Sep 25, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter and Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher greet each other after the game at Raymond James Stadium. Los Angeles Rams defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 37-32. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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Analyzing the myriad of problems that haunted the Buccaneers on that final drive in week three.
Following the Buccaneers’ loss to the Rams in week three, a lot of criticism was hurled in the direction of head coach Dirk Koetter, and with good reason. That final drive, coming out of the weather delay, was one of the most sorry excuses for a two-minute drill I have ever seen.
You can never leave timeouts on the table, and that is exactly what Koetter did. They ended the game with one timeout still in their pocket, and a lot of time wasted on the field. This is absolutely unacceptable, and Koetter must improve his clock management skills.
But the players were at fault here too. Yes, they moved the football, but they contributed to the failures just as much. They could have had much more time available to them.
How you ask? Leave it to your “eye in the sky” to break it down for you. We are going to revisit that final drive, play by play with pictures courtesy of NFL Game Pass (subscription required). Let’s begin.
This was actually the best play of the drive. As you see above, Jameis Winston is in the shotgun. Vincent Jackson is lined up wide to the left, in the circle.
What is the best type of play when you want to go down the field quickly? Plays to the sidelines. You can get big chunks of yardage quickly and then get out of bounds, saving time. “VJax” runs a simple 15 yard out route and Winston hits him with a perfect strike.
Once again, Winston is in the shotgun. Adam Humphries is the target this time, lined up in the slot to the right. He runs a curl pattern, and then finds a soft spot to just wait for the pass from Jameis.
Humphries picks up six yards, leaving the Bucs in second and short. Not bad, right? The offense is getting in a bit of a rhythm. They put up a decent gain on first down. Look at the next picture, and look at the time remaining.
See that? 1:29 is remaining when Humphries has flipped the ball to the referee. Dirk could have called a timeout here, sure. But why? They only picked up six yards. A timeout shouldn’t have been necessary.
Surely the Bucs can get to the line quickly from only six yards away, right?
1:17?? That’s it??? What the heck took so long? They picked up six yards on the previous play. They should have easily been able to get this snap off at around 1:21 or 1:22. First, Winston has to demand those players get to the line. Just don’t say it, DEMAND IT! If he is doing it right, you can tell he is doing it. Secondly, the guys simply have to hustle. The two-minute drill requires hustle, not walking. There must be a sense of urgency and their just wasn’t.
Now to the play. From the gun, Charles Sims is lined up to Winston’s left. He is going to come out of the backfield over the middle, following the arrow. The area will open up, making a connection easy for our young quarterback and his safety valve.
Slow as turtles is how they handled it. The next snap is with only 56 seconds left. THEY HAD TO GO SEVEN YARDS! How could they need 15 seconds from the end of the last play to the beginning of this one?
Koetter could have realized here that the team is moving slowly. They needed all the time they could keep, and the players didn’t seem to understand this, so that might have been time to call a timeout. But he didn’t. The team should have been able to get a snap off well before the one minute mark.
Note: The result of this play is an incomplete pass, so we skip analysis of play number four and pick it up on the next slide with :49 left.
See where Sims is looking? He’s got the first down marker in his bullseye. Normally that is a good thing, but late in the game, the priorities have to change. He is right on the sidelines in this shot. There is :45 left. He could go out of bounds right here with around 44 or 43 seconds left, stopping the clock there.
He picks up the first down, but does not get out of bounds. Time is of the essence on the final drive of the game when your team is losing. Period. Third and short from the 23 with :44 left is actually better than first and ten from the 15 with less time on the clock, and Sims has to know that.
But, he could have been saved if Koetter had taken a timeout. When he sees that signal that the clock is running, he has to take a timeout. HE HAS TWO LEFT! If you aren’t going to take the timeout, when are you?? This is by far Koetter’s biggest blunder of the drive. Big mistake.
The next snap doesn’t come until there are just 26 seconds left. From the end of the previous play, the Bucs allowed 18 seconds to just disappear. They just cannot manage the clock this poorly. Everyone is guilty.
The next five plays include three incomplete passes and two penalties, one for each team. Koetter takes a timeout while the clock isn’t running, which is an interesting choice but not really a big deal. By forgetting to use them earlier he still had one left after taking this one with :04 left.
Now we get to the final play. You all know where this is going.
Despite the mistakes, the Bucs still have a chance to win here. It’s second down from the 15 yard line. They line up with three wide receivers to the left and one to the right. We know what the Bucs need. They need a touchdown. Koetter sends the four wide receivers to the end zone, hopeful they can get one to make a play to pull the game out.
Winston is stepping up in the pocket with his eyes downfield. The trouble is, nobody is open. But the middle of the field is open. The defenders are either in the end zone or at the one yard line. Shouldn’t Jameis take off?
Now here we have the head scratcher. See all of that open field in the box? What is the quarterback doing? Well, he is looking downfield for an open receiver. Good idea, right? It would be if he wasn’t TWO YARDS BEYOND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE! This is the time to make a mad dash to the goal line. But you have to remember where you are on the field first. Does Winston ever take off for the end zone?
He never gets the chance. The Rams’ defender catches Winston from behind at the five yard line, and just like that, the game is over. The Bucs fall to 1-2 and we are left to wonder what might have been.
As I said at the top, Koetter certainly deserves blame for this. Why he didn’t call a timeout after the Sims’ first down is beyond me. But there was plenty of blame to go around. These things happen with young teams.
But they must learn from it. Tune it next week for more for the “Eye in the Sky”.