The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the best run defense in the NFL, but they didn't stop the Kansas City Chiefs through magic. Find out how Brady Quinn helped the Bucs halt Jamaal Charles.
Jamaal Charles managed just 40 yards on 12 carries against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, and 22 of those yards came on a single run when the game was out of control already. But how did the Bucs do it? It wasn't with dominant defensive line play, although the line certainly played well, but it was schematic - at least, according to Football Outsiders' Ben Muth.
Muth wrote an excellent piece on the Chiefs' offensive line performance against the Buccaneers, and naturally commented on what the Bucs did to thwart a dominant running game. To the surprise of no one at all ,Tampa Bay played with eight men in the box for most of the day - but how they got there determined how they stopped the Chiefs. Instead of lining up with eight in the box, they generally lined up in a standard two-deep safety look, which has seven players in the box. Mark Barron would then creep up late into the box and fill a hole that the Chiefs offensive line had created - closing the running lane. As Muth notes:
The biggest thing Tampa Bay did on defense was sneak extra men into the box late. They would come out in two high looks (both safeties 8-to-12 yards off the line of scrimmage) and creep a safety down as the cadence progressed. Because the in-box safety was arriving so late, he was usually unaccounted for, or accounted for by someone who had no chance of blocking of him. Let's go to the tape.
This kind of thing is easily countered by a veteran quarterback, with the ability to change running plays at the line of scrimmage. That's one factor we don't see as we watch the game, but that has a tremendous effect on the quality of play. Brady Quinn wasn't good enough at the line of scrimmage to stop the Tampa Bay defense.
Quinn was put in a tough situation. He hasn't played in two years and is in his first season with the Chiefs. All he's had a chance to see is basic preseason defenses and scout team guys run blitzes from a card. (A coach holds up a card with how the offense will lineup, and it tells the scout defense where to lineup and what they are supposed to do.) Those aren't situations where you see a lot of pre-snap movement. As a result, Quinn was unprepared to make adjustments on the fly.
To get a full view of what the Bucs did on defense, I recommend you go follow the link and read the entire article - including pictures.
One interesting note from that article comes on the pass rush, or lack thereof, of the Bucs' defensive line. Gerald McCoy and Michael Bennett have generally wreaked havoc among opposing offensive lines, but that didn't happen on Sunday. Part of the reason was a quick passing game (Brady Quinn averaged just 8 yards per completion), where Quinn got the ball out of his hands before any defensive lineman could realistically hit him.
But another reason was the strategy implemented by the coaches: defensive line stunts and games. Rather than giving the team straight rushes, the Bucs tried to run quite a few twists to beat the Chiefs' offensive line, like they did against the New York Giants to limited effect. This defensive line is much better when it can rush straight rather than try to twist around and beat offensive linemen with games rather than with pure skill.
Part of the reason for those twists may have been a game plan to stop the run, where certain twists can be very beneficial. But whatever the reason, I think this defensive line would have looked much better had they gotten the opportunity to work more one-on-ones. Will they get those opportunities against the pass-heavy Saints on Sunday?