The QB Blasts: Three Key Plays That Doomed Bucs

October 12th, 2011

Ex-Bucs QB Jeff Carlson

Former Bucs quarterback Jeff Carlson (1990 & 1991) writes
The QB Blast column here at Joe is ecstatic to have him firing away. Carlson is often seen as a color analyst on Bright House Sports Network, and he trains quarterbacks of all ages locally via his company, America’s Best Quarterback. Plus, he’s a really cool dude.


Football 101 killed the Buccaneers in San Francisco, not the 49ers.

Sure it was a short work week and a cross-country trip after a big Monday night win against the Colts, but for as much as Jim Harbaugh had his team very well prepared for what the Bucs gameplanned, the Bucs simply made elementary mistakes that the Niners took advantage of each time.

I want to highlight three critical plays in the first half that doomed the Bucs to a 21-3 deficit at the break.

1) 49ers quarterback Alex Smith lined up three receivers to his right just outside of the Red Zone and the Bucs countered showing a Cover 2 look with Corey Lynch over the top.

Quarterbacks are taught to read the safeties’ movements at the snap and work away from their “roll.” Lynch back-pedaled away from the three receivers and to the center of the field, leaving a single LB underneath and cornerback Aqib Talib on the outside deep third.

In a sound coverage, the linebacker covers curl-to-flat (knowing he has to “carry” the seam enough to keep the QB hitting the seam route before the free safety can react.) With Lynch moving away to get to the center of the field, he had no chance at reacting when Smith threw the wide open seam route because the linebacker barely helped.  Rolling the safety away from the 3 receiver side must have had Alex Smith and Jim Harbaugh licking their chops as they watched it unfold and laughing on the inside at how easy it was.

2) On the other side of the ball, the simple basics of football got away from Josh Freeman, something I haven’t seen many times. He has been slow to make decisions in the Red Zone in the first few games this year and they have gotten away with it while running their record to 3-1, but obviously they did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express before the game, because he made blatant rookie mistakes on his interceptions, one of which was returned for a Niners TD. 

Again, it was a Cover 2 look pre-snap, which should have automatically taken the “out” route by TE Kellen Winslow off the board. 

When the safety stayed on Winslow’s side of the ball, the Cover 2 corner did not have to worry about a deep threat and just stayed in his shallow coverage. Freeman should have recognized this two years ago and certainly now, but may have lost some confidence in his other receivers and forced a ball to Winslow, even though he should have known not to throw it before Faine ever snapped the ball.

3) Shortly thereafter, Freeman forced another ball that got picked off. In my yet to be released book on quarterbacking, one of my 10 commandments is not throwing to the single receiver side against Cover 2. 

Micheal Spurlock was out wide right and had a cornerback up in his face with a safety wide to his side. This is a Cover 2/Man pre-snap read. It is sometimes possible to blast a quick slant into that coverage, but on this play, it was much deeper and late.

It was a very good play by the corner to come under Spurlock and make the interception, but the safety was also right there to help break up the play and possibly put Spurlock to sleep. When the other team commits two defenders to cover one receiver, you should work the other side, where you have more potential options.

Even without these poor plays and basic mistakes made by the Bucs, I don’t think they would have won on Sunday. Jim Harbaugh’s team was superior in preparation all the way around and they made some great anticipation plays either through tendencies that were picked up on film and game-plan, or were just great aggressive plays. 

For the Buccaneers to win this Sunday against the Saints, they will need to shore up their pass coverage against receivers running in the seams, because Brees is far superior to Alex Smith in his anticipation and execution.

And Freeman will have to go back to the basics of simply throwing away from coverage or we will see many more ugly and lopsided scores.

4 Responses to “The QB Blasts: Three Key Plays That Doomed Bucs”

  1. Capt.Tim Says:

    Thanks for the great take on the game, Jeff, excellent, as always.

    The Niners seemed to jump every play we ran. The old ones, the brand new ones, the offensive plays, the Defendive plays- heck, they even seemed to predict which side of the field we were kicking to!!

    Either Harbaugh is a psychic, or Josh Johnson is trying to cement a contract signing this off season.

    I think we should demand his phone records!

  2. Chizzett Says:

    Lucky enough to be at the game I can say this is spot on and Freeman’s picks look way worse in person.

  3. Jrock Says:

    You know Jeff, I don’t usually like your articles – they tend to be a bit dry for my reading pleasure, but this one was great. I got more ‘Steve White-esque’ easy on the fan breakdown from this article than most.

    Enjoyed and agreed. Any take on how they’ll turn it around after this game?

  4. Keith Says:

    I’ll second that this is Carlson’s best work. It’s good to get slapped in the face and realize I don’t really know football like these ex-players do. In high school, I just blocked the guy in front of me.