The Buccaneers like to push the ball through the air. Early and often. That’s probably the league’s worst-kept secret. And hey, it’s created an exciting and successful brand of football in the bay. Unlike anything we’ve seen or are likely to see again for a long time. As Bruce Arians has said before, “no risk it, no biscuit.”
That all being said, that nearly backfired on the Buccaneers in a key spot last week against the Eagles.
The Buccaneers Only Needed 2 Yards for the First Down.
With 9:04 left in the game, the Bucs had the ball at the Eagles 46-yard line, facing 4th and 2. Brady had just dumped the ball off to OJ Howard on 3rd and 11, who was tripped up 2 yards shy of the marker. On 4th down, out of the shotgun, with Giovani Bernard as a sidecar, the Bucs’ receivers ran outs, with Howard running a flag route beyond Cameron Brate. Brady floated a long ball high and over the head of Howard, who was covered with safety help over the top. Far be it from me to question a Super Bowl-winning staff and the greatest to ever throw a football, but….
The Best Threat to Convert Wasn’t on the Field.
…did we already forget about Antonio Brown and what he did in the Super Bowl? On his touchdown catch, where he broke outside and cut back in, he was as quick as a cat. When it comes to short yardage plays, that’s the one that will always stick out to me. Brown has been incredibly agile since arriving in Tampa and hasn’t lost much of his wiggle since he was putting up All-Pro seasons in Pittsburgh.
On that fourth down in Philly, he wasn’t even on the field. If there’s one guy I want right now against man coverage, which is what Philly implemented there, then that’s the guy. He has been the Buccaneers’ best receiver so far this season. I would like to have seen something set up for him, like a screen. Maybe send him on a slant or something over the middle. A high percentage throw that gives him a chance to make a play.
That being said, Mike Evans was open at the top of the screen just beyond the marker, as his defender slipped down. So, to be fair, there was still a viable short yardage option to convert on the play. Unfortunately, Brady made the wrong read on the play.
The Bucs Were up Two Touchdowns and Could Have Pinned Philly Deep.
Of course, the other option would have been to try to pin Philadelphia deep in their own territory and force Jalen Hurts to move the ball 90+ yards, and then do it again in nine minutes time. That would have been the safer play. Instead, the Buccaneers risked it. The result was a short field that the Eagles capitalized on to draw what felt like a blowout to a six-point nailbiter. Fortunately, because Brady and the offense were efficient thereafter, they were still able to close out the win and enjoy their biscuit. However, had they not, this single decision and play could have been the reason.