Bowles’ Stubborn Game Plan Cost The Bucs

The Buccaneers wanted Todd Bowles’ greatest sport plan of the season to beat the Rams. They didn’t get it. Not like in Tremendous Bowl LV, when Tampa Bay beat Patrick Mahomes by enjoying protection and daring Kansas Metropolis to run the ball, Bowles selected identification over adaptability.

As typical, the Bucs protection was dominant towards the run, conceding solely 73 yards over 30 makes an attempt. However with solely the twentieth speeding offense by way of effectivity, Los Angeles was by no means going to win this sport on the bottom. It was their aerial assault — which generated 355 internet yards in 41 dropbacks — that was the distinction.

Nobody particular person is singularly answerable for any win or loss. Soccer doesn’t work that means. However Bowles is as no less than as accountable as anybody else for the sport’s final result. In equity to the play caller, the execution wasn’t excellent, both.

Execution Errors

On this play, the Bucs performed a variation of Cowl 3 often known as “Gentle Sky“. The free security cheats barely to 1 aspect whereas the apex participant on the other aspect carries vertically if obligatory. In idea, Gentle Sky ought to problem the seams with out overly-sacrificing beneath gamers the best way a protection would possibly in the event that they matched in all places.

Nevertheless, Tyler Higbee ran proper by Jordan Whitehead for a straightforward completion.

Though the free security made a mistake within the above instance, discover how Jamal Adams matched Julian Edelman vertically.

I problem readers to decipher this mess. Jon Ledyard, Scott Reynolds, and I all despatched this clip to completely different scheme specialists to attempt to perceive what occurred. The collective response may very well be summed up as a shrug and an “oof.”

From pooling these opinions of individuals smarter than me, right here’s my guess: Tampa Bay was enjoying 1 Rat. Thus, the within linebackers — Devin White and Lavonte David — have been funneling the working again. Mainly, which means the linebacker closest to the aspect that the working again releases (David) takes him in man protection. The opposite linebacker (White) is free. Alternatively, there could have been a three-on-two funnel involving the sturdy security (Whitehead) and the tight finish, too. Or, Whitehead could have been merely manned up towards the tight finish with particular directions on what to do if the tight finish stayed in to dam.

On the again finish, Jamel Dean handed off the crossing path to Antoine Winfield, Jr. Dean then changed Winfield because the free security. Dean could have handed off the route too early, and Winfield could have been late to chop off the crosser — particularly given there was no risk of a publish route. Who is aware of?

Someone tousled. However with out being contained in the closed doorways of One Buccaneer Place, it’s laborious to know precisely who.

This one was easy. White, who admitted that he could be over-aggressive at occasions, deserted his man to pursuit the quarterback and acquired burned for a landing.

On third-and-19, this was a back-breaker. The Bucs have been enjoying Tampa 2 with Mike Edwards because the sturdy security. Edwards has to remain disciplined and maintain his place or achieve width in these conditions. As an alternative, Matthew Stafford baited Edwards together with his eyes by staring down the seam, and Edwards prematurely opened his hips away from the skin receiver.

In a vacuum, gamers should be held accountable for his or her errors. Nevertheless, when there’s miscommunication, psychological errors, and a scarcity of self-discipline all through a complete season, that’s a mirrored image of the teaching workers.

Blitzing Your Head Towards The Wall

This level was mentioned advert nauseam main as much as the sport: don’t blitz Stafford. With a 41 p.c blitz charge, nobody despatched strain this season greater than Bowles. However, nobody punished blitzes higher than the Rams.

In Week 3, Bowles made his model of a compromise by solely blitzing on 11 out of 39 dropbacks. Stafford went 8-10 for 81 yards, one landing, and one sack. One of many incompletions was a drop, by the best way.

Within the Divisional Spherical rematch, Bowles despatched 5 or extra rushers on 16 of 41 dropbacks. Predictably, Stafford accomplished 11 of 16 passes for 136 yards and a landing. He didn’t even take a sack. As an alternative of dialing down the blitz frequency from Week 3, Bowles turned it up.

The Rams wadded it up towards the Fireplace Zone blitz with ease and gave Stafford time to ship a downfield strike.

I received’t even go into the play — which was the right concoction of poor communication and head-scratching play calling.

Anybody However Kupp

The Buccaneers’ strongest performs got here after they compelled gamers apart from Cooper Kupp to win.

Tampa Bay coated this completely. Up prime, the cornerbacks staggered their alignment to counter the receiver stack and keep away from rubs. Furthermore, Dean performed Kupp nicely with security assist from Winfield.

The Bucs have been enjoying Cowl 1 whereas speeding 4. Although Sean Murphy-Bunting was singled up towards Kupp, Winfield spun all the way down to rob the center of the sphere. As soon as Kupp crossed into Winfield’s zone, Murphy-Bunting handed off the receiver to Winfield. Murphy-Bunting then changed Winfield as the center discipline robber. Good!

