Sorry ladies and gents, I was on vacation last week. Let’s get to it.
After the Giants created an explosive play with Odell Beckham, Jr. for 41 yards, they found themselves down at the goal line. The 41-yard play wasn’t a coverage bust, it was just Beckham being more athletic than rookie Carlton Davis, and the safety Isaiah Johnson also not having the range/athleticism to do anything to affect the play. Two plays later, the Giants would score, this time on an obvious coverage bust:
At the top of the screen right as the play starts you can see the Giants have three receivers and Bucs three defenders. Normally teams will do what is often referred to as a ‘banjo’ call, because trips bunch formations like this one often have rub routes. One defender takes the inside guy, one takes the middle, and the other takes whichever receiver goes outside. That is one way to cancel rub routes. Here, the play-action holds the linebackers while the corners each take their man who go inside (one tight end goes to sell the run fake), but no one takes Saquon Barkley who just sprints to the pylon. All around horrible defense. Blowing coverage would be the theme of the day.
On the Bucs’ ensuing possession Ryan Fitzpatrick drove them into the Giants’ redzone, but the drive stalled at the five-yard line. On 4th and one, not only did the Bucs go for it, but they called a sneak. I think both were the right call. Unfortunately, the line didn’t get any push, and the Bucs turned it over on downs.
On the Giants’ next possession, they again marched right down the field in chunks
How does no one cover the running back (Wayne Gallman)? You can see the Giants in a split-back formation, and the receivers cross after the snap, with the one aligned to Eli Manning’s right going underneath left and Gallman go right as the screen receiver. The safety comes down to play a robber role, but it just ends up being two defenders on the underneath receiver. To the top of the screen, both receivers run clear-out routes. The Bucs’ deep safety is put in no-man’s land. This is perhaps one of those instances where, in an effort to simplify the defense to help avoid busts, they eliminated a coverage check that might have helped here. But we are seeing this defense get out-schemed every week. Four plays later Barkley scored again, this time on a run play, and they did it beating Gerald McCoy and Jason Pierre-Paul.
Getting out-scored 14-0 in the first quarter is losing football. The Bucs’ defense is so bad it ruins everything. This Giants offense is average at best.
On the Bucs’ next possession, we see the other thing holding this team back: their offensive line. This play was on 2nd-and-2.
Donovan Smith has been better this season than last season. At times he’s even played at a high level; easily his best football. But as the season has worn on, Smith’s play has regressed. Is that due to injury? It’s hard to say. But here, as he often has in past seasons, Smith fails to block the backside defender, who blows this up. The play would have likely failed anyway because tight end Antony Auclair also failed to make his block on the playside. On zone runs the whole offensive line must play as one cohesive unit, and if one guy doesn’t execute his assignment, the whole play is usually busted. With busts both backside and playside, the play had no chance. It happens. What I don’t understand is why the Bucs continue to call zone runs when virtually every time someone can’t execute their block. It’s frustrating, because it feels like throwing plays away. It’s great to be multiple, but you shouldn’t be multiple just for its own sake. If you can’t run it, stop calling it.
That means the very next play, 3rd-and-8, was an obvious passing situation. Here’s the other coin to the offensive line’s issues - pass protection. Fitzpatrick gets sacked and the Bucs are forced to punt.
The first two weeks, the offensive line was perfect (along with Peyton Barber’s pass blocking). That’s one of the main reasons Fitzpatrick was able to have historically good performances. But teams figured out the Bucs’ offensive line can’t handle stunts. Specifically right guard Caleb Benenoch. Since then defenses are constantly running end/tackle stunts or tackle/tackle stunts, as the Giants do on this play. Right tackle Demar Dotson has been one of the best right tackles in the league for years, but in recent years we have seen his play slowly regress as age and injuries catch up to him. Here, he stops his feet and is beat to the edge from a wide-9 alignment by the defender. Benenoch again blows the stunt, and Fitzpatrick goes down as both defenders meet at the quarterback.
On the Bucs’ next possession they did get good pass protection and Fitzpatrick eventually ran it in for a touchdown on a broken play. Later, right before halftime, Fitzpatrick threw an interception while in field goal range, and the Bucs went to the half down 14-7.
The third quarter was a house of horrors for the Bucs. The Bucs received the ball, and on their second play, Fitzpatrick throws another interception.
I think this might be another one of those fake RPOs. Fitzpatrick pulls the ball, but because of the unblocked defender he has to change his arm angle to get the ball around, and consequently the ball is too far out in front. The defender beats DeSean Jackson to the spot on the slant because Jackson was jogging on his route. He either took the play off, or perhaps didn’t expect the ball, especially as quickly as it came. And then there’s some bad luck (also great effort by the second arriving defender) that the ball didn’t hit the ground. Too many pick-sixes this year. If I remember correctly, that’s at least two for Fitzpatrick and one for Winston this season.
On the Bucs’ next possession, Fitzpatrick again drives them down into field goal range, and just like before the half, throws another interception, making three-in-a-row.
In my opinion this is both a poor decision and a bad throw by Fitzpatrick. Should have placed it outside in the corner, but he just launches a jump ball that Jackson loses. Also, it’s worth noting Benenoch gets put on skates and Fitzpatrick can’t properly step into the throw, but I don’t think it really matters.
The Bucs arguably should have been leading at this point, but by the time they get the ball back they were down 24-7. Turnovers and poor defense. Fitzpatrick got yanked for Jameis Winston. Winston played well the rest of the way, throwing for 200 yards, two touchdowns, one interception with just 20 seconds left, and over 12 yards per attempt. Winston got the Bucs to within 3 points at 31-28 with five minutes remaining, and again with 3 with 2:20 remaining. But the defense couldn’t stop the Giants, giving up 24 points in the second half and 14 in the 4th quarter.