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Turning The Tide: Breaking down the two plays that determined the Week 15 Bucs-Falcons game

Clutch plays led to a clutch comeback win for the Bucs.

Antonio Brown came through in a major way on Sunday against the Falcons.
| Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Turning The Tide is a weekly segment where Evan will pick the offensive and defensive play that turned the game for the Bucs. Whether it was for good or for bad, we will break it all down and tell you what went wrong or what went right.


Offense

Antonio Brown’s game-winning 46-yard touchdown reception

How wild is it to think that the Bucs’ postseason chances were kept on track because of Brown? I mean, I guess we knew he’d make plays at some point, but to see it finally come to life in this fashion was quite the spectacle.

The Bucs come out in 13 personnel on this play and the Falcons look to be playing Cover 1. This play is designed perfectly for this coverage. I’m not sure what the actual play is called, but it looks like “Three Verts” — if there is such a thing. Mike Evans and Brown both run go routes on the outside while Chris Godwin breaks into the middle of the field.

The Falcons blitz and are in man coverage, but the Bucs leave Rob Gronkowski in to block. That turns out to be a good idea because the additional blocker gives Brady enough time to find Brown for the touchdown. Brady begins the play looking to Evans on the right but then comes back and sees how Brown has obliterated Tyler Hall off the line. Godwin’s presnap motion confuses the two corners just enough to allow Brown to win the route.

Godwin is open, too, but AB is the money shot. Brady unloads a perfect pass and the end result is the game-winning touchdown.

And as it turns out, the Bucs called this play earlier in the game and were able to hit Godwin, so it makes since why the safety would have his eyes set on Godwin. This combined with his middle of the field responsibilities creates the perfect opportunity for a big play.

“We had it called earlier it was just straight ‘Go’ [routes] by him and Mike [Evans] and Chris [Godwin] in the middle. They played Cover 2 and we hit Chris in the middle,” Bruce Arians said. “[We] came back and I love the call Byron [Leftwich] made. A.B. (Brown) blew by [the defense]. They both were wide open by five yards and it was just pick your poison. I was really happy to see A.B. get in the end zone. It was good for him and good for all of us.”

This is the play Arians is referring to. It occurred on the drive before the final touchdown. You can see Godwin read the defense as Cover 2 and sit down in the middle of the field. Leftwich knew this play was money against a single-high look so all it took was waiting for the perfect time to make the call. Brown’s touchdown came on a 1st and 10, which is an opportune time to blitz.

This is what the Bucs offense can look like when everyone is on the same page and I think it’s safe to say that you can’t argue with the final result. Tampa Bay’s defense was able to wrap things up from here and the Bucs went home with a 9-5 record.


Defense

Antoine Winfield Jr.’s fourth quarter pass break up in the end zone

We know how much AWjr (or ‘Twon’) has meant to this team. He was able to pull of a huge strip-sack last week against the Vikings and fortunately for the Bucs, he was able to come up with another big play against the Falcons.

Except for this time, it was the play of the game.

The Bucs had just tied the game up at 24, but Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense were driving down the field. A 33-yard pass from Ryan to Calvin Ridley had the offense at the Tampa Bay 31 before you could blink.

The Falcons faced a 2nd and 6 from the TB27 one play later. The Falcons come out in 21 personnel, which hints toward a run. Tampa Bay is in its nickel package and has three down linemen with Shaquil Barrett and JPP on the outside. Jordan Whitehead is just outside of the box, but the defense appears to be in Cover 2 or Quarters based off Winfield’s alignment.

Sure enough, its a play-action pass. The Falcons gave off the look of a run to fool the Bucs, which makes sense considering they gained four yards on a run before this play. Atlanta also leaves in eight guys to max protect Ryan and the Bucs rush just three guys, so, you can probably guess Ryan has all day long to throw the ball.

And he certainly does.

The main issue with max protecting most times is that there are just two receivers running downfield. Well, the Bucs have two corners and two safeties to defend them, which essentially creates a double team. Arians even spoke about how Atlanta’s tendency to max protect allowed this to happen.

“They did a great job of max protection – I think Dirk [Koetter] had a great gameplan,” BA told reporters after the game. “They max protected [and] got two guys going down. Finally we just doubled both of them and got home.”

But we all know that any good quarterback in the NFL can make a perfect throw when given the right amount of time. That’s exactly what happens on this play. No one even comes close to touching Ryan, which allows him to scan the field and make the perfect throw to Ridley.

If it weren’t for Winfield Jr., this would be a touchdown. You can see him diagnose what’s happening at the line of scrimmage and once he realizes there’s no other downfield threat on his side, he takes off with Ridley. His elite closing speed is what takes over from there.

The All-22 angle doesn’t do the play justice, so you know I had to include the broadcast angle:

“Great job. He had a hell of a break on that ball – [Calvin] Ridley had come all the way across the field and ‘Twon’ (Winfield Jr.) beat him across,” Arians said. “He’s a heck of a player. He read [Ridley’s] eyes, he saw where he was going, [saw] that ball was going to be in the air for a while and he didn’t panic. A lot of times DBs will panic and they can’t run as fast. He doesn’t panic – he just goes and makes the play.”

This play was monumental because it not only saved a touchdown, but forced a 3rd and 6 that ended with a Devin White sack. That sack forced Atlanta to kick a field goal to up 27-24. Who knows how the game would’ve played out at 31-24 with around 9:30 to play.


Which play do YOU think turned the tide in favor of the Bucs? Let us know via the poll/comment section below!

Poll

Which play turned the tide in favor of the Bucs the most?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Antonio Brown’s game-winning touchdown catch
    (36 votes)
  • 74%
    Antoine Winfield Jr.’s pass break up in the end zone
    (104 votes)
140 votes total Vote Now
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