Tampa Bay faced 1st-and-10 from its own 31 with 2:43 left in the third quarter of a tie game. The Buccaneers were in a max-protect formation — meaning there were two tight ends in to block, plus an I-formation running play with Earnest Graham as the deep back. Joey Galloway was set up in the left slot. Guess who's getting the ball? That doesn't take a genius.
But it still takes someone making a play. After the snap, Garcia dropped back and used play action to Graham. Garcia had solid protection. Tight end Anthony Becht and left tackle Donald Penn pushed the ends downfield to give Garcia room to step up. He unloaded a rainbow to Galloway, who ran a deep post. There were two Titans in coverage, and Harper had the best angle, coming from Galloway's right. Garcia said after the game that he hoped the ball would be timed just right so the corner could not make a play.
Garcia was right. Harper mistimed his leap to try and failed to break up the pass (he did not know where the football was). The safety had no chance to catch Galloway.
Haye went first on 2nd-and-6 at the Bucs 17. The Titans set up in a two-wide receiver formation, with both receivers to the left. LenDale White was the lone setback. The Bucs had six players on the line. At the snap, the Bucs dropped back two players and let the line rush quarterback Kerry Collins.
Haye found his path to Collins impeded several times, mostly by Titans linemen fighting off Buccaneers linemen. But that worked in his favor. Haye worked against Titans center Kevin Mawae, and once he got Mawae off-balance, he shoved the center out of his way. As he did, the hole leading to Collins gave Haye a perfect shot at the quarterback. The play resulted in a 7-yard loss. The Bucs' coverage downfield helped Haye out.
Then Carter went to work. The Titans were in a shotgun formation with six down blockers. Carter was inside at under tackle. Carter used a physical move on Titans right guard Benji Olson and then sped around Olson's left side. Mawae actually helped Olson out on the play, but it didn't work. Rookie tackle Greg Peterson came on a stunt around Olson's right side, which forced Olson to release Carter and pick up Peterson. Since Mawae only helped Olson on the play, he didn't have position on Carter and the veteran pass rusher simply blew by Mawae and into Collins for a 13-yard loss.
Both sacks were big, as they forced the Titans out of field goal range and into a punt situation.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK
Tampa Bay had real difficulty stopping the Titans on third down and long last Sunday. What happened?
The Titans faced 3rd-and-10 at their own 28 with 2:09 left in the third quarter. The Bucs should have stopped the Titans on this drive. But backup quarterback Kerry Collins had other ideas.
The Titans set up in the shotgun. Collins had a back to his left, two receivers to his left and one to his right. The intended receiver, tight end Bo Scaife, was on the line to Collins' right. The Bucs showed blitz, and one corner — Ronde Barber — played press coverage.
Scaife immediately ran a pattern and left Gaines Adams unblocked. The Titans picked up Adams and bought Collins an extra second to scan the coverage. Collins checked down to Scaife, who found a soft spot in front of Bucs safety Tanard Jackson for a 14-yard gain and a first down.
The Buccaneers defense played back on this play to stop the pass. Scaife took advantage of that, stopping in a soft spot in the deep middle, in an area where Jackson couldn't make up the ground.
A similar circumstance led to Justin Gage's 42-yard reception in the fourth quarter. The Titans faced 3rd-and-9 at their 26 and needed a first down, as they were down 10-3 in the game.
The Titans were in the shotgun with four receivers. Gage was in the left slot. The Bucs were playing off Gage in coverage. The Bucs used a four-man pass rush, but this time the Titans were able to give Collins enough time to throw. Collins calmly threw it to Gage, running a deep post. Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud was the closest defender.
How did Ruud end up on Gage? Well, Ruud's job is to pick up the slot receiver in short coverage, but when Gage caught it, safety Jermaine Phillips actually got to him first (he missed the tackle). Deep slot is a safety's responsibility, so Gage took advantage of the matchup with Ruud — who is quick, but by no means as quick as Gage — and the Titans took the Bucs by surprise by going deep instead of going for a first down. Phillips was late with the safety help, and in that situation it's critical that he's not.
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. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.