The Buccaneers Waited Out Jameis Winston to Finally Beat the Saints
The Buccaneers’ gameplan on defense coming into their Week 2 battle with the Saints was somewhat straightforward: Force New Orleans to orchestrate long, multi-play drives to score. Eventually, Jameis Winston will make a mistake.
It’s hard to argue that this approach didn’t work.
Winston fired 3 game-altering interceptions in the 4th quarter, and the Buccaneers were able to hold the Saints to just 10 points on their way to a key early-season division win.
A few components were at the heart of this approach. First, the Buccaneers were not going to get beat deep. They predominantly played zone coverage, often with lots of cushion. The Saints finished with just two completions over 20 yards, and both came late in the 4th quarter after it was a two-possession game.
Second, they wanted to keep Winston from having a clear idea of what the coverage would be pre-snap. The idea here was to keep him from being able to process information quickly after the snap, forcing him to hold onto the ball. The longer he holds it, the more likely he is to try and make a play (and ultimately a mistake). Or better yet, they hoped he would get fooled or not account for the post-snap movement, which could directly lead to turnovers as well. Rarely did the Buccaneers end up playing a coverage that they were showing pre-snap.
Third, they wanted to take away Michael Thomas in key situations.
This 3rd-and-6 in the second quarter had a little bit of everything described above. The Buccaneers would play zone with the safety to Thomas’s side racing over top of him after the snap:
With Thomas accounted for by two defenders and taken out of the play, Winston looked to the other side of the field to rookie speedster Chris Olave. You can see that even though it was 3rd-and-6, cornerback Carlton Davis was giving Olave a lot of cushion. And that helped give him time to recover after initially biting on Olave’s double move:
Don’t get beat deep; disguise the coverage pre-snap; take away Michael Thomas. Check. Check. Check. For what it’s worth, Winston probably would have been better off had he come down to his fullback sneaking out of the backfield. More on that in a bit.
On a 3rd-and-2 later in the second quarter, the Buccaneers again accounted for Thomas with multiple defenders, just in a different way this time.
Here, they would play man coverage with Carlton Davis over Thomas at the snap. Davis would play with outside leverage, knowing that the safety to his side, Logan Ryan, would help out on any in-breaking routes. As it turned out, Thomas would run a shallow crosser, and Ryan would end up cutting his route with Davis falling off to replace him deep: