Xs And Os Of The Bucs’ New Defense In Atlanta

December 1st, 2009
Former  Bucs DE Steve White

Former Bucs DE Steve White

JoeBucsFan.com analyst

Steve White spent every season of the Tony Dungy era playing defensive end for the Bucs. He’s spent countless hours in the film room with the likes of Warren Sapp, Rod Marinelli and more. Joe is humbled to now have White, also a published author and blogger, as part of the JoeBucsFan.com team. White’s weekly Bull Rush typically breaks down all things defensive line. It’s simply a can’t-miss read for the hardcore Bucs fan.

Today, White gives a special Xs and Os look at the Bucs defense during the Falcons’ game-winning drive on Sunday.

Readers asked for Xs and Os breakdown of the Falcons game, so I decided to do another post. After a few thoughts, I’ve prepared a play-by-play breakdown of the final drive:

First, I was really happy to see our weak tackle over the center for this game. We didn’t have them lined up over the center every play, but when we did they made a difference. Our tackles consistently pushed the Falcons’ center into the backfield and many times made the running backs cut back. This kind of penetration it also made it easier for our linebackers to recognize their gaps and come downhill to fill, which is why you saw a lot more tackles for a loss.

Second, I thought bringing back the under defense really helped us against the run a lot. Getting Quincy Black up on the line to get physical with the tight ends while the four defensive linemen were getting upfield in their gaps created very few running lanes for the Falcons’ running backs.

Third, while I really like Geno Hayes as a player, the guy has to get in his playbook and start playing within the rules of the defense. On the shuffle pass to Jerrious Norwood that went for a touchdown, that was his play.

Not only was it his play, but he should have had a slobber-knocker hit on Norwood on that play. Coach Morris dialed up a blitz where our defensive end was supposed to go outside of the tackle, our safety was supposed to go in the outside half of the B-gap and Hayes was supposed to in the inside half. Jimmy Wilkerson did his job and went up field unblocked. Tanard Jackson went in the B-gap but drifted outside when the tackle went to block him. If Hayes runs through the B-gap he would have met Norwood with enough force to probably jar the ball free. Instead, Hayes also drifted outside looking in the backfield at the quarterback.

Because of that, Norwood was able to receive that pass and run 22 yards for a touchdown. That play although, made before halftime, might have been the difference in the game.

If Hayes ever gets the defenses down and learns to go where he is supposed to, he has a very good chance of being an outstanding player in the NFL. Until that day, he will always be a guy that makes some plays but misses others. Just good enough to start but never good enough to dominate.

Now for that final drive:

We were so close on almost every single play in that two-minute drive of closing out the game that its sickening to watch all over again. But even though we came up short, the guys on our defense fought their ass off to try to pull it off.

For most of the drive the Falcons went with a two-by-two formation, meaning they had two receivers wide on either side with one of those receivers being tight end Tony Gonzales. (When they change up that formation I will note it.)

1st and 10: We went with a four-man rush playing Cover 2 behind it. Jimmy Wilkerson and Chris Hovan got good push and Chris Redman’s pass to Tony Gonzales fell incomplete.

2nd ant 10: We had another four-man rush but this time the coverage appeared to be two-man. Tim Crowder and Wilkerson ran an EX game on the left side of the center but didn’t really get any pressure. Redman was able to connect with Gonzales on an eight-yard reception. Hayes was in coverage and was close to Gonzales but not close enough to break up the pass.

3rd and 2: Coach Morris dialed up a blitz with Ronde coming off the defense’s right side off the edge outside the defensive end. Now this blitz seemed to be flawed in my opinion. Greg White went inside which created the space for Ronde to blitz outside but Hovan just rushed head up on the guard. Because Hovan didn’t also go inside the center was actually able to pop back and help the running back block Ronde. That gave Redman enough time to hit the receiver in the slot Ronde was initially lined up on before Tanard Jackson could rotate down for coverage. The end result was a first down.

Two Minute Warning:

1st and 10: We went back to a two-man rush playing Cover 2 behind it again. This time Greg (Stylez) White made a helluva spin move and hit Redman right as he was throwing the ball. Because of the hit the pass fell incomplete.

2nd and 10: We stayed with the same coverage. This time the defensive line lined up with three out of our four guys to the right of their center. On the snap, Wilkerson, who was lined up just to the right of the center, crossed the center’s face to the opposite A-gap. Hovan and White ran a TEX game and White looped into the A-gap that Wilkerson had just vacated. White hit Redman again just as he is throwing the ball but this time Redman is able to connect with Gonzales again for a first down. Maybe a half second earlier and that is either a sack or an incomplete pass. Hayes was in coverage on Gonzales pretty much with no help so I can’t blame him on that one.

Defensive calls had Chris Hovan rushing in a way that freed up the center to pick up blitzes on the Falcons' game-winning drive, writes former Bucs defensive end Steve White.

1st and 10: We blitz Ronde again off the slot receiver on the defense’s right, but this time instead of going outside he rushes up inside the B-gap. Greg White rushed outside the offensive tackle and again Hovan doesn’t make an inside move but instead rushes head up on the guard. For the second time on this drive, the center popped back and helped the back block Ronde who gets to Redman just a hair too late after he releases the ball and completes the pass to Michael Jenkins on an in-route — once again in the area where Ronde had just blitzed from.

This time it wasn’t just that Hovan didn’t go inside that was the problem with the blitz. The defensive ends, Crowder and White, also didn’t speed rush from the outside. When we have guys blitzing up inside its imperative that the ends get upfield because its likely that the quarterback will get flushed and we don’t want to lose contain. It appeared to me that had White made a speed rush instead of getting into the tackle that he also had a shot at getting a hit on Redman before he could release the ball. Instead the Falcons end up getting the ball down to our 25 yard line.

1st and 10: Spike.

2nd and 10: For whatever reason Coach Morris decided to go with a three-man rush. Now he had used it earlier in the game, and although we didn’t get any pressure on the quarterback, we did get off the field several times on third down when he used it. I am NOT a proponent of a three-man rush, especially considering the pressure we had been getting with our three-man rush most of the game. But I guess I can still see why he might have used it, even if it’s not something I would have done.

With the three-man rush we played a Cover 2 with the extra guy, in this case Quincy Black, playing the short area over the middle that Barrett Ruud, our middle linebacker, vacates in his Cover 2 drop to the deep-seam route. This time it didn’t work, however, as Redman was able to hook up with Gonzales again for nine yards.

3rd and 1: We went back to our four-man rush with Cover 2 behind it and Redman hit Gonzales on a timing route again for a first down. Hayes was once again in coverage. Gonzales made the catch all the way down to our 10-yard line.

1st and goal from the 10: Spike.

2nd and goal from the 10: Coach Morris again goes with the three-man line with cover 2 behind it. This time it pays off as Black comes across and breaks up a pass to Marty Booker in the short middle zone. Helluva hit by him to get the ball loose.

3rd and goal from the 10: This time we go with a four-man rush but play a man-to-man coverage behind it with one safety deep. It appears that the coverage is set up for Sabby Piscitelli to take the outside half of Gonzales with Ruud having the inside half to double team him down the field. For whatever reason. Sabby let Gonzales get outside of him, effectively negating the double team. In the meantime Wilkerson made another hellafied move on the guard, beating him inside. Unfortunately, Michael Bennett had come into the game at left end and decided to bull rush his guy, giving up containment. Had Bennett stayed upfield it’s very likely that Wilkerson would have had a sack. Instead, Redman was able to scramble to our left and try to hit Gonzales on the sideline. Thankfully Sabby recovered and had a nice breakup on the pass on a great individual effort.

Unfortunately we had our rookie corner Derrick Roberson, who was only in the game because Aqib Talib, our best cover guy, was injured, get called for holding on a receiver on the other side of the field. Five yard penalty and automatic 1st down.

