Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Blitzing Tampa Bay Buccaneers took risks against New York Giants

TAMPA — After standing his ground on ordering his defense to attack the Giants on a clock-killing kneel down, Bucs coach Greg Schiano was similarly unapologetic for some of the defensive risks Tampa Bay took in Sunday's gut-wrenching loss on Sunday.

Some of the most critical plays the Giants made in their 41-34 victory came when the Bucs blitzed two-time Super Bowl MVP QB Eli Manning. He made the Bucs pay, throwing over the top and setting a career-high with 510 passing yards, second most in Giants history. The Bucs allowed a club-record 604 yards.

"Here's the deal," Schiano said. "If you look at us, we're more non-blitz than blitz. And we never do it without a deep middle safety. So there is someone over the top all the time. There's not two. There's one. Some of those balls (thrown) outside the numbers, it's hard for that guy to get there.

"We're not a blitz-heavy team. But, yeah, we're going to mix it up. That's who we are."

The Bucs didn't employ blitzes throughout the game. But when they did, they often turned into memorable plays. When CB Eric Wright blitzed, leaving S Ronde Barber to single cover WR Victor Cruz, the Giants scored on an 80-yard pass down the sideline.

Manning had 51 pass attempts and was not sacked, and the blitzes by the Bucs rarely caused him to even adjust. Why didn't the blitzes work?

"I thought Eli did a great job of directing protections," Schiano said. "And on a couple of them, he threw it before we got there. It's not (that) they were blocked. They came free. But he got rid of it and they made plays on the back end. Sometimes you get there and it's great."

MOVING ON: Schiano took no issue with WR Mike Williams' overturned 29-yard catch, a play on which replay negated a completion that would have put the ball at the Giants' 16-yard line with 12 seconds remaining. The Bucs trailed by seven and had a timeout to spare.

The play was initially ruled a catch but overturned on replay because Williams did not maintain control long enough despite getting two feet in bounds.

"I understand the rule," Schiano said. "There is some ambiguity to the rule itself. That's the essence of the rule. Whether that's good or bad. … I don't know if you can have a concrete rule in something like that. I think that's why it has to be that way."

Schiano cautioned against making too big a deal of one play in a game filled with critical ones.

"There's no one play in that game that decided it," he said. "When you have a game of that nature, there are so many different points where this could've turned it, that could've turned it."

FREEMAN'S REGRET: After avoiding any turnovers in the season opener, a 16-10 victory against Carolina on Sept. 9, QB Josh Freeman threw two interceptions against the Giants, the second on a frantic last-second play.

On the first, Freeman made a poor decision under pressure, throwing over the middle off his back foot to WR Sammie Stroughter. He didn't need to see film to know the extent of his mistake.

"I thought, 'I have to get rid of the ball,' " Freeman said. "Obviously, the appropriate thing to do in that situation would be to take a sack or try to run and get as much as you can. Definitely a bonehead play. I have to avoid those at all costs."

NUMBER OF THE DAY: 221— Yards accumulated on Manning's final six completions.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. View his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bucs. Follow him on Twitter at @BucsBeat.

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