Jeff Garcia's first touchdown pass as a Buccaneer perfectly illustrated his mobility, his ability to throw on the run and why it's necessary for receivers to not give up on plays when Garcia is mobile.
The Bucs faced 1st-and-10 at the Jaguars' 19 with 8:29 left in the first quarter of a scoreless game. Tampa Bay is in a single-back formation (Cadillac Williams) and an overload set to start with three receivers to Garcia's right. Before the snap, Michael Pittman, set up in the slot, moves back behind the offensive line and into an offset I-formation. Tight end Anthony Becht comes back to the line in motion from Garcia's right. David Boston is now the lone receiver on the right side, set up inside the No. 20 yard-line marker.
|Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia. (Getty)|
It appears the play is breaking down. As Garcia runs to the right side, he's running out of room and the end is catching up. After the game, Garcia said that at this point he was looking to throw the ball away.
But he doesn't. At the last second, Garcia hurls it downfield.
Why? Boston ran a straight line route against single coverage. He tailed off a bit at the goal line to shake the defender. Boston created just enough daylight between himself, the corner, and the safety to his right, plus got Garcia's attention with a wave. The result was a touchdown. The play worked because Boston didn't give up on it, and because Garcia's mobility kept him away from the defensive end.
The defense will take it on the chin in What Didn't Work. So let's at least show one defensive play that did work.
Jacksonville had 1st-and-10 from their own 45 with 3:09 to play in the first quarter. The Jaguars were in a three wide receiver formation, with two receivers to Byron Leftwich's right. Plus there's a single back. The Bucs are in a typical 4-3 set, with Kevin Carter set on the left side (to Leftwich's right).
As the play develops, Ronde Barber — who is covering Matt Jones in the slot — comes off his receiver to blitz. To protect Leftwich, the running back, Maurice Jones-Drew, comes up to block Barber. He does so successfully.
By blitzing, however, Barber occupies Leftwich's only personal protector. The offensive line protection is solid to begin with. Leftwich has a pocket. While Barber blitzes, Carter stunts to the inside and is picked up by the right guard. The center is occupied with Chris Hovan and is unable to provide help. The right guard stands up Carter for a moment, and then suddenly disengages. I think he expected help from either the center or the running back.
When the guard loses him, Carter strikes quickly. Without the personal protector, Leftwich is a sitting duck and is sacked. It's an example of how the blitz can be used as a decoy to create confusion in the pass rush.
What didn't work
No one disputes the sorriness of the second- and third-team defense's performance on Saturday against Jacksonville. Not even the players involved. But a couple of plays late in the third quarter demonstrate, I think, those units' inability to stop the Jags in key situations.
It's 3rd-and-7 from the Jags' 8 with 5:06 left in the third quarter. The Bucs have a chance to stop Jacksonville and force a punt after Kenneth Darby's fumble. Tampa Bay senses that opportunity. The Jaguars are in a single back formation with two wide receivers. Tight end George Wrighster is offset on the left side of the line. The Bucs defense is in a nickel package, but as Jags quarterback David Garrard prepares for the snap, two of those defenders show blitz on Garrard's left side.
As the ball is snapped, both blitzers come hard. But Garrard is in a three-step drop, negating the blitz. The receivers clear out the corners, and Wrighster runs a short out pattern into the flat. The pass is complete.
The gamble on the blitz has failed. The Jaguars have the matchup they want — Wrighster, with the ball, against a nickel corner or safety. Wrighster is a 6-foot-3, 285-pound tight end. The defensive back — in this case Donte Nicholson — slides right off of him. It takes two players to bring Wrighster down, but not before he gets the first down.
Three plays later, the Jags are at their own 23 facing 3rd-and-10, after Gaines Adams sacked Garrard for a loss. This time, the Jags opt to use the shotgun. Garrard is four yards back with a running back to his left. John Broussard is wide to Garrard's left. The Jags have three receivers on the right — a tight end a yard off the line, a slot receiver and one out wide. That leaves limited protection for Garrard. The Bucs are in another nickel package.
This time, the Bucs show blitz from both sides of the field. The corners are playing tight coverage, including Carlos Hendricks, who is defending Broussard.
The snap brings two blitzers to the line — from the exact same place as three plays before. Those two blitzers, in fact, are part of the five pass rushers the Bucs send, which are all picked up. First-round pick Gaines Adams, oddly enough, drops back into coverage of the tight end while playing on the left side. But the tight end does not release and assists the right tackle with a block. The linebacker that showed blitz dropped back into coverage.
Thanks to the blitzers from Garrard's left, that side of the field is now relatively wide open for Broussard to work on Hendricks. Broussard goes three yards and Hendricks herds him inside, where I think he expects help. It comes too late. The linebacker that showed blitz — it appeared to be Ryan Nece — was responsible for the area and was about a half step late in meeting the pass to Broussard.
There are inherent dangers in blitzing in pass situations, and one of the biggest is the reliance on defensive players to make plays in one-on-one situations. In these two instances, the Bucs chose to blitz and put pressure on their defenders to make plays. But they didn't. That's likely a theme the Bucs' coaching staff will hit on this week — making plays when the opportunity presents itself, and especially when one made play can force and punt and potentially give the offense good field position.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors.