Tom Brady Great in Wild Card Win Over Washington

By the end of the first quarter it became clear – The Washington Football Team Defense was not going to be able to scheme its way to a win vs. the Buccaneers Offense. They really didn’t have a good plan from a coverage standpoint. With 3 minutes left in the first quarter and Tampa facing a 3rd-and-3 at Washington’s 36-yard line, the dam broke. Focus on cornerbacks Jimmy Moreland and Ronald Darby.

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Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

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The disguise that Jack Del Rio dialed up….did not work. I’m not sure exactly what was supposed to happen there. You can see all of the post-snap movement, but was that meant to be a disguised inverted cover-2 with Darby getting too far to the middle of the field? Was Moreland supposed to run with Brown? Couldn’t tell you. I do know that it wasn’t executed well and didn’t work at all.

The Buccaneers’ second TD came off of play-action, something we saw frequently vs. Washington. The Football Team matched up to wide receivers Chris Godwin (motion man) and Mike Evans with cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Kendall Fuller respectively in man-free coverage. Those defenders were left on an island against much better receivers.

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You could say they had help over the top in deep middle safety Jeremy Reaves. However, for some reason Reaves broke to his left at the top of Brady’s drop despite no move or pumpfake from Brady in that direction. Godwin was effectively able to run a 1-on-1 route with the entire field to work with. That’s difficult for any cornerback to handle.

Washington’s execution of coverages was not great on Saturday. Some of their coverage choices didn’t make much sense either. For instance, Mike Evans was a game-time decision due to an injured knee. Yes, he’s a physical receiver. But with a compromised knee, you have to get in his face and jam him. Make him stop and start his feet. Don’t let him get comfortable. What did Washington do on just about every snap, though? They gave Evans a large cushion. They failed to disrupt or attempt to disrupt him, even if their corners aligned in press position initially.

Here, Evans is at the top of the screen.

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He’s at the top of the screen on this play as well. Again, look at that cushion.

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And one more time for good measure. Evans is again aligned at the top of the screen.

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Playing with a knee injury limits a receiver’s quickness and explosiveness out of his breaks. It’s the stopping, starting, and cutting that becomes more difficult, not necessarily the straight-line running. This means getting jammed at the line and having to stop and start more frequently, when he can’t necessarily plan for the unexpected, can effectively take that receiver out of the game. But when a receiver playing with a bum knee can execute his movements freely and know when or where he is going to cut, he might as well be 100% healthy. This is to take nothing away from Evans gutting his way through this game to finish with 6 receptions and 119 yards. But Washington also let him off the hook. The decision not to put more pressure on Evans is inexplicable.

Washington’s questionable approach aside, they were facing an uphill battle to begin with. They are not as talented on defense as the Buccaneers are on offense, especially in the secondary. They had a very slim chance of winning this game. And it didn’t help that Tom Brady looked like he did in his prime (whenever that was).

Against Washington, Brady had the two things going for him that make him one of the best, if not the best, to ever play the game: Precise ball placement and pocket movement.

You saw it on a couple of throws above. This play below encapsulates exactly who Tom Brady is as a quarterback.

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Brady felt the pressure coming from his right, calmly and subtly moved left to buy a split second of time and an extra foot of space, and then delivered a perfect ball that hit his receiver in stride.

The below throw to Evans was one that we showed earlier. Again, Brady moved left to buy time, kept a downfield focus, and found his man in the middle of the field.

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And then you have this play, which we also showed earlier. Brady again moved left, this time to avoid Chase Young. Then he reset his feet and threw another accurate ball back to the right for Mike Evans.

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The Football Team, despite its 3 sacks, did not get a lot of pressure on Brady. There were sporadic moments of pressure, but nothing constant. There were no collapsing pockets or linemen driven into Brady’s lap. The Buccaneers were able to control the line of scrimmage. Left tackle Donovan Smith had a really good game and actually handled Chase Young with ease. Not to mention, Tampa’s use of play-action helped slow down Washington’s pass rush. Their effective running game also didn’t hurt. And Tom Brady’s pocket mobility was, of course, a significant factor.

That said, the Buccaneers as a team were not sharp on Saturday Night. This game was much closer than it needed to be. They will need to play a much crisper game on both sides of the ball against a Saints team that really gave them problems schematically and physically in both of their previous matchups this season.

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