Brady And Play-action Passes

April 6th, 2020

Bucs coach Bucco Bruce Arians.

When Bucs coach Bucco Bruce Arians talks about the team’s play-action passing arsenal, it makes one member of the local Fourth Estate run to a keyboard.

Nothing seems to irk jet-flyin’, kiss–stealin‘, data-analyzin’, Bucs-film-studyin’, limousine-ridin’ Thomas Bassinger of the Tampa Bay Times more than when Arians talks play-action passing. A recent subject that is a close second for Bassinger is when Arians touts Brady’s deep-ball arm.

So Bassinger wrote an article backed by stats that show the Bucs are neither a play-action passing team nor is Brady a consistent bomb-throwing signal-caller.

One major change that Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich would be wise to make: incorporate more play-action passes. Because these plays initially look like run plays, they lure defenders out of position and open up throwing lanes.

Arians has said play-action is “one of our staples,” but the numbers show that claim might be more aspiration than reality. To be sure, the Bucs were a good play-action team last season — they averaged 10.4 yards per pass, which ranked behind only the Titans (11.3) — but here’s the kicker: They rarely called such plays. They ranked 30th in play-action pass rate.

In Brady’s case, play-action really is a staple of his game. Though the Patriots ranked 16th in frequency last season, they ranked fourth in 2018 and third in 2017.

What shocked Joe was Bassinger detailed how Brady can almost be called a game-manager. Joe saw the numbers Bassinger cited and if Joe didn’t know any better, Joe would think he was looking at Mike Glennon’s numbers as a Bucs quarterback; he seemed totally allergic or downright frightened to throw past the sticks.

This season — whenever it is played — it will be interesting to see who adapts more: Brady to Arians’ Flying Circus or Arians to Brady’s dink-and-dunk to the running backs.

Of course, a cynic would ask in early April, “What running backs?”

24 Responses to “Brady And Play-action Passes”

  1. stpetebucsfan Says:

    We all tend to view life in absolutes and extremes. Virtually every expert scout interviewed claims Brady still has arm strength.

    Brady has never been no risk it no biscuit. He has been a winner. Does it really matter HOW he got it done? Do we want a winner or the most exciting QB in the league…for us and our opponents?

    It’s not rocket science. The offense will be a blend and when it’s finally adjusted and fine tuned I expect to see the very best of Brady commingled with the very best of BA. It doesn’t have to be one or the other…there is room for a blend that hopefully brings out the best in TB12 and BA.

  2. jerseybuc Says:

    Preach Joes. From the day we signed Jameis I felt his role model should be former BA QB Ben Rothlisberger. No one utlizes play action and pump fakes as well as Big Ben has over the years. While Jameis got better at play action as his career went on, he never seemed to be able to use pump fakes very well.
    As far as Brady goes I think we will be amazed to finally watch a QB who makes quick decisions when the first option isn’t there.

  3. Bucsfanman Says:

    Yeah, I mean, to have “play-action” you have to have the threat of a run-game. This is definitely an area that needs improvement and I’m sure will be addressed.
    Throwing 35+ times a game is not a sustainable method for winning games. There has to be balance, or even the threat of balance.

  4. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Rojo’s ypc of 4.2 projected our with only 15 carries for 16 games is 1008 yards…..
    It seems to me that we simply didn’t hand him the ball enough…..

    It also looked to me like Jameis telegraphed the handoffs…..

    We do need another RB…..but Rojo is more capable than most give credit.

  5. Defense Rules Says:

    Football Outsiders ran an interesting article on the subject of play-action last year ( that talked quite a bit about Brady & the Patriots use of PA. In there also were ranking of how often teams ran play-action in 2018: Pats 31% (#4); Bucs 17% (#31). Doubt we used it any more than that in 2019.

    Interestingly, the article said this about the Patriots with Brady at the helm:

    “The Patriots landed in the upper half of teams in play-action percentage for most of the last decade, but their third- (28 percent) and fourth-place (31 percent) finishes the last two seasons are their highest of that timeframe. The Patriots have a reputation as a quick-strike offense, and they certainly have had success without play-action”.

    BTW, they also had a fairly decent stable of RBs to help create those numbers. Just sayin’.

  6. stpetebucsfan Says:


    Agree about ROJO and while he’s not a smooth receiver his catch % is actually greater than players like Gordon and Johnson.

    I want Dillon and I’d like CEH or Akers…obviously would love Dobbins but I do not believe we have the draft capital to get him.

  7. Knuckle Sandwich Delivery Service Says:

    Fun fact- Brady has as many SB rings as the Bucs franchise has division titles. Let that sink in.

  8. Cobraboy Says:

    You don’t run play-action after your QB throws a gaggle of ints and you’re playing from behind.


  9. Cobraboy Says:

    @ Defense Rules:

    The Pats also play from ahead more than most teams have, certainly the Bucs.

