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Turning The Tide: Breaking down the two plays that determined the Bucs-Broncos game

Here are two more plays to put into the vault.

Patrick O’Connor set the tone for the game on Sunday.
| Ron Chenoy-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.


Scotty Miller’s 47-yard reception on 3rd and 8

I’m going to start calling these plays ‘ScottyBombs’.

We heard about Tom Brady’s and Miller’s connection over the summer and we saw it come to fruition in Week One against the Saints. There was a bit of a letdown versus Carolina, but Miller rebounded quite nicely against the Broncos with three receptions for a team-leading 83 yards and 23.3 yards per reception.

This catch was not only his best of the day, but it was also the offensive play that turned the tide in favor of the Bucs. Denver had just kicked a field goal to cut the Bucs’ lead to 10-3. It was important for the Bucs to respond, but it only took two plays before they faced a 3rd and 8 from their own 27.

Despite Denver’s injuries on offense, you don’t want to give the ball right back to an opponent that just put together a scoring drive, even if it was just three points. A 3rd and 8 isn’t an ideal down and distance to be in, either.

The Bucs needed a big play and they got one. The Bucs come out in a four-receiver set with Chris Godwin and Tyler Johnson on the outside and Mike Evans and Miller on the inside, moving from the top of the formation down. The Broncos come out in their Big Nickel set, which means three of their five defensive backs are safeties.

Brady receives good protection on this play so he has time to go through his reads. He initially looks toward Godwin, but sees that cornerback Bryce Callahan is on top of Godwin with Josey Jewell and A.J. Johnson underneath. That takes Godwin out of the equation.

I wonder if Brady manipulates the safety, Justin Simmons on this throw. There’s a definite possibility that Brady read the Broncos’ coverage pre-snap and baited Simmons into biting on Godwin’s route. You can see Simmons stall for just a moment as Godwin enters the middle of the field. Keep in mind that Brady is looking Godwin’s way basically the entire time.

As soon as Simmons squares up, Brady launches the ball. Simmons is a fast guy, but Miller is much faster and Brady knows that Simmons is out of position. He’s not keeping up with Miller in this scenario. The end result is fantastic 47-yard reception on Miller’s end that moves the Bucs inside Denver’s 30-yard line. The Bucs scored a few plays later to go up 17-3 with 6:37 left to go in the first half.

This play was gigantic in the sense that it not only allowed the Bucs to score the touchdown and go up by 14, but that deficit also allowed the defense to continue to tee off on the Broncos’ offense. In fact, Shaquil Barrett sacked Jeff Driskel on the Bucs’ next defensive drive, which killed any chance of a score for the Broncos and gave Tampa Bay another shot at scoring before the half. If Miller doesn’t get this conversion, then the Bucs are forced to punt back to the Broncos up by just a touchdown. Who knows where the game goes from there if that were to happen?


Pat O’Connor’s blocks Sam Martin’s punt

Just like last week, this one was tough due to all the different plays the defense made.

But that’s a good problem to have, right?

As great as all the other plays were, I don’t think they changed the game in favor of the Bucs as much as O’Connor’s first quarter block. Denver’s first drive of the game stalled out at their own 37, so naturally, the punt team came out to kick the ball to the Bucs.

O’Connor had other plans. He burst through the middle of the line and got his hand on Martin’s punt. The ball went flying and O’Connor was actually able to track it down and recover it at the Denver 10.

I’m going to be honest: I don’t know much about special teams. But guess what? Special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong does, so I’ll just let him explain what happened:

“We knew that they were a big fake [punt] team from the minus 40 [yard line] to the plus 50, and they were sitting right on the edge there, so we wanted to put an eight-box return out there so we had the eligibles covered, but I also didn’t want them sitting back there and being able to throw the ball,” Armstrong told reporters on Tuesday. “The majority of their fakes, as went through the week, were all passes – typically they’re runs. We were sitting there saying, ‘Let’s take Pat and put him on the snapper.’ Then every return Pat was forcing up the middle. Long story short, we went into an eight-box return. We had their slots covered. They were both tight ends, so we knew we had to put some coverage people in there. We had Ryan Smith covering the PP (punter’s protector) inside, so we said, ‘Pat, you’re going to be one on one.’ Sure enough, he ripped straight up the field and then got the block. I was so happy for him. I would have loved for one of our guys off the edge to scoop and score, but you get greedy. It was a nice play [that was] well executed by him. [It brought] great energy and really got the guys going.”

It was incredible play and it set the tone for the game going forward. It’s rare that a play that happens has this much of a resonating effect for the game, but it was nothing but lights out for the Broncos after this play.

Here are some great broadcast angles for everyone to watch:

Which play do you think turned the tide in favor of Tampa Bay the most? Let us know via the poll and comment section below!


Which play turned the tide in favor of Tampa Bay the most?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Scotty Miller’s 47-yard catch
    (39 votes)
  • 72%
    Pat O’Connor’s punt block
    (103 votes)
142 votes total Vote Now


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