Greg White has shown impressive balance and leg drive all year. His first sack of Texans quarterback Sage Rosenfels in the second quarter, which led to Earnest Graham's first touchdown run, was a great example.
The Texans faced 3rd-and-6 at their 31. The Texans were in an I-formation play with a wide receiver split to each side and a tight end in the left slot. The Texans shifted the formation, with the tight end moving in motion to the right slot. When the tight end shifted and went in motion, White — who was on the right side — slid over a bit inside.
The Bucs defense is split on the line. No one is over the center. Jovan Haye is at Chris Hovan's nose tackle position. Gaines Adams is working the left end and Kevin Carter is inside of him. The corners were in press coverage and Barrett Ruud and Derrick Brooks were about four yards from the line of scrimmage. They appeared to expect a short pass.
After the snap, Rosenfels dropped back and used play action with the deep back. The fullback came to White's side, but did not block. He was on a pass route into the flat. Rosenfels had his back turned to White and the back side. As the fullback slipped by White, Texans LT Ephraim Salaam lost his position on White. As Rosenfels planted his back foot and started to go through his progressions, White was already turning the corner.
Rosenfels probably never felt the pressure. As he cocked his arm to throw the ball, White had him well within reach, hitting the arm and forcing the fumble, which Haye recovered.
White made a similar play the week before against New Orleans. His balance and leg drive allows him to work offensive tackles on their outside shoulder. Once he gains position White can then use his momentum to push through and make plays. He abused Salaam all afternoon.
This play was similar to the 4th-and-2 play that didn't work. Once again, the Bucs have overloaded one side — this time the right — with two tight ends. Askew was the fullback in the I-formation and Graham the deep back, with a wide receiver split wide left. The Bucs faced 3rd-and-1 from the Texans 4, so it wasn't imperative that the Bucs score on the play, only that they acquire a first down.
At the snap, LG Arron Sears pulled out and headed right. The Texans seemed to sense the Bucs were going to the right, but they didn't crowd the line of scrimmage like they had on the 4th-and-2 play.
The hole began to develop before QB Luke McCown handed Graham the ball. Joseph shoved a defensive tackle to the left, clearing part of the path. TEs Anthony Becht and Alex Smith helped Trueblood take on two defenders on the right. Askew took a wide angle and appeared to be looking for someone to block as Graham was handed the ball. Sears was in a full sprint coming from the left side.
As Graham ran for the hole, they split up. Askew went to the far right to seal off any potential linebackers or safeties. Sears became Graham's lead blocker as he filled the hole. As Graham crossed the first-down marker, Sears sealed off the left side, leaving Graham to squeeze through a hole that was being sealed off by a Texans defender to the left. He made it.
From the back view, you can see the play develop with one critical enhancement. The player that had the only shot to tackle Graham, the one that Graham needed to squeeze by, fell down as Graham went by, making a tackle impossible.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK
Tampa Bay took a gamble on the opening drive by going for it on 4th-and-2 at the Texans 34. Acquire that first down and the Buccaneers probably would have gone on to score at least three points. Fail to get it and you risk emboldening a young Texans defense. At the time, I liked the call. In hindsight, it might have changed the complexion of the football game.
Jon Gruden called an obvious running formation. He overloaded the formation to the right side with two tight ends. Graham was the deep back in an I-formation and Joey Galloway was in the left slot. This play looked eerily similar to the play that Graham acquired the first down on against New Orleans last week.
The Texans have seven men on the line of scrimmage, but only three were on top of C John Wade or to Wade's right. The Texans' three linebackers, however, crowded about three yards from the line of scrimmage.
I stopped the video just after the snap and the initial blocking scheme looked good. The Texans did not get much penetration. But there wasn't a hole, either. FB B.J. Askew takes care of a blitzing safety, Will Demps, from the left. Galloway is occupying the corner in coverage. Perhaps the play was designed to go left, not right, as the overload suggested.
But Askew failed to chip Demps wide enough to create a hole for Graham to the left. So Graham has to take it up the middle. Again, the Texans were not able to get much penetration, but the Buccaneers were not able to get much push. Graham fell into a pile of defenders and never came close to the first down.
Short yardage plays come down to who wins up front. Sometimes, for a defense, the victory is in not allowing the offensive line to build a hole for the running back. But in this case, as I paused the play every quarter second, I think I saw a flaw in the scheme. Instead of driving forward, most of the Buccaneers linemen were simply hitting and trying to drive the defender to the ground, as if it was a 4th-and-1 play, and not a 4th-and-2. In the absence of a hole, Graham was unable to make much happen. Ironically, if it had been a 4th-and-1, Graham probably would have made it. But I think a slightly more conventional play call, where the offensive line could drive the defenders back, would have been a better selection. The blocking on this play seemed better designed for a quarterback sneak.
The opening kickoff of the second half turned into a game-changing play the Bucs could have done without.
This play developed strangely, but worked out for the Texans. Davis almost jogged to begin the play, waiting for his blocking to develop. As he received the ball, a wedge of five blockers developed in front of him. But he didn't stay behind them for long.
Davis found his progress cut off at his own 14 and he cut right. At this point, he appeared to still be contained. Special teams star Maurice Stovall was on the outside. Stovall's blocker actually separated from Stovall and dropped back before re-engaging Stovall, and this might have been key. In doing so, the blocker cut off some of the space Stovall might have used to get into tackling position. Once Davis got outside the pair, Stovall had a horrible angle to try and make the tackle. Davis flew right by him, and the rest of the kick coverage unit, to return the ball up the Texans sideline for a touchdown.
Now, how did Davis go untouched to the end zone? Waiting for the blocking was one key. The second was the Buccaneers' sub-standard coverage on the play. They broke containment, something a special teams unit never wants.
If you read my special teams story earlier this year, you know each coverage man on kickoffs has his own lane. Above all else, coverage men must remain in their lanes until the last possible moment. A look at replay from the Texans side revealed that the outside coverage men broke containment too early. In doing so, they created running lanes on each sideline. Now, Davis had something to do with this. By starting his return so slowly, he suckered some of the Bucs into breaking containment too early, thinking Davis would take an inside route on the return.
A view from behind the Bucs makes that obvious. As Davis began his cut to the right, the only Buccaneers even close to being outside the numbers is Stovall. As Davis turned the corner and turned on the jets, the Bucs had been suckered so far inside that no one had the speed to catch him.
Listen to Bucsblitz.com's Matthew Postins every Tuesday with former Buccaneers linebacker Scot Brantley on WHBO 1470 ESPN Radio in Tampa and Clearwater from 3-6 p.m. If you miss the show, check out Bucsblitz.com's exclusive team media center for Postins' archived appearances.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for Bucsblitz.com and the Charlotte (Fla.) Sun-Herald. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and his coverage of the Buccaneers has won numerous state and national awards.