In what was easily one of the worst performances of Tom Brady’s career, the Buccaneers Offense was beaten by the Saints as thoroughly as an offense can be. Much like their first meeting, Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen had a great plan for handling Tampa’s passing game from a coverage standpoint. The interior pressure the pass rush was able to create only added to the effectiveness of his approach.
The overall goal of Allen’s plan was to take away Brady’s initial reads, neutralizing his ability to get rid of the ball quickly and giving the D-line time to get to him. Sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done. Allen was able to accomplish this in multiple ways on Sunday Night.
The below play was a first down on the Buccaneers’ second drive of the game. Tampa went with play-action. The Saints played 2-man coverage, with both safeties working as inside help defenders to take away the in-breaking routes (high probability routes on first down off of play-action).
Brady wanted Evans first, but he was taken away immediately by the safety help. Brady quickly glanced at Brown’s in-breaking route before moving to Chris Godwin, who was running a wheel route from the slot. Brady didn’t have time to read the coverage and see that Godwin had broken off his route on the outside because his defender, cornerback Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, was able to stay on top of him.
Brady threw the ball deep for an incompletion.
As you could see on this play, Brady did not have the time to sit in the pocket to read the field and see the coverage the same way his receivers did. This happened on multiple occasions Sunday night (Like here and here). This was because the Saints were able to get consistent pressure inside.
Below, you can see the pressure they were able to generate on this particular play from the end zone angle. Focus on David Onyemata (#93), aligned over the left guard (Joe Haeg).
Get used to hearing Onyemata’s name for the rest of this breakdown.
On their next drive, facing a 3rd-and-8, the Buccaneers aligned in a 3×1 formation with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown to the left (my goodness), and Rob Gronkowski to the right. The Saints were not going to get beat by that dynamic trio of receivers. They played man coverage and rolled both safeties over the top of the 3-receiver side.
New Orleans basically took away that side of the field immediately and forced Brady to choose the matchup of Gronk on safety Malcolm Jenkins. The Saints seemed to be okay with this matchup all night, as Jenkins smothered Gronk in 1-on-1 situations.
Despite all the options on the field, the Saints forced Brady to make a low percentage throw on 3rd down here. Brady did happen to make his best throw of the night, but Gronk was unable to come up with it.
Again, the Saints were able to get pressure on Brady inside. From the end zone angle, you can see how linebacker Demario Davis came down over the right guard, forcing 1-on-1 matchups to the left side of the protection.
Onyemata again was able to win his 1-on-1 and get pressure on Brady.
Again, that’s a hell of a throw by Brady. However, you’re not going to make a good living as a quarterback if you have to make throws like that all night.
Brady had to spend much of the game moving and resetting in the pocket in response to New Orleans’ inside pressure, and this impacted his ability to consistently make accurate throws late in the down, as you can see on the below play.
This was 4th-and-6. You can see that the Saints were showing pressure with 6 men on the line of scrimmage. They ended up bringing 5 and dropping a man underneath in the middle. The Saints would play cover-2 to the 3-receiver side (bottom of the screen) with cornerback Janoris Jenkins jumping hard inside to try and make a play on any quick throws. To that side, the Saints had 3 defenders underneath in zone and one over the top. The throws near the first-down marker were dead.
Brady was forced to try and make a play late in the down after his initial options were taken away. That was tough to do after having to reset and avoid pressure coming through the middle.
You can see from the end zone angle that Brady had to move away from where he ended up throwing the ball, making it difficult to step in the direction of the pass after he reset. This impacted his accuracy.
Pressure was provided by Malcom Brown (#90) and David Onyemata (#93) in case you were wondering. The Buccaneers were ready for the pressure, by the way. They weren’t fooled. This wasn’t a game where free rushers got in on Brady because scheme broke the protection down. This was a matter of New Orleans overpowering Tampa inside. The Buccaneers really missed starting left guard Ali Marpet in this one.
With the Saints sitting or jumping many of the Buccaneers’ shorter routes, Brady’s initial reads were often taken away. The pressure made sure Brady could not comfortably work through multiple secondary reads. The below sack was yet another example. The Saints were playing quarters coverage to the bottom of the screen. The deep safety (D.J. Swearinger) to that side was responsible for the #2 inside receiver. But when that receiver went inside quickly, Swearinger correctly turned his attention outside to Antonio Brown, who was running a slant. Swearinger did a great job of playing with a flat-foot read, which helped him be in position to jump the route.
This took it away for Brady.
From the end zone angle, you can see that Brady felt the pressure from both his left side (Onyemata again vs LG #73 Haeg) and his right side (Cameron Jordan – #94).
You don’t often see Brady move backwards in the pocket. But by this point in the game, his internal clock had been sped up, and he wasn’t comfortable sitting in the pocket to move through his reads. Quite frankly, his concerns weren’t unfounded.
The Saints added to Brady’s misery by forcing his 3rd interception of the game a few plays later. Again, the Buccaneers went with a 3×1 set with that dynamic trio of receivers to his left and Gronk to his right. Again, the Saints left Malcolm Jenkins on Gronk. Again, the remaining 5 defenders focused on the 3-receiver side. This time, though, instead of rolling both safeties over the top, one safety (Swearinger) jumped inside to take away the crossing route and Brady’s first read.
Again, the coverage took away Brady’s first read, and the pressure prevented him from comfortably sitting in the pocket to get through his next reads. This is how you get pressure on Brady. The result here was a desperation 4th-down interception.
After a game like this one, it’s always fun to overreact. Tampa went from being Super Bowl favorites to frauds in a matter of days, huh? The truth is always somewhere in the middle, though. For the record, the Buccaneers are not frauds. They have one of the best defenses in the league. They have more talent on offense than maybe any team we’ve seen in the last 20 years. The pattern for Brady’s bunch to this point, however, has been that the better defenses in the league have really given them trouble (Saints/Bears). The mediocre/injured/bad defenses haven’t (Panthers, Broncos, Chargers, Packers, Raiders, Giants).
The offense will figure things out. The defense will bounce back. The Buccaneers are not going anywhere. Midway through the season, it is fair to say that the Saints have the inside track on the division. But there is still a lot of football left to be played.
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