Welcome to another installment of Tale of the Tape.
I continue to play with the format of this series as last week and this week I am splitting the posts up to focus on topical sections of the game, as opposed to just a smorgasbord of plays from the game.
Let me know which style you prefer in the comments. I’ll probably end up going back and forth between the two depending on what happens each week.
Today’s breakdown focuses on Aqib Talib’s interceptions. I’ll have another one later this week focusing on Paxton Lynch’s first NFL game.
Let’s dive in!
Our secondary really is the best in the NFL. I love this play because it showcases how good things happen when everyone is doing their jobs and how well this unit works together.
The Bucs come out with trips right and split the running back out wide to empty the backfield.
It’s not a coincidence that both interceptions came on 3rd down in an obvious passing situation. In these situations, the defense knows exactly where the offense has to get for the first, and knows they will be passing which puts them at an advantage.
We are in man coverage across the board out of our big dime package with Stewart as a robber in the middle and Parks single high. TJ Ward takes the middle man of the bunch set with Talib taking the outside guy, and Harris taking inside.
Pay attention to where Stewart is at in the yellow shallow zone.
This means that Harris and Talib both have help to the inside, and they know this. Notice how they both just sit there for a few seconds at the snap.
These bunch formations can be troublesome for man coverage, so instead of jumping right in and getting tangled up in the fray, they play the outside break, and prepare to chase inside, knowing the have Stewart there.
Here’s a look right before Winston throws it.
Talib is technically beat over the middle, but he essentially just passes his guy off to Stewart who is waiting right at the first down marker to light up the receiver if Winston dares throw it there. He doesn’t.
This allows Talib to float a little bit and almost assume the robber role Stewart was playing.
Harris plays this route so well and is smothering the receiver. Winston should have never thrown this ball. He ends up overthrowing him way out into the middle because there’s not really anywhere else to go with the ball. Heck, we’ve seen Trevor and Paxton throw those and they bounce off the turf incomplete.
This time, though, since Talib was lurking behind Harris, he was able to make a play on the poor throw and decision by Winston.
When everyone is doing their job in the secondary, and they are communicating as well as they do, you often will find yourself in the right place, at the right time.
This second play is part scheme and part savvy move on the part of Talib.
It’s 3rd and long again and Denver’s in big dime. This time they’re in a Cover 6 zone, which is a mix of Cover 4 and Cover 2 (hence Cover 6).
In a Cover 6, half of the field (typically the wide side) will play quarters coverage so Roby and Stewart will each take a quarter of the deep zone with Harris underneath.
On the other side (the short side) you have Talib playing the flat and Parks taking a deep half, like a traditional Cover 2.
This works perfectly because it lets Talib and Parks essentially double cover their best receiver, Mike Evans.
The offense has to get to about the 38 for a first down, so Talib let’s Evans run by him and immediately turns to sink deeper into his zone.
The weakness of Cover 2 is in that sweet spot between the corner and the safety. Evans knows this and going to sit down right into that spot. However, Talib knows this as well and is closing the window fast.
Winston is looking at the left side of the field and nothing is there. If he had started his progression with Evans and thrown the ball sooner, he likely could have got the completion.
However, he waited too long and Talib was all over it, timing his break perfectly. He hung back just enough to convince Winston that he could squeeze it in, baiting him into the throw.
The throw Winston should have made was called out on the broadcast. He should have dumped it down to his running back. Now Marshall and Ward were closing in on him so he likely wouldn’t have reached the first down marker, but at least it isn’t an interception in your own territory.
Bonus - Play #3
I am amazed at how well Wade schemes up ways to get his best players in position to make plays.
Most of the game, the Bucs were chipping and double teaming Von Miller; clearly making it a part of their game plan to stop him.
So Wade schemes a way to get Von free. He lines Shane Ray and Miller up together on the offense’s left, and has Crick and Wolfe on the other side.
That guard is gearing up to take on Von, who is much quicker and more athletic than he is. Plus, in the past, Wade has rushed Von inside on occasion so there’s no reason to think this time is any different.
Instead, Crick and Wolfe crash down inside drawing the linemen towards them, while Von loops all the way around to the right side for a free run at Winston. And he’s so fast, he’s going to beat everyone around the edge.
I just absolutely love this. Check out the double teams. You have Shane Ray being double teamed, Crick double teamed, and Wolfe double teamed. Meanwhile, the reigning Super Bowl MVP and best defensive player in the league is unblocked.
Wade effing Phillips ladies and gentlemen.
And give it to Wolfe for sticking with the play and powering through being held to finish when Winston was pretty shift in the pocket.
That’s all I got, folks! Let’s discuss in the comments how awesome our team is, not how awful my drawings are.