Bucs rev up the pass rush vs. Matt Ryan
A quarterback under duress and sliding out of the pocket. The ball being jarred loose by a punishing hit on the passer. Inaccurate throws made while on the run.
These are the images the Bucs envisioned after investing so richly in their defensive line. They drafted the likes of Gerald McCoy and Adrian Clayborn for results like those.
Today, these weren’t merely visions, but actual events. The Bucs made Atlanta’s Matt Ryan work for every yard in a game that featured Tampa Bay’s best collective pass-rush effort in quite some time.
“We were kind of challenged and we were up to the occasion,” said DT Brian Price, who had a sack.
Price’s sack, in fact, was emblematic of the day produced by the defensive line. He split a double team, fought through an illegal hold, and decked Ryan for a 10-yard loss. The play, which came on first-and-goal from the 5, helped force a field goal.
Also notching sacks on Sunday: Clayborn, who also forced a fumble on the play, LB Dekoda Watson and LB Mason Foster.
On four other occasions, Ryan was hit by Bucs defenders, including McCoy, who had a consistent presence in the backfield.
“When you keep hitting a quarterback and getting him off his spot, he starts to make bad throws,” McCoy said. “When he gets comfortable is when he can make those throws and get into a rhythm. When you keep hitting him, you keep him out of the end zone.”
As always, a key to the intensified pass rush was creating pass-rush opportunities. That came as a result of a solid effort against the run, the Bucs holding RB Michael Turner to just 20 yards on 11 carries. That created numerous passing situations, allowing the pass rush to take aim at Ryan.
“First and foremost, we stopped the run,” McCoy said. “That means they’re in third-and-long and it gives us a chance.”