1st and goal from the 5: We stayed with our four-man rush as the Falcons bunched up their receiver sets close together. It looked like there was some confusion on defense and the Falcons snapped the ball before we appeared to be set up. Redman rolled to our right and thankfully our guys just took a man and ran with him. Roberson immediately redeemed himself by breaking up Redman’s pass to Roddy White on an out route.

2nd and goal from the 5: The Falcons lined up in their bunch set again and this time they rolled to our left. This time the defense was set and we settled back into our cover 2 scheme. Finding nobody open Redman just threw the ball away.

3rd and goal from the 5: We went with a four-man rush again and man-to-man defense behind it with Ruud and Sabby once again doubling Gonzales in the slot. This time Wilkerson made another great move this time at right defensive tackle. He beat his guy clean and came screaming right at Redman’s grill full speed ready to make a game-changing sack. Instead Redman saw the pressure coming and just threw the ball away. Sabby was once again beaten to the outside on the double team scheme on Gonzales which almost cost us big time.

4th and goal from the 5: We go with the 4 man rush that has been good to us all day and Coach Morris puts us in man-to-man doubling Gonzales again. I can’t say that it was a bad call but what I will say is that after calling that time out I think we might have wanted to change up the coverage. By that time the Falcons had seen it several times on the drive and the one problem with that kind of coverage is that it leaves the outside receivers open on slant routes because the corners aren’t getting any help. I am not sure that playing cover 2, would have solved that problem but I would have loved to have seen us give it a try.

Instead, we played man-to-man and that was essentially all she wrote. This time Sabby and Ruud actually did a great job of doubling Gonzales. There was absolutely no chance he was going to catch the touchdown to win the game. But not only was Roddy White open for that game winning catch, the wide receiver on the opposite side of the field, Michael Jenkins, was also wide open on a slant route. Such is life though. There was no way of knowing beforehand that that’s the play they would call. And again, if you are a betting man you probably would have believed that the Falcons were going to try to hit Gonzales for the touchdown, too.

Well, that’s what happened on the final drive. It sucks like hell because we were so close all those times to getting off the field.

But it also shows that there is reason for optimism. I wish we could have seen this kind of defensive scheme all year, and I wonder how many more wins we might have right now. But we didn’t and we don’t, so all we can do is focus on the future and hope to see more of that come Sunday.

31 Responses to “Xs And Os Of The Bucs’ New Defense In Atlanta”

  1. sgw94 Says:

    Just to be clear, contra the caption under the picture of Hovan, I am putting the blame on the blitz scheme itself and not him. I don’t think he busted twice by not going inside. I think the blitz doesn’t call for him to go inside. And that comes down on whomever designed the blitz.

    It is what it is.

    ***Note from Joe. Caption is corrected. Joe can only hope Mr. White doesn’t use him as a tackling dummy. 🙂

  2. Buddhaboy Says:

    Awesome break down Mr. White. Leaves one to wonder why we would have hired someone other than a Tmpa 2 guy from the start. I understand it is the same defense that gave up 300 yards to the panthers last year, but it is a proven system.. Obviously nothing lasts forever, but we need to keep installing new talent. Steve, what do you think of drafting a guy like Brandon Spikes. I think we need someone like this to be a true leader on the defense. I do feel he has the intangibles to be a great LB for this team. If he is there, snag him..Plus, he is a winner.

  3. Buddhaboy Says:

    Oh , i forgot Steve, why not throw your resume over to One Buc, I hear they are looking for “buc guys”.

  4. bucsfanlostiniowa Says:

    Do you have any idea why Raheem waited so long to take over the defense when it was obvious to the whole world that Bates just wasn’t cutting it?

  5. Buddhaboy Says:

    My perfect world – Dungy replaces Raheem, and Raheem takes over as Defensive Coordinator.

    Raheem “I would be proud to be demoted to work under a guy like Dungy.” Then, I could be head coach after Dungy re retires.

    Then i woke up.

