Monday, December 6, 2010

Bull Rush

When writing my posts about the Bucs I try to stay as objective as possible. You may not notice it but a lot of times I have to go back and substitute "they" for "we". Its because no matter what I will always feel allegiance to a franchise that I played for for six years of my life. But I don't want to give the impression that I am biased towards them in my posts because I don't want anyone to be able to question the credibility of the substance of my critiques. But every once in awhile the Bucs will play a game where its damn near impossible for me to hide my biases.

The Atlanta game yesterday was one of those games.

We should have won that game.

Don't get me wrong, before the season started I had plenty of doubt about whether we could beat the Falcons this year. They looked to be a much improved squad and we couldn't even beat them last year. Add to that all the recent injuries before the game and during the game yesterday and you could make the case that it was a long shot.

But after watching the game for the second time I am even more convinced that WE SHOULD HAVE WON THAT GAME!!!

There was no one play that lost us the game any more than there was any won play that put us in a position to win it. But at crucial moments in the game the Bucs just fell short. But it was so close. So damn close that I'm sure those players could damn near taste it. And that makes the loss just that much harder to digest.

What makes it worse is the talking point that all sports pundits have now to dismiss everything these young Bucs have accomplished this year. That they haven't beaten a team with a winning record. Never mind that other, to most people better teams, have lost to some of those same teams that the Bucs beat out (Patriots losing big time to the Browns for example). People haven't wanted to believe in the Bucs all year and now this loss helps their case. It doesn't matter that a team which many are calling the best in the NFC could only beat the Bucs by 6 at home and 4 on the road. Nope, the Bucs are supposedly frauds in a lot of people's minds after yesterday.


You're talking about a team where only one offensive lineman has started all 12 games. A team that is down to its 3rd free safety (or technically fourth). A team that is the youngest in all of the NFL and they STILL have 7 wins including 4 on the road.

Yeah they might not make the playoffs but lets be real for a moment. They have ALREADY exceeded most people's expectations, "soft" schedule or not, and then some. And they still have a chance at a winning record with their remaining schedule consisting of the Redskins, Lions, and Seahawks to go along with the defending world champion Saints.

So if you want to call the Bucs frauds its best if you not do it around me. Because I still remember all the naysayers BEFORE the season started. I remember all the people who didn't think it was possible for the Bucs to win six games all year. This team has and continues to out perform expectations, sometimes even in a loss. And I for one am not about to allow the same people who dogged them before the season act like they were predicting a Super Bowl now.

As for the game yesterday the defensive line played well if not spectacular but that was partly by the Falcons' design. Instead of running at the defensive line as they had in the previous game, this time they ran a lot more at the edges. They were pinning in the defensive end and undertackle and getting a pulling guard out on the linebacker. They put pressure on the secondary to be perfect in their run fits and unfortunately that wasn't all the case. But there wasn't much the defensive line could do about it except try to get up the field on those blocks which they did a decent job of all day. And not for nothing the defense did hold Michael Turner to less than 100 yards for once.

Now I know I have beaten this dead horse all year but it literally made my head hurt to see the Bucs use the 3-3-5 so much yesterday. We may not have any pro bowlers up front but we do have some guys who can pass rush if given a chance. Instead they were put in situations where they three guys had to try to beat five along with a chip block or we blitzed which never seems to get much pressure either. Don't get me wrong, a few times guys still were able to beat two offensive lineman and get some pressure, but why make it so damn hard? I just will never understand why Coach Morris is so wedded to a defense that doesn't produce favorable results the majority of the time. Especially when in my eyes its clear that a four man rush has been much more productive this year.

I'll tell you this much, no matter what anybody says I am convinced that we would have been better off rushing four to at least have a shot of getting some pressure on Matt Ryan on 3rd and 20 instead just rushing three. And while that one play didn't lose the game for us, that conversion was definitely a back breaker.

Individual breakdowns:

Tim Crowder: I didn't have Crowder down for a single stat. Some of that I'm sure is due to the Falcons' blocking scheme because its not like he played poorly. But some of it is also because of how much 3-3-5 the Bucs ran which he isn't in on. I will say this, some people believe that the touchdown run by Turner was Crowder's fault. It wasn't. He had to try to spill the play by getting underneath the tight end coming across the formation and he did that. But the hole Turner had to run through was just too large and so he couldn't get far enough inside the block to make the tackle. Roy Miller was actually the problem on that play which I will get to later.

Gerald McCoy: I had McCoy down for a tackle, 3 pressures, a hit on the quarterback and a forced holding penalty off another good pass rush. It was a decent game for him production wise but again he didn't have near enough opportunities to rush from a 3 technique in my opinion. He also had the stupid personal foul penalty after the Falcons were already in a hole because of their own personal foul against Roddy White. The replay didn't show clearly why he hit the offensive lineman in the back but it was way too late and way too obvious for the refs not to throw a flag.

