We've switched to a new design for our All-22 reviews, using galleries of images to walk you through a play. Let me know what you think of them! Hopefully this keeps the articles a little easier to read.
Good blitz design
Last year, we complained about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' blitzes. They were largely ineffective, failed to create free rushers, and left gaping holes in coverage with arguably the worst secondary in the league trying to cover on blitzes. That's changed this year: seven of the team's twelve sacks have been produced by linebackers and defensive backs, with Lavonte David leading Tampa Bay in sacks.
The Bucs have taken a big step forward in blitz design this year, and I'm sure the presence of better coverage players has helped quite a bit. We don't have to look hard for a successful blitz: on the Patriots' first third down against the Bucs, Tampa Bay sent a successful blitz. Let's break it down.
The fake fake blitz is a new wrinkle I hadn't seen before, and it managed to get David to the quarterback untouched. But the coverage holds up its end of the bargain as well, and the combination of a well-designed blitz and good coverage is how the Bucs get to Brady. That combination was nowhere to be found last year.
Mark Barron the dime backer
Mark Barron has a new role: he's the Buccaneers' dime linebacker. He's also one of their two starting safeties, but the dime backer role is much more interesting. Barron is posted in the box next to Lavonte David, and he takes over Mason Foster's responsibilities in the run game. Meanwhile, his presence in the box allows the Bucs to use him in a lot of creative ways -- and a lot more effective ways than posting him deep.
Incidentally, note how Da'Quan Bowers beats his man. That's not why I put that GIF up there, but it's a nice coincidence. Bowers has definitely been a disappointment this year, but he still flashes some of his physical ability -- and he has a lot of physical ability.
But Barron is more interesting here. He makes a terrific play on the ball there, but this isn't the first time he's one that. He knocked down two third-down passes to Jimmy Graham against the Saints, too. I'd love to see him line up in coverage more, but as we saw above he's an excellent blitzer, too.
Sometimes, you know someone messed up the coverage but you can't for the life of you tell who was at fault. For that you'd need to know the play call, and the coaches generally don't just hand those out. On a crucial third-and-four, the Buccaneers had just such a coverage breakdown -- and I still can't figure out who's at fault.
That's a pretty weird coverage concept, but the concept's not at fault here -- unless it honestly calls for no one to cover the middle of the field, in which case the concept is horrendously flawed. That's unlikely, though. Instead, it looks like someone just forgot to drop that area.
The Buccaneers called a lot of similar coverages and frequently had defensive linemen dropping into shallow coverage, sometimes asking them to do a little too much. On this play, though, no such thing. Notice Bowers beating his man again, by the way. I swear it's just a coincidence that I picked those two plays.
For the first time in well over a year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers run defense seemed to falter. They allowed the New England Patriots to rush for a whopping 156 yards on a still somewhat modest 4.7 yards per attempt, though that's skewed by Tom Brady's kneels at the end of the game.
The main culprit was one 46-yard run by Brandon Bolden, however. Without that run, the Bucs keep the Patriots to 110 yards at 3.3 yards per carry -- a very acceptable number. Bolden's run was a classic outside zone run (Roll Bama Roll has a good breakdown here), the play that made Terrell Davis famous and was made famous by him. The Bucs have been very good against those runs the past few years, but it only takes one mistake to blow this play wide open.
Note that in the GIF below I'm blaming the run on Dashon Goldson, and that's not entirely fair. He could be at fault, it depends on what his gap should have been, but on further review it seems more likely that Mason Foster or someone else was responsible for the breakout run.
Goldson's approach does look a little comical, though, doesn't it? I repeat, though: I don't want to blame Goldson here -- I don't even know whether that's his fault. The point is that plays like these happen when defenses don't play with strict gap discipline, and that's something the Bucs have been very good at since Greg Schiano came to town -- with the exception of this play.