  6. Larry Says:

    No way Dungy comes back after the lousy treatment he got when he left. Anyone else remember the tape of him carrying his personal stuff from One Buc in the rain?
    Good stuff as usual, Steve. I know they looked much better than prior games.
    I am also curious about Brandon Spikes. Would he fit in?

  7. McCaddy Says:

    Thanks Steve. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Sabby, it seems most buc fans are starting to give up on him and I’m begining to wonder if I should do the same…The impact he’s made on most games this season has been negative, he hasn’t flashed that special something you look for in a player (ala Geno) and he isn’t the enforcer I like to see in a SS.

    But he’s young, relatively inexperienced and few have looked good in Bates scheme this year. Should the Bucs be looking to upgrade the position next year in your opinion?

  8. ReaderM Says:

    Thanks Steve for the break down… I was def looking forward to seeing the break down earlier and a little sad that you didn’t do it in the first post but thanks for taking the time to do another post, much appreciated.

  9. sgw94 Says:


    I think at some point the story of who really hired Jim Bates will come out. I don’t pretend to know myself but I just have this feeling that it wasn’t a match made in heaven from the get go. The thing about most secondary guys is they usually are focused just on the secondary, they leave most of the run fit stuff to the linebacker and defensive line coach along with the defensive coordinator. But Raheem was a defensive coordinator himself for a year albeit on the college level and I have a hard time believing that he thought Bates’ defense would be a good match for our talent.

    As for Brandon Spikes I like him as a player but I am not sure if I would draft him as a first rounder. Spikes to me is a Sam linebacker or a Middle linebacker. Historically the Sam backer in this Tampa system has been a guy drafted in the lower rounds and or a free agent pickup for cheap. What I mean is we don’t usually invest a lot of money in Sam Linebackers. As a middle backer he would be good and Ruud may end up leaving in free agency, but if its me I want Rolando McClain as my first choice for middle backer in this draft. You won’t find his rare combination of size, strength, speed, and football IQ but once every 5 or 10 years. I think he has can’t miss written all over him. If we can’t get him then I could definitely live with Spikes as plan B. Spikes could probably play some weakside or Will backer too but I think Hayes will have that position on lock for years going forward if he keeps progressing.

  10. sgw94 Says:


    I really think firing the OC right before the season started handcuffed Coach Morris from making this move sooner. Can you imagine if he had fired Bates after say 5 games? He would be getting criticized even more than he is now. At least now people have to factor in that our defense was damn near last in every statistical category this late in the year which gave him a stronger case to take over. But the “he’s in over his head” calls would have been a lot louder had he pulled the trigger earlier.

    Personally although I wasn’t calling for Bates to be fired, that change in scheme couldn’t have come soon enough for me.

  11. sgw94 Says:


    I wouldn’t be ready to give up on Sabby yet. A lot of people forget that John Lynch had a rocky start to his career too. As a matter of fact Lynch wasn’t even supposed to start when Coach Dungy came in here. Dungy brought Todd Scott with him from Minnesota where he had already been playing at a pro bowl level. Unfortuntately for Scott he got hurt I believe in the first game of the year that year. Lynch stepped in and started crushing people and never looked back after that. But that was in I believe his third year. So while I get on Sabby a lot I think he still has the potential to be a really good player for this team.

    Now having said that I think the Bucs would be fools not to look at Eric Berry in the draft. Tanard Jackson is already a ball hawk and adding Berry could potentially give us two of the best young safeties in the game. Berry is also a guy who you can move around all over the place and send in on blitzes as well. And he will HIT you when he is in the box which is something I love about him. Aside from Berry though I wouldn’t pull the trigger on another safety coming out this year in the first round. Better to get a defensive lineman or linebacker to me instead and ride it out with Sabby.

  12. sgw94 Says:


    Thanks for the compliment, glad you liked the post.

