Three Significant PFF Stats From Buccaneers vs. Cowboys

In-depth stats from the Buccaneers' week one win over the Cowboys are in. What stands out?
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had several days to review the film and make changes from their week one, 31-29 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. 

So has Pro Football Focus, which has released finalized grades and stats from the NFL's season-opener. 

We've scanned each relevant stat that PFF has provided from the game and came away with three significant takeaways, which you can find below.

Despite a lackluster run game, the Buccaneers were nearly perfect on play-action 

There's an old myth that play-action won't work in the NFL if you can't sell the run. Look no further than the Bucs' week one victory to validate that the idea is simply a myth.

Despite averaging 3.7 yards per carry and posting 52 yards on the ground, the Bucs were just about perfect on six play-action passing attempts - and would have been perfect if Leonard Fournette did not bobble a screen pass into an interception. Otherwise, Tom Brady was 5-of-6 on play-action passing attempts on six such dropbacks, throwing for 54 yards and two touchdowns at nine yards per attempt with a passer rating of 104.2.

Brady threw 50 passes on as many dropbacks on Thursday night and found success in most situations and on most play-calls. However, he was at his best in terms of efficiency on play-action, yet the Bucs only called play-action on 12% of their plays. 

Perhaps there was a reluctance to do so given their lackluster rushing performance, but clearly, that played no part in Brady's effectiveness when faking the run and passing. 

The Buccaneers pass rush created plenty of pressure, but rarely finished

Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was credited with 62 dropbacks in Thursday night's game. The Buccaneers were able to put pressure on Prescott on 20 of those snaps, recording 24 individual pressures in total. Prescott was hurried into 16 throws and hit seven times.

Shaquil Barrett led the way with six pressures and Tampa Bay's lone sack of the night, picking up where he left off in 2020 as he handily led the Buccaneers with 98 pressures last year (regular season + postseason). Vita Vea ranked second on Thursday with four pressures, and it's always impressive to see a nose tackle stand out as a pass rusher. He manhandled center Tyler Biadasz more than once.

William Gholston, Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul also recorded three pressures apiece.

Two issues present themselves from the performance despite an ample amount of pressure, though: The Buccaneers posted just one sack (Barrett) to show for their disruption, and Tampa Bay's coverage defense wasn't able to hold up their end of the bargain on plays that Prescott was blitzed. 

Compared to his 52.9 completion percentage while under pressure in general, Prescott was 22-of-33 (66.7%) when facing five or more pass rushers, compiling 227 yards and all three of his passing touchdowns. He made four "big-time throws" against the blitz as well.

One Buccaneers' defensive back played spectacularly on Thursday (see below), but otherwise, the unit was disappointing - as well as injury-plagued. Tampa Bay's pass rush should be able to continue wreaking havoc this season, but the team's secondary will need to improve moving forward. 

Fortunately for the Bucs, most of the quarterbacks remaining on the 2021 schedule aren't as threatening on their feet as Prescott and may not be able to evade the pass rush nearly as well.

Carlton Davis III was one of the NFL's top shutdown cornerbacks in week one

In just about every coverage category, cornerback Carlton Davis III ranked within the top ten - mostly in the top five - for his performance against the Cowboys. 

PFF's second-highest rated coverage cornerback in week one with a score of 80.5, Davis allowed just four catches on ten targets for 43 yards. His 40% completion percentage allowed ranked tied-for-sixth-best in the NFL among corners who took the field for at least 50% of the league's maximum number of coverage snaps (the San Francisco 49ers posted 69 such snaps against the Detroit Lions). 

In addition, Davis ranked third in forced incompletion percentage per target at 30%, getting a hand on a league-leading three targets that came his way, intercepting one. His one pick and two pass breakups are both tied for the NFL's lead as well. 

Davis also allowed a passer rating on coverage of 13.8, only behind Dallas' Trevon Diggs and Houston's Vernon Hargreaves III, each posting a 0.0 mark. Keep in mind, throwing a standard incompletion gives a quarterback a passer rating of 39.6 on such a play.

Davis' biggest issue against the Cowboys was missing tackles, as he missed three compared to two tackles recorded. But when it came to coverage, Prescott was ill-advised in targeting Davis throughout the night. More often than not, Davis came up on the winning end of any play that he was thrown at.

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