Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs vs. Chiefs Turning Point, Week 11: Dirk Koetter beats Andy Reid by coaching like Andy Reid

Jameis Winston held the ball high in the victorious Buccaneers locker room.

The quarterback, who completed a pass to seven receivers Sunday, had one more target.

"One team, one heartbeat. It's all about us.

"But, hey, I'm going to give this game ball back to Coach Koetter."

After the Bucs surprised the Chiefs 19-17 to improve to 5-5, not a soul in Tampa Bay would argue with Winston. Koetter called the game of his life. He beat Andy Reid, one of the best coaches of our time.

Koetter and Reid have a long history. Both were assistants at San Francisco State in 1985. They coached together at UTEP and Missouri. Reid, however, reached the NFL first, joining the Packers as an assistant in 1992. He became the head coach of the Eagles in 1999.

Reid has been a head coach in the NFL for 18 seasons. Koetter? 18 minutes. The assumption before Sunday was that Reid's Chiefs, winners of 17 of their past 19 regular-season games, would dismantle the Bucs. It was supposed to be more of a lesson than a game. Kansas City was the team to emulate.

That's exactly what Koetter did. He emulated the Chiefs, beating them at what they do best.

The Bucs didn't try to be anything more than what they are — a flawed team that can squash bad teams and compete with good teams, as long as they don't beat themselves. Other than the occasional shot downfield, they stayed committed to a balanced attack of intermediate passes and handoffs. They didn't need to be great; they needed to be good enough. Good enough to move the chains on third down. Good enough to keep the score close. Good enough to capitalize on a mistake.

The Chiefs finally made one in the fourth quarter, when Alex Smith threw an interception in the end zone. It was uncharacteristic of Smith, who had thrown three interceptions this season. He hadn't thrown one inside the opponent's 10-yard line since 2013.

Reid revealed after the game that it was a predetermined throw and Kansas City expected safety Chris Conte to bite on the play-action fake. Instead, Conte stayed in his zone, picked off the pass and ran it back to midfield.

Conte's interception changed the game, but Koetter made it possible when, just a few minutes before, he decided to play for field position instead of points.

On the Bucs' previous possession, they drove to the Kansas City 36. Koetter originally sent Roberto Aguayo onto the field to attempt a 54-yard field goal that could have extended Tampa Bay's lead to 15-10. During the television break that followed the end of the third quarter, Koetter decided to punt instead.

Earlier, Reid also chose to punt rather than attempt a 54-yarder. The Chiefs' punt pinned the Bucs at their own 4.

Koetter made the right call; Tampa Bay just executed it poorly. Bryan Anger, who entered the game among the leaders in punts inside the 20, punted the ball in the end zone, which resulted in a touchback for the Chiefs. A holding penalty during the kick gave Kansas City another 10 yards. The Chiefs took over at their 30, meaning the Bucs gained only 6 yards of field position.

That's not what Koetter had in mind, but if Aguayo had missed — he has yet to make a field goal of 50 or more yards — the consequences would have been far greater. The Chiefs would have started at their 44, and after a couple of first downs, they would have been in field-goal range. That would have been a gift for Kansas City, a conservative, ball-control offense. It depends on short fields. Koetter took away that opportunity.

After the punt, the Chiefs needed 70 yards for a touchdown. They gained 64, and then Conte intercepted Smith's pass. Short by 6 yards.

In his first 10 games, Koetter has had moments he'd like to have back. In a Week 3 loss to the Rams, he mismanaged the clock at the end of the game, and the Bucs finished 5 yards short of a game-winning touchdown. In a Week 9 loss to the Falcons, he declined a third-down penalty that would have, at worst, pushed Atlanta to the edge of field-goal range. Instead, Matt Bryant kicked a 41-yarder.

On Sunday, though, Koetter made all the right calls, including a second-quarter challenge of the spot of the ball after a Cecil Shorts catch. Officials reversed their ruling that Shorts was a yard short of a first down, and the Bucs went on to kick a field goal.

In all, not bad for a guy who has been an NFL head coach for 18 minutes.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected] Follow @tometrics.

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