The matchup between the Buccaneers and the Washington Football Team comes down to pressure on Tom Brady. Will the Football Team get enough? Or will the Buccaneers give Brady enough time to find his ridiculous assortment of weapons.
The Buccaneers have been somewhat of a bully team this year. They are just 1-5 in their six games against playoff teams but 10-0 vs. lesser competition. 11 out of the 21 sacks of Tom Brady have come in those 6 games. Tampa has also averaged 15 fewer points and 100 fewer passing yards against their playoff opponents. The defenses with good pass rushes have given Brady and the Buccaneers Offense lots of trouble this season, and Washington falls into the category of a very good pass-rushing team (6th in sacks, 4th in Pressure %).
That said, the Football Team better play 4 full quarters on defense. They cannot get comfortable if they have any early success. They can’t get predictable. Because Tom Brady and Bruce Arians will be able to effectively make adjustments as the game progresses. The below sequence from Tampa’s come-from-behind win vs. Atlanta in Week 15 is a great example.
This was 3rd-and-9 in the 2nd quarter. The Buccaneers were aligned in a 3×1 closed formation. The Falcons were showing blitz, appeared to be playing man coverage, and had no deep middle safety.
At the snap, Atlanta brought the DB covering the #3 inside receiver (Chris Godwin) on a blitz. Safety Keanu Neal raced to the deep middle. Linebacker Deion Jones, initially showing blitz, dropped out into coverage to take away any quick routes over the middle. That’s exactly the type of route that Godwin would run.
Brady wanted Godwin, but he was taken away. This gave the blitz time to hit home before Brady could look elsewhere.
The blitz worked, so the Falcons tried to beat Brady in the same way again in the 4th quarter.
This was 3rd-and-5. The Buccaneers aligned in the same formation and the Falcons showed a similar look (blitz, man coverage, no deep middle safety).
The Falcons would bring another blitz from the slot, drop another defender to the deep middle, and again drop a potential pass rusher out underneath to take away any quick throws inside. It was just dressed up differently this time, with the slot DB over the #2 inside receiver (instead of the #3 receiver) blitzing and a defensive lineman (instead of a linebacker) dropping out underneath from the opposite side of the formation. They also sent a linebacker to cover the deep middle instead of a safety.
This time, however, the #3 receiver (Mike Evans) didn’t run his route inside. He ran a quick out, with his other two receivers blocking. With the coverage designed to take away an easy quick throw inside, the outside was left vulnerable.
Brady and the Buccaneers recognized the situation and anticipated that Atlanta might bring a similar blitz. It looked like Brady signaled to his receivers at the line and got them into the right play against this particular blitz. The result was an easy first down that led to a game-tying field goal.
The Falcons and the Football Team are neck and neck in blitz frequency, and Washington will bring pressure schemes similar to this. However, they have many more ways to get to the QB than Atlanta, primarily because of Chase Young. But they can’t rely on just one approach because Brady can easily adjust when he knows what’s coming, as shown above. They’ll need to mix up their pressure and coverage looks and use disguise to delay Brady’s decision-making. Washington’s front-4 has to get a consistent pass rush for 60 minutes to make Brady uncomfortable. It can be done. If it isn’t, Washington stands no chance.
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