  13. bubbabooie Says:

    Steve, I wonder what the hell jim bates was thinking, I am not familiar with his schemes because frankly, they don’t make sense to me. Granted I was only a high school football coach defensive coordinator for a j.v. program so I know where I coming from, one step above the guy who played high school football, so in that I would have to ask jim bates what is the centers assignment majority of the time on run plays, because to my knowledge he is responsible for the mike unless he is coovered, playside a gap is filled or he knows backside a playing a 3 technique crashing hard. Maybe the game changes on the next level but not like that I don’t think. Also how does roberson let the reciever cross his face man coverage 101, now I do understand that there was alot of room to the side line for the fade but by positioning himself between the wr and qb doesn’t he force the qb to throw over his head whih is a football basic. Am I on the right path or is this just the sippey sippey talkin. And to tell you the truth that is the perfect play I would have called it to because even if you do get zone coverage you know the inside zone would have collapsed to gonzales(mispelled), drawing the safety to him also which provides the outside wr with alot of room inside and also would be getting the inside release due to the way a corner plays cover 2 funneling the reciever inside playing right into the offensive play. Also my kids were not ready for this so the last time I spoke in 3 techniques was with my high school offensive line, 3 is inside shade of the guard right, thanks alot steve let me know if I should shut my mouth around the water cooler or keep talking, thanks again brent

  14. bucsfanlostiniowa Says:

    Thanks for answering my question. You know as far as I am concerned they never really explained the firing of Jagz enough for me. And honestly I get what you are saying but I think it would have actually been better in the long run if Bates was fired a lot sooner. I would have had a lot more respect if Raheem had just said ” we don’t have the right people and I am taking over”.

  15. bubbabooie Says:

    oh I would not expect a mike to come out of college and dominate the middle hell they might not even pan out, I say we sign D’Qwell Jackson from free agents, dude led the league in tackles last year was a pro bowl alt. and has hossed himself up to 240 beasting up the middle. Proven leader, fast as brooks was, and a role model the defense could build around, also if were staying with the cover 2 homeboi would be money covering deep middle he’s got grips

  16. sgw94 Says:


    You have to look at it like this Roberson is a rookie signed off the practice squad earlier this year, Roddy White is a pro bowler and just broke the bank with the Falcons. That doesn’t always mean its an easy win, but the percentages were in White’s favor. Hell I would say Roberson fought his ass off not to let him inside and he actually did a better job than the corner on the other side because he didn’t move his feet and get out of position initially. But a WR that is that good is going to cross most DB’s face in that situation against that coverage the majority of the time.

    As for a 3 technique that is actually an outside shade of the guard in the B gap.

  17. Blackmagic00 Says:

    Steve, the way you break this stuff down is awesome. If you can break it down so some of us who have no idea what’s what can understand, I can only imagine what you could do for our guys that have knowledge on the defense. I wish you were atleast a position coach for our D-line or linebackers. Can’t we vote or something? LOL. Anyway, please keep up the good work. Oh one more thing, Joe please pay this guy a good salary. LOL.

  18. sgw94 Says:


    I forgot to add that Patrick Willis, Jerod Mayo, DeMeco Ryans and Curtis Lofton are all examples of Middle Backers who came out and dominated in their rookie year in recent drafts. 3 out of the 4 played in the SEC, just like McClain.

  19. sgw94 Says:


    Thanks a lot! LOL

  20. bubbabooie Says:

    thanks steve on the correction, I agree thats a very tough position for roberson I know that’s tough for him it was a perfect throw from redman, keep it up and also I commented on D’Qwell Jackson who is on the browns IR from a shoulder injury that required surgery and was wondering how common it was for linebackers to have shoulder surgery and if you know of any that have had one and made a return, I heard simeon rice say it takes two years to fully come back from one, I really haven’t heard of a lb getting it cut and returning to previous form. I appreciate it alot thanks

  21. bubbabooie Says:

    I was lobbying for my buddy sorry steve, I know Dqwell, he grew up with me, hell he came from the acc and made a impact right away, and dont forget jon beason from miami so ya that makes sense but screw it lets take tha hometown kid lol

  22. lightningbuc Says:


    Was wondering if you still stay in touch with Ronde Barber? And if so, while I’m sure you can’t share everything, what is his mind set. He seemed really down after Sunday, and rightfully so. I find it hard to imagine he would want to come back next year if he thought it would be even remotely close to this year. Just curious on your thoughts.

