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Breaking down the Buccaneers’ offensive failures against the Cardinals

There were many.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Game 5, Ari: Offensive Drive Analysis

Preview stats

What transpired:

Just looking at the box scores, it appears the Bucs threw well and scored well. The totality does not paint the correct picture.

Pass Plays: 42 (67.7%)

Run Plays: 20 (32.3%)

At the half, it was Cards 24, Bucs 0.

At the end of the 3rd quarter, it was Cards 31, Bucs 6.

The Bucs were able to put up 27 points in one quarter, trying to come back from behind a huge hole. A strip-6 by the defense gave the Bucs 8 points (2 point conversion made) out of the 27 points.

Drive Chart

Drive Chart by the halves

The Good:

Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense did not give up in the second half. The offense was able to move the ball with Fitz at the helm. Although the Cards were up 24 – 0, Fitz and the offense drove down 70 yards to have four cracks at that touchdown with the end zone seven yards away. The offense could have potentially cut down the lead by 7 points.

The Bad:

The inability to cash in a Red Zone opportunity in the first half from the Arizona 7-yard line and the two interceptions by Fitz and the offense in the second half were negatives.

The Ugly:

The first three drives, the lack of a run game early, and losing starting QB Winston.

Offensive Drives, First half

So I keep hearing the mantra that Koetter needs to make plays easier for Winston. I truly did not want to re-watch this game nor do the write-up for this game. The offense did score 25 points on its own for this game. The Cardinals have a weak defense, as show by the By the Box Preview. Last week, the Bucs offense faced a much worse offense in the Patriots, but could only muster 14 points. Is it really Koetter’s offense or is it something else?

Drive 1

Drive 1 had six plays for 26 yards. I am breaking down Drive 1 into two parts for image fitting purposes.

In the very first play, Winston misses an open Mike Evans on what could have been a touchdown pass. Evans was wide open! This is a play where the QB needs to deliver. On my second time watching the game for the offense, this innocuous incompletion actually was a grave mistake as it could have tied the game on one play.

Winston has been off on deep passes on five continuous regular season games. Koetter’s vertical game is highly dependent on making such plays when they are that wide open. For as much grief Koetter is receiving for his playcalling, missing wide open players every single game for potential touchdowns is often not included in the discussion.

On Drive 4, I do not know how 92 was unaccounted for, but I put the blame on Dotson. In another first half drive, Dotson neglects a defender which made me think Dot was the culprit as it happened twice.

On play 6, the design looked great if it was executed correctly by the wide receivers. The problem I see here is that Koetter is too reliant upon his passing game. Martin still commands the defense’s interest and the offense could either run or use play-action. Instead, the offense goes empty backfield.

Winston was still trying to salvage the play as nothing opened up on the left side and scrambled right. It was on this play that Winston hurt himself as he was trying to buy more time for something. When he was in the grasp of the defender, Winston still tried to pass to Sims. That passing motion left him vulnerable on his way down to the ground. Tough going and terrible outcome because our WRs were the bad news bears on this play.

Koetter is at fault with play 6 with an empty backfield. Maybe Koetter has too much hubris that he elects to dictate to the opposing defense that the offensive play will be one-dimensional. Despite being one-dimensional on this play, the design looked amazing and great for short yardage situations if you do not trust your run game or play-action.

Drive 2

Drive 2 had six plays for 32 yards. I am breaking down Drive 2 into two parts for image fitting purposes.

The run blocking in this offensive drive was atrocious. On three runs, Martin was only able to amass 2 yards. Two of the three run plays, Martin was stuffed because there was no push or someone missed a block like LG Pamphile. Last year, the evaluation of Pamphile was that he is great when he does not have to traverse a long distance. This is why he is splitting playing time with LG Evan Smith.

Although the run game was inept, it did help sell the play-action for play 3. Unfortunately, I noticed right tackle Demar Dotson not paying attention to the free defender. Maybe it is possible that Dotson did what the scheme asked of him and it was up to Winston to beat the free defender. I have no idea, but that defender was not accounted for. It was an amazing effort on Winston to avoid the free rusher and get the ball to Brate downfield.

Play 5 is a scary play. That pass by Winston was a dropped interception because Winston under threw Djax instead of leading him. We all know Winston has an arm, but to come up so short after hitting two intermediate passes seemed odd. Later on we discover that Winston injured himself on the last play of the first drive.

Play 6 shows that Winston has a nice touch and leads Charles Sims on a designed screen play. This play would have been awesome on 3rd and 2 for the first drive.

This second drive stalled out early because the lack of a run game. Due to the penalty, play 5 had to redo 3rd down and made it more difficult to get a first down.