Now I said my peace about bullying the bullies on Friday but what he did simply didn't fit into that category as best I could tell. I don't know what the guy did to provoke McCoy but when its that late and away from the actual play he has to let it ride until the next down.

One question I had was why he decided to all of a sudden start doing spin moves. I don't think that was a good move for the kind of offensive lineman he faced anyway but more to the point I don't know if that's a good move for him anyway. It could be, at some point. But why try it out against a big game like this one? Kind of a head scratcher if you ask me.

Roy Miller: I had Miller with a tackle and an assist and a forced holding penalty on a running play. I thought he played ok for most of the day but the Falcons' blocking scheme along with the Bucs game plan of having him line up in a G technique a lot on the guard rather than the center didn't lend itself to him having a big day of production. On the touchdown play to Turner he simply allowed himself to be caved in too far by the guard. He ended up all the way over by the opposite defensive tackle which created far too great a lane for Turner to run through. Now that play was an anomaly for him yesterday as he wasn't getting pushed around most of the game. Still he has to learn how to anchor in and fight pressure better, especially that close to the goalline.

Stylez G. White: I had Stylez with a tackle, an assist, 3 pressures and 3 hits on the quarterback. If there is one guy who probably could have made more of a difference with more 4 man rushes it was probably White who was really getting after it yesterday. I'm sure the left tackle for the Falcons is grateful that he didn't get those opportunities though.

Michael Bennett: By my count Bennett had 2 tackles. He had an opportunity for a tackle for a loss but he couldn't bring Turner down. Bennett continues to be frustrating to watch because he never seems to put it all together. He had a really nice spin but he fell down. He has improved on playing the run but now it seems like his pass rush has fallen off. He keeps trying to be too finesse for my taste instead of just running around or through his opponents. I don't think he has a clue how good he could be. But at some point you have to show more than just potential and that moment is fast approaching.

Al Woods: I had Woods down for 1 tackle. I thought he played well, if sparingly.

Alex Magee: I didn't have Magee down for any stats.

That's all for today. I haven't been in the comments section lately but I'll try to do better this week.


  1. Steve,

    Again thanks for the insight. Yesterday's game was a tough pill to swallow. I thought the d-line help up pretty well also. The team really plays hard for Coach Rah.

    What is your analysis on Geno Hayes this year? Do you feel he has progressed? Obviously, there can be only on D. Brooks, but is Hayes too undersized? I know reading your blogs last year, you were critical of Hayes not knowing the playbook so well. Has he improved?

    Thanks, your blog is a must read!!!

  2. Steve,
    As a regular reader of your blog, the second I saw the Bucs line up in the 3-3-5 on that fatal 3rd-and-20, I said to my girlfriend, "Oh no." I, like any Bucs fan, wanted to see some pressure on that play, and the 3-3-5 seems to pretty much eliminate any chance of that as far as I can see. Keep up the great, writing, I hope it pays off for you.

  3. Once again, right on the mark, I was one of those saying we can win 8 maybe even 10, we argued who would be better us or KC, seems we were both correct. Anyway, I noticed a lot of 335 and didn't understand the thought behind it, we were rushing well with 4, why mess with what is working? I think Morris felt the pressure and kind of had a brain fart when we were up by 3 and went into conservative mode and quit applying pressure, just trying to win. BTW, am I he only one who saw at least 2 illegal blocks on the Falcons runback?

  4. Great read Steve.It does hurt I can't watch ESPN yet we should have WON that game!!!I wish we would have made a trade for Mankins earlier in the season. Can you tell us who you think or what you think the Bucs should draft next year?

  5. Listen, they may have been playing over their heads all year. And then again, maybe not. What is evident, Morris has done well with what he has been dealt. Not the players as much as the revolving doors from injuries. Yes they should have won yesterday but I find it difficult to not find solace in the fact they have come so far with such a young team. I want this team and Morris to grow together. I started the season predicting a record 6-10 minimum, 8-8 most probable and 10-6 possible. I am going out on a limb as say they win a minimum of 3 out of the remaining 4 with the 4th a toss up. Keep up with the critique's.

  6. Great read Steve I agree with just about everything. The Jury is still out on the 3-3-5 for me. We picked off Matt twice and almost had 3 other picks. What formation were we in for those? Not arguing just curious.
    To The New Employee the blocks in the back were on number 92@11 sec and 39@13 sec in the video of the return on

  7. @Trox I think Geno has played better this year than last but I think he hasn't been put in position to make as many plays because honestly I think most of the year the staff has been too focused on featuring Quincy Black, especially on 3rd downs.

