I’m not sure anybody expected the Bucs to put up 48 points in New Orleans, but go figure, they were the highest-scoring week one team, tied with the Jets for that honor, if you can believe it.
Five of Tampa’s touchdowns came from the offense, while the defense chipped in with a 34-yard fumble return. Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick went 21 for 28 with 4 touchdowns and 417 yards and ran for a score as well.
So what’s the story here? Were the Bucs really that good on the day? Was New Orleans’ defense really that bad? Was it a combination of both?
It was a little bit of both. Tampa got some exceptional individual performances out of their receivers and Fitzpatrick was incredibly efficient on the day. The Saints’ secondary really struggled.
I went back and watched the condensed film on Gamepass, and here’s what I saw:
- DeSean Jackson caught his early touchdown coming out of the slot and his late touchdown just a few yards off the right hash mark. He ran a bunch of routes from inside starting positions and did play a handful of snaps on the outside, but generally was not on the field when the Bucs went four and five wide. In those instances, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard were sometimes out there with Adam Humphries in the slot.
- Humphries will run a lot of typical white boy slot routes, a lot of shallow drags and stuff like that. He does a nice job disguising natural screens and freeing up space for the outside receivers.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick: first touchdown scored on a zone read where he lowered his shoulder and got into the end zone, really an impressive run for a QB. In the 4th quarter, he had a HUGE 3rd down scramble to move the sticks and essentially ice the game. Fitzpatrick is more mobile than Matt Ryan, and while he isn’t going to gouge you for 20 yards on a busted play, he’s much less of a statue in the pocket.
- Fitzpatrick’s back-shoulder throw on the Chris Godwin touchdown was perfect. He released the ball with the receiver still five yards from the goal line:
Ryan Fitzpatrick to Chris Godwin (@CGtwelve_)…
END ZONE! #GoBucs
— NFL (@NFL) September 9, 2018
- Fitzpatrick only had one clear miss that I saw, which was an overthrow on a Godwin deep ball after the cornerback slipped and fell. On the other deep balls to Jackson and Mike Evans, he was spot on, just a lot of assertiveness and accuracy on those downfield shots in this game.
- Peyton Barber isn’t half bad, but his biggest run of the game came in the first quarter (23) yards. Take that out of his 69 yard total and the rest of his production ended up being 18 carries for 46, which is a 2.55 YPC. Jacquizz Rogers and Shaun Wilson barely touched the ball. I don’t think Tampa is going to have much success running the ball against the Eagles, unless the Birds’ offense starts with some three and outs and forces the defense into a lot of early reps.
- The tight ends can line up in a lot of different areas and have pretty solid hands, good catch radius and the ability to go up and get the ball.
- 8-13 on third down was an incredibly high conversion rate (61.5%). The Eagles held Atlanta to 4-15 last week (26.6%).
- Evans cooked Marshon Lattimore, a good cornerback, on several occasions. On both DeSean touchdowns, the Saints appeared to get mixed up in coverage and didn’t have safety help over the top.
- Penalties: not a ton. They settled for a field goal on their third drive after a couple of offensive pass interence flags. Tackle Demar Dotson got called for holding and a false start, but otherwise the line was totally clean. New Orleans had 4-5 interference flags on the day.
- The Saints only mustered 2 quarterback hits and didn’t register a sack.
- Zero turnovers for Tampa. They finished +2 on the day and held the time of possession advantage mostly because of those NOLA gaffes.
I think the takeaway for me is that they’ve got a really diverse group of receivers and they’re a huge downfield threat. They don’t have much of a running game and hit on a lot of Hollywood stuff over the top of the defense.
This might be a pretty big Sidney Jones/Malcolm Jenkins/Rodney McLeod game. You’re going to have Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills lined up against the outside receivers, but Tampa showed some different looks in the slot and Jenkins might be up on the line for a chunk of snaps. McLeod is going to have to provide cover for Evans and Jackson getting down the field.
DeSean, who looks like he’ll be healthy for this game, caught all five his targets running this route tree:
On the far right, that completion was a huge 3rd down catch that moved the chains with a little less than eight minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. Tampa had just run the ball twice without much success and would have given the ball right back to New Orleans without that connection. And on the touchdowns, you see how they lined him up on the inside and torched the Saints on a post route and a loopy flag route.
Evans also caught every target, all seven of them.
He’s a big body and a guy who can make contested catches ala Alshon Jeffery, and you’ll see a combination of short, intermediate, and deeper stuff coming down the right side of the field:
That’s really what it is, accounting for the big play receivers and trying to limit downfield opportunities.
The Eagles defensive line should be able to handle Barber and company without having to the stack the box or sacrifice something elsewhere. I’d sit in nickel all day long and let Fletcher Cox and the defensive ends do their thing. This is the group that sacked Matt Ryan four times and hit him 14 times. Fitzpatrick needs to feel uncomfortable and can’t be given time to unleash those deep balls. The Birds’ defense was so good at taking away the running game and making teams one dimensional last season, and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t happen this year.
My only real concern is whether Nick Foles can stay on the field long enough to keep Fitzpatrick off of it. You’re talking Tampa heat in mid-September, and you don’t want the defense gassing out early. That might be doable considering the fact that the Bucs are missing Vernon Hargreaves and maybe Brent Grimes and shipped 40 points in the week one win.