The Buccaneers Offense has improved each week since their disappointing Week 1 loss to the Saints. They still aren’t entirely clicking, though, with a lack of familiarity and too many injuries keeping them from firing on all cylinders just yet. In the first half against the Chargers, a team missing 5 key starters from their defense, the signs were far from encouraging. Tom Brady started an erratic 13-26 for 100 yards with a TD and a pick-6. Then the Chargers coughed the ball up inside their own 10 while trying to run out the clock in the final minute of the first half. From that point forward, the Buccaneers gave us a glimpse of what they can be at their best.
The rapport Tom Brady is beginning to develop with Mike Evans was on display for much of the afternoon against L.A., as it has been over the last 3 weeks. Evans is a big reason Tampa has the 2nd-best red zone offense in the NFL at the moment. And you’re starting to see Brady give him the Randy-Moss treatment, sometimes just throwing the ball up to give him an opportunity. On the play below, Brady saw that Evans was in a 1-on-1 situation with cornerback Casey Hayward out of the slot to the right. That was all the incentive he needed.
Not a bad strategy considering Evans’ size and Hayward’s inability to play and track the ball. If he had that ability, he’d be a wide receiver (the same is true for most cornerbacks).
Evans finished the day with 122 yards and a touchdown on 7 receptions while playing through what initially looked like a bad injury to his ankle.
The second half was also filled with what we expected to see out of a Bruce Arians Offense – relentlessly threatening downfield out of any formation or personnel group.
On this touchdown pass to O.J. Howard, the Buccaneers came out in “13” personnel (that’s 3 tight ends). You can see Howard and Cameron Brate aligned next to each other in a “Big Wing” alignment. Of course, both would go vertical.
I’m not sure what the safety over Howard and Brate was doing on that play. Either way, the Buccaneers were able to get O.J. Howard matched up on a linebacker on a vertical route. He got open easily, and Brady delivered an absolutely perfect ball.
On their next drive, the Buccaneers again went vertical out of a tight formation. This time, they had a trips bunch to the right with Scott Miller running the vertical.
A few things made this play. Out of the tight alignment, Miller initially released outside. This widened the cornerback to that side (Casey Hayward), and that allowed Miller to run by him and stack on top.
Brady looked left initially to hold the free safety just enough before delivering another good downfield throw (maybe just a tad underthrown).
The Buccaneers’ next play could not have been easier. Focus on Chargers safety Rayshawn Jenkins and Scott Miller once again.
Jenkins bit hard on the play-action (with the pulling left guard helping to sell the run). We’ve seen the Chargers play this coverage before, and it looked like Jenkins was supposed to carry Miller. Instead, he bit hard on the fake, creating one of the easier touchdowns Brady has ever thrown.
There were far too many plays like this for the Chargers Defense on Sunday. Here’s where we get into the impact of missing so many starters. The communication and coverage integrity issues were a problem all day. You saw a little bit of that on the O.J. Howard touchdown earlier. There were lots of wide open receivers in the 2nd half, and that comes down to experience and communication issues.
And then you also had plays like these. Watch cornerback Michael Davis (#43) at the bottom of the screen.
That’s what we call a business decision. Film session Monday had to be a rough one for him.
The competition for Tampa will begin to get a little stiffer than what they’ve seen since Week 1. Chicago might be the worst 3-1 team in the NFL, but they’ll likely have things more buttoned up defensively on Thursday than L.A. did Sunday. Tampa is also dealing with injuries to multiple key offensive skill players. However, we’re starting to see the Buccaneers look a little more like what we all anticipated. It will be fun to see if they can do it against some of the better teams on their schedule in the coming weeks.
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