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.
Leonard Fournette’s 27-yard touchdown run that put the Bucs up 28-9
A lot of people were wondering what kind of game ‘Playoff Lenny’ would have in Super Bowl LV. With a healthy Ronald Jones II in the fold, it was hard to determine how Tampa Bay would actually use their talented running backs.
Both players made their mark on the game, but it was Fournette’s touchdown run in the third quarter that was the offensive backfield’s main highlight. It was also the play on offense that turned the tide for the Bucs.
Tampa Bay was up, 21-9, but we all know there is no such thing as a safe lead with the Chiefs. Especially if you’re only up two scores.
The Bucs received the ball at their own 26-yard line to start the drive. A few plays later, Rob Gronkowski caught a 25-yard reception to move Tampa Bay into scoring range.
The following first down saw Tampa Bay come out in a heavy formation that featured an extra offensive linemen in Joe Haeg lined up on the right side of the offensive line. Gronkowski and fellow tight end Cameron Brate were lined up to Haeg’s right to create the unbalanced front.
Kansas City has around eight defenders in the box, so they’re totally expecting run (who wouldn’t?). Sure, enough, that’s what Tampa Bay does.
The following play is just beautiful execution, but it’s also a great play design. It’s a counter, but it’s a counter that’s directed to the closed side of the formation, which features Brate, Gronk, and Haeg. When you add a pulling Ali Marpet to the mix, this play is almost guaranteed to work.
Everyone gets a hat on a hat and does their job, but the keys are the blocks by Brate, Gronk, and Haeg. They prevent the Chiefs defenders from setting the edge, which allows Fournette to find the proper lane. It also allows Marpet to get a clean angle on cornerback Charvarius Ward, who obviously has no chance against Marpet.
This is power football at its best. The Bucs offensive line dominates and Fournette uses that speed that helped make him a top-5 draft pick to finish off the run.
This play turned the tide for the Bucs because not only did it put the Bucs up by three scores, but it was the moment in the game where Tampa Bay officially took control. Don’t get me wrong, they controlled the entire game for the most part, but this run was an undeniable sign that the Bucs were about to become world champions.
Just put it this way: The Bucs started their next drive in the fourth quarter with five straight runs for 27 yards and two first downs. They knew the Chiefs couldn’t hang with them in the trenches after Fournette’s touchdown and had no problem attacking that front seven.
Antoine Winfield Jr.’s interception in the third quarter
The Bucs defense was lights out against the Chiefs offense. It was the Holy Trinity of a great game plan, great execution, and great play from all three levels of the defense.
This play is a perfect example of Tampa Bay’s defensive prowess throughout the game, and it also just so happens to be the play that turned the tide for the Bucs on defense.
Patrick Mahomes was sacked by Shaquil Barrett on the previous play, which is what created this 3rd and 13 situation for the Chiefs. This obviously means a passing down, so Tampa Bay is able to come out in a semi-exotic look. It’s a dime package that features the trio of Jordan Whitehead, Winfield Jr., and Mike Edwards (left to right) lined up deep.
Ndamukong Suh is the only defensive player with his hand in the dirt and Lavonte David and Devin White are mugging the A gap. This is looks like a blitz, but Mahomes and the offense aren’t entirely sure where the rush will come from due to the alignment.
This play starts with pressure. White stunts while David and Suh crash down. David and Suh are supposed to occupy left guard Nick Allegretti (No. 73), but he does a good job of picking up White.
Austin Reiter —the Chiefs’ lone offensive lineman left over from Week 1— falls for the bait, however, and focuses his efforts on Suh. David takes advantage by essentially blindsiding the center and takes off after Mahomes. Mahomes is forced out of the pocket and can’t step into the throw. Mahomes has the talent to make these throws, and he does with regularity, but this is usually a recipe for disaster if you’re a quarterback. Edwards is able to track down Tyreek Hill, breaks up the play, and deflects the ball right into the waiting arms of Winfield Jr.
As I mentioned, pressure is what keys this play, but the secondary also does a very good job. As you saw in the still shot, the Bucs looked like they were playing some sort of prevent defense pre-snap, but that all changed once Mahomes hiked the ball.
The Bucs roll into Cover 3 Robber, with Winfield Jr. playing the Robber at the sticks. Whitehead rotates down and takes Demarcus Robinson in the flat and Edwards rotates to centerfield.
When a defense is in single-high, the centerfield safety is usually supposed to read the release of the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers in a 3x1 set, which is what Kansas City is in. Once Edwards sees Hill release vertically and down the seam, he knows that’s his assignment, but he also has to make sure he keeps Hill in front of him. The rest of the secondary does a great job of playing their zones and bracketing the proper assignments.
Edwards does a great job of diagnosing the play, reading Mahomes’ eyes, and then finishing the play off. He closes at a great angle and is able to knock the ball way, which leads to Winfield Jr.’s interception.
AWjr gets the highlight, but the truth is the whole defense should get credit for the turnover. This play turned the tide in favor of the Bucs because a) it was a continuation of the dominance that we’d seen all game long and re-affirmed the Chiefs that this was not going to be their night, b) it came on the heels of the Fournette touchdown, which compounded the issue in terms of emotion, and c) it led to three more points for the Bucs, and that caused the lead to go from a three-score game to a three-touchdown game, which is a big difference heading into the fourth quarter.
Which play do YOU think turned the tide in favor of the Bucs the most? Let us know via the poll/comment section below!
Which play turned the tide in favor of the Bucs the most?
This poll is closed
Leonard Fournette’s touchdown run
Antoine Winfield Jr.’s interception