terms of Expected Points Added.
Expected Points Added, or EPA, is a statistic that was created to measure the value of each play during a football game in terms of points. EPA is essentially trying to put a value on how many net points a team can expect to gain based on the result of an individual play, while taking the down-and-distance and the team’s field position into account.
For example, a 5-yard run from the 50-yard line on first-and-10 is weighed differently than a 5-yard run inside the opponents 10-yard line on third-and-2.
The plays shown are measured from the offense’s perspective, so plays made by Tampa Bay’s offense will result in a positive EPA for the Bucs and plays made by Tampa Bay’s defense will result in a negative EPA for their opponents.
Below are the Bucs’ highest-valued plays by Expected Points Added, per rbsdm.com by Ben Baldwin, from their big Week 10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Ronald Jones II, 98-Yard Touchdown: 7.7 EPA
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With the Bucs leading 20-17 in the third quarter, Tampa Bay forced Carolina to punt from their own 49-yard line. Returner Antonio Brown let the ball bounce at the 10 and it was downed by the Panthers at the 2-yard line.
In a relatively normal “inside-your-own-5” offense, the Bucs deployed 13 personnel with tight ends Cam Brate, Rob Gronkowski and Antony Auclair all on the field, with Chris Godwin as the lone receiver on the play. Head coach Bruce Arians confirmed after Sunday’s game that Tom Brady’s lone check on the play was where to align Godwin, who Brady shifted from out wide on the left side of the formation to inline off of the strong side of the formation.
The key to this play is really what Godwin’s pre-snap motion does to the defense. With linebacker Tahir Whitehead (52) originally lined up over the playside A-gap, he shades to the backside of the play on Godwin’s motion and fills the backside B-gap post-snap. This allows Ryan Jensen, the Bucs’ left guard in Sunday’s contest, to get to the second level and block safety Justin Burris instead of Whitehead, had he not moved. This leaves just one man to beat and one man to outrun for Jones, and he doesn’t look back.
Per Next Gen Stats, Jones reached 21.19 miles per hour on the run his the 98-yard score was the longest offensive play in franchise history, tied for the longest play in franchise history and put him tied for the third-longest touchdown run in NFL history. Only Tony Dorsett and Derrick Henry have ever broken free for 99-yard scoring runs and only Shelton Quarles has matched Jones’ play for the Bucs with a 98-yard interception returned for a touchdown in 2001.
Jason Pierre-Paul, Interception: -4.8 EPA
One thing that defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has done this season, to the general aggravation of many including myself, is frequently drop edge rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett into coverage. In fact, after just 11 coverage snaps through 10 games in 2019, Pierre-Paul has already accumulated 56 such snaps in 2020. For Barrett, his 56 coverage snaps from all 16 games in 2019 have almost been eclipsed with 53 in 2020 as the Bucs head into Week 11.
But whether we like the usage from the Bucs’ edge rushers, it works out now and again. Pierre-Paul nearly came up with an interception in Week 9 against the Saints and was able to haul one in here against Carolina.
The Bucs’ defense shows a five-man front with Cover 3 behind the front seven before the snap, with Antoine Winfield Jr., Carlton Davis II and Jordan Whitehead as the three-deep safeties, but Tampa Bay rotates into a Tampa 2 shell after the snap. What makes this rotation interesting though, is the roles that are filled. After the snap the Bucs only rush four, with Pierre-Paul feigning pressure off of the left edge before dropping into coverage, Jamel Dean coming off of the right side on a cornerback blitz and Whitehead moving down to fill Dean’s flat zone.
Pierre-Paul gets plenty of depth from his left end position and is able to cut off the deep dig route for this third career interception.
Tom Brady/Rob Gronkowski, 44-Yard Completion: 4.4 EPA
Coming out of the two-minute warning the Bucs were sitting around midfield, facing a second-and-13 from their own 48-yard line, trailing 17-10.
The Bucs lined up in 2×1 formation with Antonio Brown as the lone wide receiver on the boundary side of the field with Mike Evans out wide on the weak side of the formation and Godwin in the slot.