Sure, the Rams transformed this third-and-5 for a primary down. However it wasn’t simple. It took Higbee beating David, the Bucs’ greatest protection linebacker, one-on-one with an incredible route off of Sean McVay’s “Arches” idea. In the long term, I’ll take David on this match-up.

Additionally notice that Carlton Davis III was one-on-one towards Odell Beckham Jr. I like the concept of successfully double-teaming the offense’s greatest receiver whereas trusting your greatest cornerback to cowl their second greatest receiver by himself. Invoice Belichick has achieved this for years together with his “1 Double _” coverages.

Talking of 1 Double, right here’s what Belichick would possibly consult with as “1 Double 10” — however with a twist. White, quite than a cornerback, was enjoying press man towards Kupp whereas shading exterior, and Winfield rotated all the way down to take cowl Kupp inside.

Beckham beat Dean, however that was only one heck of a play. I do query the choice to place Davis on Cam Akers quite than Beckham. Maybe it was to present the phantasm of zone protection with a cornerback throughout from a working again and a linebacker throughout from a receiver, however the alignment screamed man the entire means.

Clearly, these coverages didn’t assure success. Nevertheless, they challenged the offense to maneuver the ball with out their greatest participant. Sadly, these few performs have been unrepresentative of the Bucs’ total technique, as Kupp completed the sport with 183 yards and a landing.

Free Yards

Good quarterbacks will take freebies when provided. Look no additional than Tom Brady within the Wild Card spherical. And Stafford, particularly with the assistance of McVay, will feast on free yardage.

With the Buccaneers in tender, spot-dropping 3 Sky, Stafford simply discovered a gap with a curl-swing mixture.

Bowles adopted that play up with a tender Quarters protection. With Murphy-Bunting means off, Van Jefferson picked up a primary down with a fast cease route.

Once more, Bowles had his corners enjoying off in 3 Sky. With Kendall Blanton so near the sideline, Dean appropriately performed with inside leverage. Nevertheless, regardless of Dean contesting nicely, Stafford positioned the ball completely exterior for Blanton to benefit from the tender protection. However that call doesn’t even sniff the egregious one on the defensive position. Joseph Noteboom, the Rams’ backup left sort out, was left free!

Failure To Assault Noteboom

Because the fill-in for future Corridor of Famer Andrew Whitworth, Noteboom was the weak spot in Los Angeles’ offensive line. But, Bowles didn’t take benefit. Jon Ledyard pointed this out on the Pewter Report podcast: as an alternative of attacking Noteboom with Shaquil Barrett — the Bucs’ greatest go rusher — the backup left sort out went towards Jason Pierre-Paul on the overwhelming majority of snaps. In actual fact, Barrett solely lined up on the offense’s left two occasions all sport!

Pierre-Paul had, by far, the worst season of his profession. Whereas he commendably battled via a shoulder damage, the truth is that Pierre-Paul was ineffective. Bowles noticed this all 12 months. And it’s not as if both Pierre-Paul or Barrett are completely one-sided gamers. Each had moved round loads all season.

As a result of Noteboom was unchallenged, he led the Rams with an 86.3 PFF go blocking grade. That was by far his highest grade of the 12 months.

Actually take into consideration that.

The apparent weak hyperlink earned a terrific grade as a result of Bowles didn’t go after him. That’s malpractice. It’s too dangerous Raheem Morris didn’t present Josh Wells the identical courtesy.

As if placing an injured Pierre-Paul throughout from Noteboom wasn’t dangerous sufficient, Bowles used creeper pressures that despatched Jordan Whitehead on the left sort out.

In fact, the concept with creepers is to control the safety such that the protection creates a free rusher whereas solely sending 4. However this seems horrible. It didn’t should be difficult. Make their worst lineman block your greatest go rusher. As an alternative, Noteboom’s hardest take a look at was an injured Pierre-Paul.


Once more, none of this evaluation is supposed to detract from errors made on offense or particular groups. Everybody may have achieved their job higher. Nevertheless, this was an abysmal efficiency from Bowles.

Sure, the Buccaneers protection generated 4 turnovers. However punch-outs, not to mention the ball going over Stafford’s head, had nothing to do with scheme.

That’s not hand-waving away the fumbles. Give the defensive gamers credit score. Nonetheless, think about what number of factors the Rams may need scored had they not been sloppy with the ball.

The tender schedule of opposing offenses inflated the Buccaneers’ defensive statistics over the season. However there have been pink flags. The hope was that, like final season, Bowles could be radically adaptable when wanted. As an alternative, he blitzed relentlessly, let the offense’s greatest participant go off, and made life simple for the backup left sort out.

Sean McVay didn’t want any assist – however Todd Bowles performed proper into his palms.


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