Broncos secondary limits Bucs' deep passing game
If you wondered why the typically effective deep passing game of the Bucs seemed largely nonexistent until the frantic fourth quarter on Sunday, there’s an easy explanation, players said.
The Broncos effectively played a deep zone coverage for most of the game, limiting the Bucs’ ability to go deep as frequently as they have in recent games. The ability of the Broncos’ defensive front to create consistent pressure on quarterback Josh Freeman – often without extra defenders – only exacerbated the problems.
It was a strategic move that paid dividends for Denver, and left the Bucs’ offense out of sync.
“When you have corners playing 15 yards off of you and bailing, it’s hard to connect on those,” receiver Mike Williams said. “They’re just bailing out there and then there’s a linebacker underneath you, so you can’t say, ‘I’ll just hit the short pass.’
“I mean, they game planned too. Maybe they’ve seen us hit the deep ball and said, ‘We’re not giving up the deep ball today.’ They don’t ever bail like that, but they did (Sunday).”
So, while the front seven did an admirable job against running back Doug Martin and the running game, the secondary handled its business against Williams, Vincent Jackson and Tiquan Underwood.
Entering the fourth quarter, Freeman had completed just 11 of 26 passes for 147 yards. Forty of those came on a single completion to Williams, one of the few deep strikes the Bucs were able to hit. After that play, which came in the first quarter and set up a touchdown, the Broncos adjusted accordingly.
Denver was “playing two high safeties and playing them deep,” Freeman said. “We hit them early on and they were ready for it the next couple of times.”
To a large extent, it was a case of the Bucs running into a talented defense that did what it’s been doing for quite some time.
“It’s no excuse, but you’re going against a really good defense,” Williams said. “Their corners really stepped up. They played good, like they’ve been playing the whole season. I said all week that, nothing against (injured cornerback) Tracy Porter, he’s a good corner. But it seems like when he went down, their secondary got better. You would think it would be the opposite. But they’ve had people step up.”