Play 1 — Falcons with the football, 3rd-and-6 at their 22, 14:11 left in the first quarter.
How did it happen? The Falcons were in a shotgun formation with a single back to Redman's left. The Falcons had two receivers to Redman's right and one to his left, in addition to TE Alge Crumpler on the left side of the offensive line. The Bucs defense set up in a three-man front to give themselves a maximum amount of defenders in pass coverage. Barber lined up inside of the slot receiver in a position that might have indicated a delayed blitz but still allowed him to defend the pass.
Jenkins ran an up and out toward the sideline. The 8-yard route would have given him enough for the first down. But Barber cut off the route — just as he did a few weeks ago when he claimed a big interception against Washington — and picked off the pass for an easy touchdown.
Unlike that interception, Barber wasn't in press coverage this time. He played about 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. That allowed Barber to set himself up to defend several possible routes, including the out. Barber's interception was a simple matter of positioning, scouting and athletic ability. He said afterward that he didn't "bait" Redman into a bad pass.
"Not necessarily," Barber said. "It may have looked like that. I just kind of had a feel that it was coming. If that's baiting, knowing your offense, then yeah. But no, it was just me doing what I need to do, playing baseball for us, and like I said, he threw it a little bit late and it was a little bit easy."
The amazing part of this was how easily Redman could have picked up on Barber's presence. Barber wasn't exactly right in Jenkins' lane. He slid in to the lane after the snap. But Barber put himself right on Jenkins' hip as he began his cut to the outside. In fact, at the moment of the cut, Barber was in better position to catch the football than Jenkins. Barber even gave Jenkins an unintentional nudge as he slid in to make the catch. Even if Redman's pass had been early, I'm not sure Barber couldn't have picked that one off, too.
We've talked about defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin disguising coverages all season and this is a prime example.
Play 2 — Falcons kicking off with 6:38 left in the first quarter, down 7-3 to the Bucs after a Morten Andersen field goal.
What happened? Bucs KR Micheal Spurlock made history by returning a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, the first in Bucs history after 1,864 tries.
How did it happen? Pandemonium. Delirium. Bedlam. That's what happened.
The return was supposed to be a middle left return. At the moment of reception, Spurlock had a three-man wedge to his left and a single blocker to his right. But at around the 20-yard line, two things happened to open up the right side for Spurlock.
First, Michael Clayton, that blocker to the right, cut inside to cut off a key pursuit lane for the Falcons. This was a big seal between the wedge and the middle of the coverage unit. Without this seal, Spurlock wouldn't have scored and wouldn't have cut right.
Second, the right side of the blocking unit cut off the right-side pursuit lanes. Two Bucs made two great one-on-one blocks to create a lane to the right. A third Falcon was stuck on the outside and attempted to split the two blocks to make a play.
At the 25, Spurlock made his cut. That third Falcons coverage man on the outside wasn't able to split the blocking. The left side was completely sealed off. And Spurlock had two free blockers to use upfield. He didn't need them.
At the 35, Spurlock was through the lane and headed toward the sideline. Three Falcons were in pursuit, but only one — Lewis Sanders — had a chance to catch up. Spurlock hit the accelerator at the 50 and outran Sanders, who took a good angle, for the touchdown.
Looking at the back field view, it appeared the Falcons broke containment on the right side as several players crossed into different lanes, a real no-no when you're trying to contain a kickoff return.
Play 3 — The Bucs had the football on 3rd-and-2 at the Falcons 6-yard line with 12:09 left in the second quarter.
How did it happen? The Bucs set up with RB Earnest Graham in a single back set, with Clayton coming in motion to the left and WR Joey Galloway bunched close to the line in the slot on the left. The Falcons had six men on the line of scrimmage. Bucs LT Donald Penn was on his own against Abraham. The Falcons DE was set up well outside of Penn. In fact, there was a defender set up on top of Penn to allow Abraham to set up nearly opposite of Galloway in the slot.
At the snap, Penn flared out to block Abraham. LG Arron Sears picked up the defender set up on top of Penn. Penn attempted a cut block on Abraham. But the veteran end deftly avoided the ploy, sidestepped Penn and had an open backside to pursue Garcia.
What happened next drew a comment from Jon Gruden after the game. Garcia felt the pressure and knew Abraham was coming, but didn't get rid of the football. Garcia was in a three-step drop, but apparently couldn't find a receiver. Looking at the replay, it appeared as if Garcia had enough time to throw it away.
Abraham put Penn on the defensive, something offensive linemen don't want. By setting up that far outside, Abraham used his speed to cut down Penn's ability to flare out and get a stronger block on him, thereby forcing him to use a lower percentage block to try and stop him. Cut blocks aren't going to stop players like Abraham.
Play 4 — The Falcons had the football on 3rd-and-9 with 5:22 to play in the second quarter on their own 13.
How did it happen? This was all speed on Adams' part. The Falcons were in a shotgun formation with two running backs. Two wide receivers set up to Redman's right and one to his left. The Falcons had five blockers up front, with RT Tyson Clabo left to handle Adams himself, who came from the left side (he shifts to the left side on third down to give Greg White room to play the right side). The Bucs were in a four-man front, with Adams set up to Clabo's right.
Adams had a great jump on him. At the snap, Adams leaped off the line and Clabo slid with him. Clabo tried to lock Adams up, but Adams slapped his hands away and gained position. By the time Adams reached the Falcons 5 — that's 8 yards behind the line of scrimmage — he had position on Clabo and Redman in his sights.
The replay indicated that Redman had no idea Adams was coming, despite the fact that Adams came from Redman's front side. As he did with Leftwich, he caught Redman's arm as it cocked back and forced the fumble. Redman held on to the football too long, giving Adams more time to get there.
Go back to the rush itself. What I liked was how Adams slapped Clabo's arms away as the tackle tried to lock Adams up. This is something Adams wasn't doing two months ago. He allowed blockers to lock him up early this season because he lacked either the strength or the skill to use his arms to shed those blocks. Now nearly a year into his NFL career he's turned a corner in the use of his hands, which will only lead to more efficiency and more plays like that sack and forced fumble.
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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.