The New Orleans Saints have a very good run defense. It’s arguably been the strength of the team so far in 2020, and it’s likely that Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians knew this when he sent the Buccaneers out to battle on Sunday night. This, combined with the Saints offense jumping all over Tampa early and forcing the Bucs to play catch up, means the Bucs had to abandon the run game fairly early.
And abandon they did! The Buccaneers ran a total of *five*, count ‘em, FIVE, run plays against the Saints on Sunday night. Here’s all five of them, ranked in order of successfulness from least successful to most successful.
5. Ronald Jones stuffed at goal line
During the goal line stand at the start of the second half, the Bucs, when they weren’t throwing unsuccessful fade routes to Mike Evans, decided to try and line up and snot-nosed run the ball up the middle right on the Saints goal line defense. Given that teams have little success running up the middle against the Saints regular fronts, you can imagine this did not go to plan for poor Ronald Jones. Credit to the Bucs O-line, a good sized hole was created for Jones to run through, it’s just that Demario Davis beat him there and ruined his day on the spot, stonewalling him and forcing the Bucs to throw another fruitless fade route to Mike Evans.
4. Leonard Fournette run for no gain
Ronald Jones wasn’t the only player on the Bucs to run the ball for literally no positive gain. Here, in the middle of the second quarter with the Saints already up 28-0, the Bucs attempt to establish the run with a power on 2nd and 3. What they didn’t account for was atrocious blocking from Rob Gronkowski, who lets Saints breakout defensive end Trey Hendrickson fly inside of him with ease to hit Fournette, who’s lucky to get back to the line of scrimmage. Malcolm Roach is there to clean up the rest and the duo combine for the tackle.
While this run had the same end result as the previous run, I have deemed this more successful due to the fact that, on the previous run, all Jones had to do was literally get one yard and he failed, while this play had (possibly) greater ambitions (that were also unsuccessful).
3. Ronald Jones runs for 2 yards
Look at you Tampa! A positive run play! I’m so proud of you. Back when the Bucs had hope, when the score was 7-0 and the Bucs just forced a turnover on a Jared Cook fumble, Tampa was backed up to their own goal line. They give the ball to Ronald Jones, who picks up two yards on the play before Malcolm Jenkins comes in unblocked off the right edge to take down the USC product. This run, while not overly successful, was successful enough in that it got the Bucs a bit more out of the shadow of their own goal line and gave Brady enough room to drop back and continue to miss passes.
2. Ronald Jones runs for 7 yards
The first play from scrimmage on Sunday night was the running play with the most positive net gain, Ronald Jones running for 7 yards. The Saints attempt a run stunt with the Bucs rushing to the right side (meaning Cam Jordan, lined up at defensive end, loops inside while David Onyemata, lined up at defensive tackle, ducks outside). The Saints hit a bit of bad fortune with Onyemata tripping over the feet of Bucs right tackle Tristan Wirfs, opening up a hole for Jones to hit and pick up 7 yards on first down. An objectively good run. That all being said, it wasn’t the most successful run of the night for Tampa.
1. Blaine Gabbert kneels to run out the clock
There is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, funnier to me than the loser kneeldown. A kneeldown to run the clock and end the game is nothing special, fairly standard protocol. It’s made infinitely more hilarious when it’s done by the team that’s losing. The team willingly conceding and basically signaling to the opposing bench saying “we’re not even gonna try to make this score line look more respectable”.
And what a kneel down it is. Looking at the film, the more astute of you will notice that there are only 10 men on the field for the Buccaneers. Couldn’t even be bothered to put out an entire lineup’s worth of players for this pitiful kneeldown of shame. They take a knee, lose one yard in what’s technically the Bucs only negative run play of the game, and we all go on our merry ways. However, the funniest part about this isn’t even that the Bucs took a kneel to run the clock out on themselves.
The funniest part is that they sent the backup quarterback out to do it.
Blaine Gabbert had played approximately zero minutes and zero seconds of this game until 0:34 was left on the clock in the 4th quarter. Bruce Arians sends the kneeldown unit out. He looks to Tom Brady. Tells him to kneel and lose the game. Brady says F THAT. SEND THE BACKUP OUT THERE. And so that’s how we get Blaine Gabbert being the last person to touch the ball in the Saints’ 38-3 victory over Tampa Bay.
You may be wondering why this was deemed the most successful run of the game for Tampa. Well, it completed it’s primary objective. The goal of a kneeldown is to take the ball, kneel immediately, and let the clock run until it’s time to a) leave and go home or b) kneel the ball again. This is exactly what the Buccaneers did. There was literally nothing else the Bucs could’ve asked for with this play, it’s exactly what they wanted. They wanted the game to be over. And over it was.