    @TheNewEmployee Coach Morris didn't just start running the 3-3-5 late, he was running it all game and he has been running it most of the season. It is just his philosphy I guess.

    @FlyingScorpion The Bucs ran the 3-3-5 15 or 16 times yesterday depending upon how you count it. The one interception by Sean Jones when using the 3-3-5 came when there was no pressure and Ryan just sailed a pass over his recievers' head. In all honesty the other interception was with a 4 man line and we blitzed but still there wasn't all that much pressure but he again made a bad throw and Lynch made an even better catch whilst diving. But if the measure of the 3-3-5's effectiveness is hoping for bad throws from the QB we might as well rush 2 or even none. You'd probably have about the same chance of success which is to say not much of one. On the flip side we gave up 4 first downs and two TDs in the 3-3-5 so...there's that.

    Its worth pointing out that to begin the game we went 4 man rush and Stylez had two pressures on the QB in a row and looked prime for a big day pass rushing. If I were him Id have been PISSED!

  8. Steve, Another great post. Really enjoy reading your blog. I was pissed off at the end of the game yesterday and bitterly disappointed. But, it didn't take me long to start looking at how well the Bucs have done this season, which got me extremely excited and thinking about next year. I know the season isn't over, but this team is capable of being a GREAT team and they'll be much closer next year.

    Having said all that, does anyone think that Caddy is a better goal line option than Blount? Also, does anyone believe another coach is more deserving than Raheem for Coach of the Year honors?

  9. Steve, stat-wise I didn't have too much of a problem withe the Bucs - they held Turner to under 100 yards. However their use of the 3-5 and conservative plays in the 3rd quarter indicate, at least to me, that the loss of this game should be SQUARELY placed on the coaching staff, including the special teams.

    Why - look at the penalties on Atlanta's last drive, the PI and Horsecollar. Penalties are a reflection of poor descipline and that goes to the coaches resposnsibility. The Bucs have done great up to this game in keeping penalties down but yesterday it was the perfrect storm for Atlanta.

    It'll be interesting to read your take on Morris's decision to punt on 4th and 1 in the 3rd quarter and well as the punt.

  10. Calif Buc

    Coach of year: Steve Spagnuolo,

  11. I was curious about the horse collar actually and how it's called. I was always under the impression it was ok to grab the front and sides of the collar and it would only be called if it was directly from behind. Paying special attention to hand placement it looked to me like the player just put his over the guys shoulder and had the inside of his shoulder pads. At most levels of the game this is perfectly acceptable. Does this NFL really consider this a horse collar? If so it becomes rediculously difficult for the defenders trying to make any kind of play without knocking the guy forward for more yards, especially close to first downs or goal line. Seems frustrating for a defensive player.

    Oh and yeah the two blatant blocks in the back were frustrating, especially as one of them was the first guy downfield who took a dive at the returners ankles.

  12. Raheem Morris has been focused on featuring Quincy Black even though he hasn't really been all that impressive. That lead to the 3-3-5, but I don't think it's part of the longterm plans. The way they're trying to build this defense is from the defensive line on out - or at least, that's what the draft picks and waiver wire pick-ups say. So to then move to a lot of 3-3-5 would seem to run counter to that.

    I hope that as the D-line gains more experience and gets better we'll see less 3-3-5.

  13. Steve, I have been an avid reader of your blog. You do a great job.
    Any chance at the end of the year you do a summary chart of the 3-3-5 and if they had any real success with it. I would assume that would be something the buc coaching staff would do also. I know Raheem is trying to develop something unique that will give us an advantage with the 3-3-5, but I am with you on this one.
    The 3-3-5 kind of reminds me of the Bad News Bears, when they had that pitcher that kept trying to be Juan Marichal but failing badly. Buttermaker says, just throw it like you would throw it, not like Marichal, then he finally throws a strike.
    Listen to Buttermaker Raheem. You don't have to be an innovater to be a good DC. Stick with what naturally feels right for these guys and let them develop and grow into the positions.

  14. Steve I've been reading your blog for awhile now and love your insight into the game. I was 50/50 on Morris using the 3-3-5, but after that conversion on 3rd and 20, I hate it now(although Roddy White is a certified beast this season). To me the 3-3-5 was supposed to prevent that exact play and it failed! I also remember it failing another time in the game, but I cant remember. Also do you know why on 3rd and shorts Morris has his corners play off of the receivers alot. I have seen that all season and I also dislike that too. I predicted 7-9 before the season started and all my friends knocked me(Im from Dallas, so of course its cowboy fans). Bucs will exceed my expectations this season. Go Bucs!!!