Did Bucs' aggressive defense on final drive backfire?
The Bucs did a great many things on Sunday that contributed to their heartbreaking loss to the Redskins.
Penalties, missed opportunities on offense and, at times, poor tackling, come to mind.
But what will be most glaring when we look back is the inability to stop the Redskins on the final, game-winning drive. You might wonder how the middle of the field was so wide open on two plays in particular: A 20-yard pass to tight end Fred Davis and a 15-yard run by Robert Griffin III. Those two plays accounted for the majority of the 56 yards Washington gained before kicker Billy Cundiff made the game-winning 41-yard field goal.
After going back and watching both plays repeatedly, it’s hard not to deny that the pressure the Bucs dialed up on both plays backfired.
On the pass to Davis, which originated at the Redskins 35-yard line, the Bucs sent pressure with players who would otherwise have been manning the middle of the field: linebacker Lavonte David and safety Ronde Barber. Barber was lined up deep in the middle but edged toward the line and, at the last moment, took off in a dead sprint toward the quarterback.
The down side? Because it was a quick throw, neither player even impacted Griffin’s ability to complete the pass and Davis had plenty of room to run before being tackled.
Two plays later, with the Redskins at the Bucs 41-yard line – from there it would have been a difficult 58-yard field goal – the Bucs used a similar tactic. This time, Barber blitzes again. Also on that play, the Bucs slanted their defensive line to their right in an angled attack. All of this left the defense’s left edge wide open, and Griffin ably ran around it for a critical 15 yards before being leveled by linebacker Mason Foster.
That took the Redskins to the Bucs 26, and the rest is history.
Now, there’s no guarantee either of these plays would have produced different results with less aggressive defensive approaches. And what we can’t comment on is whether there was perfect execution. But it’s hard to imagine either play could have been as effortless for the Redskins, either.
We’ve known since Greg Schiano took over that the Bucs were going to be aggressive on defense. But we’ve also seen instances where doing so worked in the other team’s favor (the Giants loss, for example).
There’s a strong case to be made that Sunday’s game provided another one of those instances.
UPDATE, 8:09 p.m.: Asked about these calls late this afternoon, Schiano pointed to execution, not strategy as the reason for the big plays. He didn't go into any depth on the miscues, but stood by the decision to bring pressure.
"They’re not calls I wish I had back," he said. "We have to execute them. Suffice it to say we made mistakes on two of those plays that were critical.
"You’ve got to be able to execute in that situation. We could get into some different calls. If you look at it now, sure, maybe we should have called this or that. But we didn’t execute the call we did call. So we can’t judge it."