The Panthers responded by showing cover two but rotating into Cover 1 man coverage after the snap. Gronkowski, lined up inline, runs a seam fade, Brady quickly identifies the mismatch in man coverage and fires a strike over the top of safety Jeremy Chinn in coverage. Gronkowski has the size advantage and is able to get behind Chinn out of the press coverage, breaking the tackle after the reception and taking the 44-yard completion down to the Carolina 4-yard line.
Tom Brady/Cam Brate, 19-Yard Completion: 3.5 EPA
Leading 26-17 with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Tampa Bay was backed up to third-and-19.
Carolina rushed just three and sent their secondary into prevent defense. Tampa Bay deployed a 2×2 formation with Evans and Godwin stacked to the field side of the formation and Brown in the slot to the boundary side with Brate offset from the offensive line.
Brown, Evans and Godwin all ran deep curl routes past the sticks, directly into the Panthers’ secondary while Brate chips the edge rusher and leaks out uncovered into the flat. With just three rushers coming from a Carolina defensive line that’s been one of the league’s worst units at producing sacks, Brady has plenty of time to step up and find Brate. After that it’s all Brate, making a beeline to the sticks and diving for a gain of 19, just enough for the first down.
While these plays didn’t quite stack up as some of the Bucs’ most valuable plays from Sunday in terms of EPA, these are some other crucial plays from the Bucs’ Week 10 victory over the Panthers.
Last week Jon Ledyard took a look at Evans’ performance against New Orleans. This week, Evans followed that game up with six receptions, 77 yards and a touchdown against Carolina so I wanted to take a look at his best plays from the contest.
Tom Brady/Mike Evans, 19-Yard Completion: 2.1 EPA
On the Bucs’ second drive of the game they faced a third-and-2 from the Carolina 44-yard line, just out of field goal range and probably looking at four-down territory if Tampa Bay couldn’t convert.
In the scenario, Tampa Bay came out in an empty set with Evans in the slot to the boundary side of the field and Brate lined up out wide. Brady identified single-high man coverage from Carolina and looked straight to Evans after the snap. Brate runs a shallow slant route to create a natural pick and Evans runs a wheel route off of Brate’s outside shoulder. Evans is able to gain separation from the pick route and get behind cornerback Rasul Douglas before Brady drops a perfect pass right in the bucket for a third-down conversion.
Tom Brady/Mike Evans, 3-Yard Touchdown: 2.2 EPA
A lot has been made about the decrease in Evans’ yards and targets with Brady under center this year. But heading into Week 11, Evans sits tied for third in receiving touchdowns with eight, trailing only Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams and Adam Thielen with nine each.
So while Evans hasn’t remained a volume receiver for Tampa Bay, he’s become arguably Brady’s favorite threat in the red zone and at the goal line as eight of his nine touchdowns have come from inside the 8-yard line. As far as red zone targets this season, Evans’ 16 are the second-most in the league behind just Adams with 17. This play is a perfect example.
Trailing 17-10, on second-and-goal from the 3-yard line, time was ticking down in the half. Tampa Bay came out in a 1×1 formation in 12 personnel. Godwin was lined up out wide and motioned inside toward the strong side of the formation while Evans found single coverage on the boundary side of the field. On the snap, Godwin ran a drag route at the goal line, drawing three receivers, while Brady threw high to Evans, allowing him to take advantage of his size advantage in single coverage to haul in his eighth touchdown of the season.
Tom Brady/Mike Evans, 14-Yard Completion: 3.0 EPA
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay was leading 29-17 and facing fourth-and-3 from just inside the Carolina 30-yard line. A 45-yard field goal attempt would put the Bucs up by 15 but they opted to go for it and a great play call leads to the conversion.
In 11 personnel Godwin motions into a Bunch formation with Gronkowski and Tyler Johnson to Brady’s left, with Evans alone in the slot to the field side. On the snap, as Carolina shows more single-high man coverage with seven men in the box, Tampa Bay finally makes use of the horizontal passing game with a mesh concept from Evans and Johnson. The traffic created by the mesh concept gets Evans separation and Brady finds him for an easy first down on a 14-yard gain, and if Evans wasn’t tripped up, may have walked in his second touchdown of the afternoon.