Cato June's interception proved what happens when you diagnose pass plays correctly.
The Dolphins faced 2nd-and-12 from their own 8 early in the first quarter. Miami started in an I-formation before the fullback went in motion to the right. Receivers were split to either side. The Bucs were in a base 4-3 formation. June, at the last second, shaded toward the right hashmark.
|Tampa Bay linebacker Cato June celebrates his interception with Brian Kelly on Saturday night. (AP)|
Brown moved up to the line of scrimmage to block, but once he realized there was no one to block, turned around for a possible pass. Before Brown turns around, June has diagnosed the possible screen and is already moving toward Brown. Green, surrounded by Bucs, is unaware.
Given the pass rush, it's an easy choice for Green. June, meanwhile, timed his run toward Brown perfectly, stealing the ball and running in for a score. June barely had to move once he set himself near the right hash before the snap. He read the play before the snap.
Running back Carnell Williams' 14-yard run with 13:02 remaining in the second quarter was a meaningful one for the entire offense. In the I-formation, the Bucs had receivers split wide and tight end Alex Smith offset on the right. At the snap, the line shifts to the right immediately. Right guard Davin Joseph and right tackle Donald Penn quickly seal off the right side. Fullback Michael Pittman chips a cornerback on a blitz, allowing Williams to get to the line of scrimmage. Once he's there, he sees the crease where Joseph and Penn had been.
As Williams flies through the crease, he evades a linebacker, who is half-a-second late for a possible tackle. Williams is running so fast that he doesn't realize that left guard Anthony Davis is out in front of him and runs right past him. But Williams takes on a safety and wins, getting three more yards before two defenders finally bring him down. That's a perfect example of what Williams can do when he has space to operate.
Finally, Penn made an athletic play on David Boston's 18-yard reverse with 7:29 left in the second quarter. In the shotgun, Pittman is set to the left of Luke McCown. Joey Galloway is wide left, with Boston and another receiver bunched on the right side. At the snap, Dan Buenning, playing left guard, pulls immediately to the right. Most defenders will diagnose that as a run to the right. No doubt most of the Dolphins believed that when McCown handed off to Pittman.
But then Pittman handed off to Boston and the play changed. Most of the Dolphins defense bought Buenning's pull. Boston cleared the left side and had two blockers — Penn and center John Wade. Penn made an athletic block on a safety in Boston's path, giving the veteran receiver the sideline to work with and allowing him to gain about 5-7 extra yards and a first down.
What didn't work
I mentioned Penn earlier because he had a play earlier in the game that he'd rather forget.
Late in the first quarter, the Bucs are starting their second drive of the game from their own 32. Penn is in the game at right tackle for Jeremy Trueblood. The Bucs are looking to execute a simple swing pass to Williams in the flat on Penn's side of the field.
It's anything but simple. Garcia takes the snap in the shotgun and Williams immediately runs into the flat. Miami defensive end Matt Roth has, no doubt, diagnosed this as he's rushing Penn.
Penn initially has the upper hand on Roth, but the mistake he makes is losing contact with the end. In this situation, maintaining the block is paramount to the success of the swing pass. If the tackle can maintain that block, the end will have a harder time getting his arms up and batting down the football.
But Penn was unable to maintain the block. Roth had separation and diagnosis of the play. He got his arms up for the pass and was able to intercept the ball. Penn was able to make the tackle. But he certainly got an earful from offensive line coach Bill Muir about maintaining blocks when the pass is coming to his side of the field.
Sometimes, everyone can do their jobs and the play can still goes awry. That's what happened on Miami receiver P.K. Sam's touchdown reception in the third quarter.
Sam was split wide right of quarterback John Beck. The Bucs are in a nickel package since it's 3rd-and-12, they're expecting a throw. Beck doesn't disappoint, tossing a long out to Sam.
The Bucs have Sam surrounded. Cornerback Carlos Hendricks is coming from the front, while safety Kalvin Pearson is coming from the back. Pearson has diagnosed the play perfectly and is thinking interception. Linebacker Jamie Winborn is even coming in from the inside part of the field. At worst, this play should have resulted in a catch and tackle.
But it didn't. Somehow Sam scored. Pearson mistimed his interception about half a second. Hendricks mistimed his hit by half a second. In doing so, the pair collided just after Sam caught the football. Winborn didn't have enough speed to catch the Florida State product, resulting in a score.
Sometimes timing is everything.
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.