Buccaneers offense: run-based, or pass-based?

Ezra Shaw

"If you run him, the wins will come."

When Doug Martin rushes for over 100 yards good things usually happen. Doug ran over 100 yards in eight games. Of those eight games, six of them were wins. In games where Doug rushed for under 100 yards, the Bucs went 1 – 7. That’s a very telling stat. It does not reveal how many touchdowns were scored, but the implementation of the run utilizes, or rather runs down, the clock.

Let us inspect where Doug ran well by breaking down the season into three segments: beginning, middle, and end. Beginning was the first four games. Middle is the middle six games. End is the last six games of the year.

Offensive Rushing


over 100 yards


Games


> 100 yards


Result


Team Result


Beginning


1

1 – 0

1 – 4

Middle


5

4 – 1

5 – 1

End


2

1 – 1

1 – 5

Total


8

6 – 2

7 – 9

Offensive Rushing


Under 100 yards


Games


< 100 yards


Result


Team Result


Beginning


3

0 – 3

1 – 4

Middle


1

1 – 0

5 – 1

End


4

0 – 4

1 – 5

Total


8

1 – 7

7 – 9

I broke down the season into three segments in order to find a pattern or trend. The pattern is: When Doug runs for 100 yards, the Bucs have a better chance at winning the game. The contrapositive to that statement is: When Doug does not run for 100 yards, then the Bucs do not have a better chance at winning the game. I had thought Coach Schiano was a heavy run offensive guy.

Here’s an excerpt from an article:

"Speaking to the Tampa Bay Times Schiano said that he will prefer running and punting rather than the pass heavy game we have witnessed over the last year.

"I do believe at times the best way to play is keep-away, especially with the quarterbacks we have in our division,"

The head coach had recently brought wide receiver Vincent Jackson to give quarterback Josh Freeman some new weapons to target but it seems that option will be used much less as the coach concentrates on the running game.

Play Calling Percentage


Attempts


% of the offensive calls


Pass


566

58%

Rush


416

42%

Total


982

Something does not make sense here as coach Schiano stated the best way to play is to make sure the other team does not have the ball. Yet, the play calling this year proved otherwise as the Bucs executed about 60% pass and 40% run. Now factor in Freeman’s completion rate of 54%, then of the 60% of the pass play calling, only 32% of the pass plays were implemented correctly. Right off the bat, 28% of our offensive play calls are non-generating plays, or 256 pass attempts that are amiss. Limiting the chances of success already places this team behind.

The notion that the ball kept away from opposing QBs seems quite foreign to me for this Bucs’ season. A run play could take up between 30 to 40 seconds, as the time does not stop provided the rusher is tackled in bounds. I have denoted in some games where some of the offensive possessions lasted only 55 seconds long, the first Atlanta game in the fourth quarter and the Denver game in the third quarter. Incomplete passes stop the clock. In both those games, Doug ran under 100 yards and we also lost both games.

Time of Possession (TOP) Examples


(Atlanta, game 1; Denver)

Atl

I took a close look at Game 11 vs Atl. Early in the fourth quarter, when we were up 20 -17 the Bucs defense forced a fumble (Biggers) and recovered it at the Atl 36 by GMC.


ATL TOP- 3:33 Atl fumble; Bucs recover


1st and 10, Atl 36: Freeman incomplete pass deep to Owusu
2nd and 10, Atl 36: Freeman pass short to Williams for 6 yards.
3rd and 4, Atl 30: Freeman incomplete pass short to Underwood.
4th and 4, Atl 30: Barth makes 48 yd FG [TB 23, Atl 17]

TB 4 plays, 6 yards, 0:55 elapsed

Atl TOP – 2:33; ATL TD [TB 23, Atl 24]

In that 7 minute time span (7:01 to be exact), the defense was on the field 6:06.

There’s still 8 minutes left to play in the fourth quarter and our offense was unable to come back.

Den

Game 12 vs Den. Den scored 21 points in that third Quarter.

- Start of 3rd Qtr-



15:00 mark; [TB 10, Den 7]
Den 6 plays, 17 yards, 3:05 elapsed
TB 3 plays, 2 yards, 0:50 elapsed

Den 4 plays, 52 yards, 1:22 elapsed- Den TD – [TB 10, Den 14]
TB 3 plays, – 2 yards, 1:08 elapsed

Den 7 plays, 52 yards, 3:23 elapsed- Den TD – [TB 10, Den 21]
TB 2 plays, 2 yards, 0:43 elapsed-PICK SIX, Den TD


– [TB 10, Den 28]


TB 4 plays, 12 yards, 1:22 elapsed
Den 1 play, 0 yards, 0:10 elapsed-INT (David)


TB 6 plays, 17 yards, 2:06 elapsed


- End of 3rd Qtr-



TB 1 play, 0 yds, 0:05 elapsed – 50 yd FG [TB 13, Den 28]

Coach Schiano did not implement what he described to be a winning formula. In the middle segment of the season, the offense ran over 100 yards five times. Of those five instances, the Bucs came away with four wins. Apparently, that game plan worked. So why did the team stray away from rushing in the final six game set? The offense ran for over 100 yards twice and the Bucs came up with a win in one of those rushing performances.

In retrospect, by not allowing the offense to run more often, the Bucs record when rushed under 100 yards rushing is 1 – 7. The proof is in the pudding. So pound the rock into the Muscle Hampster’s arms and let him do what he does best… scamper all over the field.

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