Over the past decade, the football cure for whatever ailment afflicted an NFL offense could be found in Tampa Bay, Florida. The Buccaneers have been lousy on defense as they’ve cycled through coordinators and head coaches trying to find that elusive playoff appearance. Luckily, for a Saints offense that had struggled with the insertion of Teddy Bridgewater for two and a half games, the Buccaneers came to the Superdome looking like a shot of antibiotics ready to nurse Teddy back to full quarterback strength.
Tampa came into the game 15th in defensive passing DVOA after playing such passing luminaries as Jared Goff (playing from way behind), Daniel Jones (in his first ever start) and the corpse of Cam Newton. This was a defense that, while ranked in the middle of the league, had shown many warts.
Bridgewater took full advantage. This was easily his best game of the season and, maybe, his best game ever. Teddy finished the day with 314 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 10.26 AY/A and added 0.33 expected points per play (that’s good). The Buccaneers dropped down to 22nd in defensive passing DVOA after the loss.
This might have been a glimpse into what a future Saints offense might look like in the post-Brees world. Against man coverage, the quarterback looked for his best receiver, Michael Thomas, who caught 8 balls for 152 yards and 2 touchdowns against that coverage. Whenever the opposition single covers your best player, you have to find him. Teddy did that. Against the gaping holes of the Buccaneers zone defense, Teddy finally took his shots down the field.
The caveat, of course, is just how bad Tampa Bay is on defense. Their best cornerback, Carlton Davis, was ejected in the 2nd quarter. Vernon Hargreaves ended up manning Michael Thomas after the ejection. It wasn’t pretty. In zone defense, the defenders refuse to get hands on and reroute opposition routes. The safeties jump routes they should leave for other defenders and the mighty pass rush bowed at the feet of the Saints offensive line.
Look!— Seth Galina (@SethGalina) October 9, 2019
it's a slant!
it's a seam!
IT'S A SAIL! pic.twitter.com/5lGZDgzpJ2
The Ted Ginn Jr. touchdown is both a great example of the Bucs horrible zone defense and “checkdown Teddy” taking one of his first shots down the field of the season.
The Buccaneers are playing the aptly named “Tampa 2” coverage where the two safeties will split the field in half and the Mike linebacker runs down the middle to hole up the empty zone. First, you can see the aforementioned Mike open and run to wide side of the field. This tells Teddy to work the two receiver combination away from that. The Saints are running a deep “scissor” concept. The first receiver blasts downfield on a corner route, while the second receiver trails and runs a post route. The safety to that side of the field sees the first receiver ‘s route and locks on it because he knows he doesn’t have any help from the cornerback to that side. Now, the trailer can a have free path to the endzone. Teddy maneuvers the pocket to find Ginn Jr. for the touchdown.
Against man coverage, Teddy found Michael Thomas on this deep over route.
The Saints are going to run a play action “Yankee” concept. The post route on the bottom of the screen is designed to take the defenders to that side out of the play. Thomas will run a deep over route from the opposite side of the field into the vacated space. The play action works to suck up the underneath linebacker so Teddy doesn’t have to worry about any pesky defenders getting a hand on his throw. Now, Teddy has to read the leverage that the man coverage defender has on Thomas. Because the cornerback is underneath the receiver, the quarterback has to throw over top. He does and it’s another big completion.
Another zone beater I liked was this corner route to Michael Thomas.
This one showed off Teddy’s timing into a throwing window that is open but closing. The Buccaneers are playing another 2-high defense. They are playing Cover 2 to Michael Thomas’ side. When Teddy hits the last step of his drop, he sees the corner has fallen off his receiver and Thomas is one on one with the safety. Because of the 10 yard cushion by the safety on Thomas, the receiver will not break directly to the corner. He will break sharply underneath the safety. This takes the safety out of the play but it puts the cornerback back in the mix. If Teddy holds the ball too long before throwing, the cornerback will melt underneath the route and get his hands on the ball. Teddy doesn’t wait. He hitches once and throws a completion to the sideline.
Besides a potential missed read on a quads concept that Teddy had completed before in Seattle, there wasn’t much in the way of not hitting open receivers. However, there were still some accuracy struggles. The miss in the back of the endzone to Jared Cook was probably the worst of the bunch. With that said, taking a look at the Alvin Kamara “drop” that turned into an interception we can see some mechanical issues.
Yes, the ball should be caught by Kamara but he does have to slow down and reach for it on his back hip. If we pause the clip when Bridgewater is loading his throw we can see he is aimed at Kamara directly and not in front of him where the running back is headed.
Quarterbacks aim from the middle of their back foot. The red line is where Teddy is aiming his throw and it cuts Kamara in half. The blue line is where he should be aiming to hit Kamara in stride. Subtle mistake. There’s about 4 accuracy mistakes and 1 read mistake. Overall, an excellent day from Bridgewater.
The defense’s will get better. They aren’t all like Tampa’s. Teddy still needs to show that he has the willingness and accuracy to throw into tight windows but against Jacksonville’s 25th ranked pass defense, it will be another opportunity for Bridgewater to grow. On Sunday, the Bucs provide Teddy with the get-well chicken soup he needed.