    You don’t run play action when you’re badly behind and in desperation mode to catch up.

  10. Robert Says:

    did the other guy find a job yet? asking for a friend.

  11. 74 Bucs Fan Says:

    Not to beat a dead horse, but it is easier to run play action when your QB does not give up 42 direct points from pick 6s (an NFL record no less).

  12. Defense Rules Says:

    @Cobraboy … “You don’t run play action when you’re badly behind and in desperation mode to catch up.”

    Are you implying that was our Bucs Cobraboy? Desperation? Us? I thought we had the 3rd highest scoring offense last year. How could we possibly get badly behind and be desperate. Oh wait, I just found the answer. Never mind. I’m good.

  13. Kobe Faker Says:

    “8 days

    Only 8 days into training camp TB12 will start yelling and screaming at incompetent QB intern Leftwich and he runs crying to Papa Smurf

    TB12 will not tolerate the lazy unaccountable stupidity of the least winning franchise in all sports

    TB12 has more power than Papa Smurf and Jason Gump

    TB12 goes straight to 1 man. Bryan Glazer is his new Kraft

    What was the only and real reason Brady chose Tampa bay?

    Because of the weak easily manipulated owner”

    Kobe Faker

  14. SOEbuc Says:

    Im not working at the moment and stay inside everyday so I lose track….but…


  15. PSL Bob Says:

    TBBfan – right on! If we’re going to have any kind of a RPO, we need a RB than can both run and catch. We’ve got to get one in the draft. Fine to hand it off or pass to Rojo occasionally, but we need a real threat in the running game.

  16. Kobe Faker Says:

    “Alot of work needs to be addressed to fit into TB12 scheme, skillset, strengths…

    Brady likes to throw short on 1st and 2nd down and run on 3rd and short to move the chains

    No QB throws to RBs more than TB12. Again he throws to RBs on 1st and 2nd down

    Rojo is unnatural, incompetent and not trustworthy pass catcher nor route runner out of the backfield

    TB12 specializes and skilled in throwing accurately to horizontal short pass routes

    Bryon Leftwich going to teach these concepts to our dumb players? Lol

    Kobe Faker had a vision last night

    2021, Kobe Faker saw Josh McDaniel at 1 buc place”

    Kobe Faker

  17. BillyBucFan Says:

    RB help is OTW.

    No worries. For the rest of your days.

  18. Oneilbucs Says:

    74bucs You have to have a good runningback to run a play action pass. Yall need to stop blaming every thing on Jamies for last year . Has he ever had a runningback that was threat No . So please stop with the hate Jamies is gone now ain’t no more scapegoats now . Superbowl or bust no excuses ….

  19. Oneilbucs Says:

    Wait 1 year his rookie season .

  20. sincethebeginning Says:

    I guess the implication that Brady was somehow a game manager last year because he didn’t seem to throw past the sticks very much is supposed to be some sort of indictment on him? I’d like to point out that his team made it to the playoffs last year and ours did not…

    But really it just points out the fact that the Patriots had mostly mediocre offensive skill-position personnel, especially at wide receiver. Those dudes could not get separation, and so, since it was his slot guy running underneath routes who *could* get open… that’s where he would go with the ball. Duh. It’s pretty simple.

    I cannot wait to see the wide open shocked eyes and acknowledgement of appreciation that’s going to come for TB’s game once everybody gets to watch him throwing to Pro Bowl wide receivers for the first time in forever. The difference in skill-position players at wide receiver and tight end, compared to his last Pats teams, cannot be understated.

    The same *cannot* be said for the running back position, however. RoJo needs to MASTER those wide receiver routes and outlet pass routes and screen pass routes or else TB can’t properly do his thing. What’s going to end up happening is that he’ll throw more picks than normal because he’ll be forcing throws because his checkdown is covered. Or else his completion percentage is going to go down because he’s firing balls over people’s heads out of bounds because the outlet receiver’s never open.

    I can’t emphasize this enough. We have *got* to get us another couple 3 down running backs in here. Please!!

    And yes, as many others have stated in this thread, it’s pretty hard to run play action when you’re coming from behind so much. And when you don’t have a running game that scares anybody, it’s almost impossible even when you’re ahead. We need a couple more running backs in this joint, no doubt about it!

  21. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Brady won’t turn it over
    Brady will win
    With Bucs D, 11-5 or 12-4
    Injuries could derail the season, but barring that, Bucs will win

  22. Cobraboy Says:

    Operation “Shoeless Joe Jackson.”

    That’s funny…

  23. Cobraboy Says:

    I’m curious, Kobe: what is it like to bat .000, yet still think you’re relevant?

  24. westernbuc Says:

    Brady’s receivers have been trash for some time. Evans and Godwin are the best he’s had since Randy Moss.