Drive 3

The Bucs are now down by 14 points. Double digits deficits can force a QB to do more than what the defense is willing to give. On two consecutive plays, Winston does not even care to look at Martin. Winston just throws the ball away on both plays.

Then on third down, Winston makes a great throw to Brate. Brate simply drops the ball. Out of the bottom corner of the video, there is Adam Humphries with no one around him. While Brate should have made that catch, Humphries appeared to be open without defenders too close to him. Djax took out a defender running a fly pattern, again. Brate sucked in two defenders. That leaves Hump between Djax and Brate. It looks as though Winston was playing favorites again.

Drive 3 was a 3-n-out drive. Winston had two opportunities to pick up some yards if he wanted to look for Martin as his dump relief valve. That could have mitigated a 3rd and 10-yards situation. This was Winston’s last drive for the game as his shoulder would not allow him to push the ball downfield like he usually could.

Drive 4

Drive 4 had 15 plays for 70 yards. I am breaking down Drive 4 into three parts for image fitting purposes. It was not until recording Drive 4 did I start to differentiate between shotgun formations and non-shotgun formations. (Allow me to re-iterate that I do this for a hobby).

Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick was now the starting in place of injured QB Winston. Will Koetter change his offensive play-calling with the backup QB? Often, Koetter has stated he will not change how he calls plays. Let us dissect.

We have a run game established and Evan Smith is noticeable on both runs. On drive 2, Kevin Pamphile was in for him. Unfortunately, my Sunday Ticket viewing of the previous game expired because it is Thursday today. I spent the previous day re-watching and scribing the four drives in detail as much as I could. So I did the next best thing to discover who started the game at LG and it was Pamphile. Hmmm… This does not bode well for Pamphile with the run game.

Koetter gave Fitz one gimmie throw to get into rhythm, the play-action WR screen pass to Humphries. Then he had Fitz looking downfield. In the four pass plays, Fitz looks good when he is set and not scrambling.

In the next set, we see Fitz still throwing downfield twice. He had Djax in the end zone, but the ball came up short. In the previous segment I noted how Fitz looked good throwing the ball when he is set. His set up for play 7 was slightly hindered by an oncoming rusher, or at least that is what I saw from my singular viewing angle. The defensive coverage was good downfield on play 9 where Fitz avoided a sack and tossed the ball like he was Aaron Rodgers to Sims as the pocket was collapsing. On play 10, that 4th down call was pretty gutsy and I was quickly reminded how that play resembled a third down play against the Patriots last week. Good pass and an amazing catch by Brate!

For these sets of play, only one of the plays did not develop a passing situation, play 13. Martin was actually thrown the ball and probably was a dump situation. Martin exists! Then he proceeded to drop the ball on the 1-yard line.

Fitz then missed OJ twice in one play. When OJ initially broke left, his defender stumbled and OJ was free for a second, but Fitz’ view was probably hidden by the oncoming rusher. As Fitz scrambled left, it does appear that the play was supposed to go to OJ all along and OJ still looked open, but maybe the angle for Fitz just was not there while on the run. OJ did not help Fitz much as OJ continued his path towards the sideline and could not give Fitz a different angle. Fitz was hoping that OJ would break from his route once his defender decided to tackle Fitz and Fitz tried to toss the ball in an area where OJ would hopefully be. Nope, OJ did not budge and could not improvise on a broken play. OJ is a rookie TE who was used mostly in blocking situation in college and so improvising probably is not one of his strong suits yet.

The last play on Drive 4 was the first play that Fitz was set and did not hit his target in a good location. Yes, the ball hits Evans, but the ball was behind him. A better placement of the ball ahead of Evans and it is a touchdown.


The offense blew a wheel in its first three drives. Winston was inconsistent, the run game was not to be found, and our WRs did not help in some plays blocking or rubbing. Winston’s deep ball inaccuracy to wide open receivers is now becoming a norm and they should be counted as easy plays for Winston to make. Doug Martin does not exist to Winston on passing downs.

When Fitz entered the game, the offense did start clicking. The run blocking found itself when Evan Smith started to play LG over Pamphile. Fitz was throwing everywhere and to everyone on his first drive, including a dump to Doug Martin. Looking at the chart, if Fitz was not throwing an interception, then he was moving the ball at will, generating five long drives as well as going 3/4 in the Red Zone. Fitz tried to force a ball to Djax and it was intercepted. It was the same play run in New England with same double coverage, but no interception on Winston’s sheet.

Winston has tendencies that opposing defenses have started to focus on. I hope when Winston returns soon and healthy that he can look at this game to compare productions. Also, now noticing Winston cannot connect with wide open receivers deep down the field for the past five regular season games, maybe Koetter does need to scale back his offense to accommodate a quarterback that is highly inaccurate downfield for his system. A third year quarterback in the same system for three years and selected #1 overall in the NFL draft.