  23. sgw94 Says:


    I haven’t talked to Ronde in a very long time but I understand his frustration. You play that well and still lose a game and it takes a lot out of you. I will say this about Ronde though, I don’t think he wants this to be how his career ends. If the Bucs will have him I would expect him back next year to help right the ship.

    Again this is jut me talking from having knowing him previously, not any kind of special insight from having talked to him.

  24. JoeMurgia Says:

    Great stuff, Steve. Nobody else is doing anything close to this type of analysis with this team. I wonder if anybody is doing a similar thing with another team? You may be the only one!

    I didn’t understand some of the terminology but I understood enough to expect more of the same against Carolina this Sunday. Their run game presents a nice challenge.

  25. floppyflaps Says:

    Steve that was a great analysis, you have me watching football in a completely different way. You should definitely look into coaching. I was watching the Rams game in 09 a few days ago and that was a great interception on the first drive. You played an amazing game.

    I’m wondering if you’ve seen any good free agent defensive linemen on other teams that would be a good fit for the Bucs. Preferably a guy who doesn’t command a huge salary and isn’t a big name. The draft is important, but finding a diamond in the rough could go a long way.

  26. sgw94 Says:


    Glad you liked it! What was the terminology that you didn’t understand? It helps to know because if you don’t understand it I am sure there are others who don’t as well and I want to be able to explain it in a way that the overwhelming majority of people can easily understand it.

    BTW what did your friend from last week who railed against the Tampa 2 and thought I was being disingenuous have to say this week?

  27. JoeMurgia Says:

    My “friend” from last week is a jackass. He complained about the brevity of your explanation (regarding the weaknesses of the Tampa Two) and thought you were hiding something. It’s hopeless and a waste of time to even bother with him on that front.

    Others, including him, read your first article and said you were avoiding talking about the pass rush in the 2nd half because it wasn’t up to par and you didn’t want to admit that. Craziness. It’s if they didn’t even read your words. And they obviously didn’t read this article. Don’t even waste your time with that nonsense any more. Criticism is one thing. Ignorance and seeing only what you want to see is another.

    Regarding what I didn’t understand? Ex game? Tex game? I don’t know what either one means.

    Tim Crowder and Wilkerson ran an EX game on the left side of the center but didn’t really get any pressure

    Hovan and White ran a TEX game

  28. sgw94 Says:


    You know the funny thing is that I respond to just about every comment or question here so if they had any complaints you would think they would come here to express them. That they don’t shows that they are really cowards who don’t want a real debate and instead just want to close their eyes and see their reality. Hey to each their own, but any time that guy or any other wants to debate Bucs football please let them know that I am easily found.

    As for the EX and TEX games, I apologize. I had explained those earlier in the season and didn’t think about the fact that some folks reading this post wouldn’t have read the others.

    An EX game is where the defensive end takes a step up field then comes crashing inside into the B gap. The defensive tackle to his side at first tries to attract the guard’s block to free up the defensive end then loops outside for containment.

    A TEX game is kind of the opposite. The defensive end gets up field trying to keep the attention of the Offensive Tackle. The defensive tackle to his side gets upfield in the B Gap and either pushes the tackle and continues on to the quarterback or if the O tackle sits on his rush then he goes outside for containment. The defensive end loops inside behind the defensive tackle and goes in the A gap.

    Feel free to ask any other questions you might have about something I write that you don’t understand.

  29. Blackmagic00 Says:

    Joe and Steve, you guys could make a small faqs library. Then find an offense guy to add some stuff to it too. What do you think?

  30. admin Says:

    Joe here,

    Blackmagic00, Thanks for the suggestion. But Joe really needs to invest more time in the important things in life, like women, the Lingerie Football League and installing another TV.

  31. Blackmagic00 Says:

    LOL, ok.