Big Play Breakdown: Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Offense vs. Dallas Cowboys

Film review: Breaking down the Buccaneers' big offensive plays against the Dallas Cowboys in week one.
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ passing game put on a laser light show on opening night vs an overmatched Dallas Cowboys defense. QB Tom Brady threw for 371 yards to his embarrassment of riches, including six plays of 20+ yards and four scores.

WR Antonio Brown and TE Rob Gronkowski, in particular, gave America’s Team fits, accounting for three and two of the offense’s explosive plays, respectively. The former snatched all 8 of his targets for 90 yards and 2 TD, while the latter hauled in 5 of 7 passes for 121 yards and his own TD.

There were hiccups along the way, namely two bad turnovers. The first was an interception on a screen pass that HB Leonard Fournette couldn’t bring in. The second was a fumble by WR Chris Godwin which killed a drive that would’ve put the dagger in Dallas at the door of the end zone.

That said, the overall product Tampa put on the field showed this train ain’t slowing down anytime soon. Here are some of the most impactful offensive plays from the Week 1 shootout.

Qtr: 1, (7:53) (No Huddle, Shotgun) T.Brady pass deep right to A.Brown ran ob at DAL 32 for 28 yards (A.Brown).

Situation: 1st & 10

Groupings (Offense; Defense):   11; Nickel

Formations: Gun 3X1; 4-2 Even

Concepts: Sluggo (Slant-Go); Cover 3

Phenomenal execution from a future Hall of Fame QB and WR on this jaw-dropper.

OL helps create the big play opportunity by shutting down a DE-DT twist on the left side and stoning both solo efforts to the right.

Brady sends the deep safety flying by looking left before coming back to Brown, who uses pace and eyes to sell a slant, then turns upfield and swipes away contact to separate.

Dallas gets pressure late on the long-developing concept, but Brady keeps his wits and drops it in the bucket for an explosive gain.

Qtr: 2, (2:45) (No Huddle, Shotgun) T.Brady pass deep right to A.Brown for 47 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Situation: 1st & 10 - Nearing 2 Minute Warning

Groupings: 11; Nickel

Formations: Gun 3X1; 4-2 Even

Concepts: Four Verticals; Cover 5 (2 Man)

If you’re familiar with the play concepts above, you realize how absurd it is that this play worked, much less for a long TD.

Cover 5 is a two-deep man defense designed to have each safety take away deep shots down the sideline, while underneath coverage players “trail” receivers to smother underneath routes.

Four Verticals is a difficult play to run against this because every receiver is sprinting downfield, most toward safety help, and passes have to be on the money to beat tight coverage. Theoretically, you should never be able to complete a fade route the way Brady and AB do here, but that’s what makes them great.

The OL does an excellent job pushing the rush around their QB and creating space for him to step up. Brady wants Brown the whole way, but quickly shifts his head and body inside to WR Chris Godwin on a “seam read” route, moving the safety and creating a window down the sideline.

AB shows some veteran savviness of his own on the route, slingshotting off downfield contact from CB Anthony Brown to create late separation.

Qtr: 3, (8:31) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass deep right to R.Gronkowski to DAL 15 for 20 yards (K.Neal).

Situation: 1st & 10

Groupings: 12; Nickel

Formations: Gun 2X2 (Motion); 4-2 Even

Concepts: Switch Verticals; Cover 1

The Bucs dialed up a Brady-Gronk classic on this big gain and perfect call vs single-high man coverage.

TE Cameron Brate kicks things off by motioning from out wide into a tight split to disguise the offense’s intentions.

At the snap, he and Gronkowski switch positions as they release into their routes with Gronk going up the sideline and Brate attacking the seam. This strategy creates space for route runners by creating picks if the defense doesn’t back off or communicate properly.

Brady sees his longtime safety blanket covered by LB Keanu Neal, who does a good job staying on top of his man. But TB12 capitalizes on Gronk’s dominance at the catch point and puts it behind the defender so his man can make a play.

Qtr: 3, (6:28) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass short middle to R.Gronkowski for 11 yards, TOUCHDOWN [D.Wilson]. 

Situation: 3rd & 6 - Red Zone

Groupings: 11; Nickel

Formations: Gun 3X2; 3-3 Bear

Concepts: Delay Seam; Cover 0

Brady and Gronk capped the drive with another play dusted off from their time in New England.

Tampa empties the backfield in the low Red Zone and the Cowboys counter by sending (and making no real attempt at disguising) an all-out blitz.

Before the snap, Brady communicates with Gronk to change the TE’s route once he sees the coverage.

Post-snap, Gronk blocks for a couple of beats before releasing into his route.

SAF Donovan Wilson is covering the TE man-to-man and thinks his coverage assignment is no longer a receiving threat, so he attacks on a “Green Dog” blitz and no one is left to cover the middle (but the effort from Demarcus Lawrence is appreciated).

Brady fades away and gets the pass off right before pressure can get home, floating it to Gronk for their second TD connection of the night.

It might look easy live, but great recognition and adjustment from the Super Bowl regulars.

Qtr: 4, (:24) (Shotgun) T.Brady pass deep left to C.Godwin ran ob at DAL 18 for 24 yards. 

Situation: 2nd & 10 - End of Game

Groupings: 11; Nickel

Formations: Gun 3X1; 4-2 Even

Concepts: Switch Verticals; Cover 1

Tampa Bay went back to Switch Verticals on its final drive vs another single-high man defense.

This time instead of Gronk on the other end of the pass, Chris Godwin gets the call.

Godwin switching positions with Scotty Miller at the snap and runs a slot fade. With his defender playing over top, Godwin slows down preparing for a back-shoulder and comes back to a perfectly placed pass from Brady.

There’s definitely some extra activity at the point of separation with Godwin putting a hand on the defender’s shoulder and pushing off at the top, but both players were making contact and it was an easy thing to miss live.

The play was a huge bounce-back moment for the receiver and put the Bucs in field goal range, setting up the eventual game-winner.

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