Offensive Mindset Flipped 2020 Season

July 14th, 2021

Predictability and points.

No, Joe isn’t going to write this here post about how Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said he didn’t know why more play-action passes weren’t called last season.

Not going there this morning.

However, an astute football researcher and handicapper, Warren Sharp, is confident he knows why the Bucs’ offense flipped the switch after the bye and was downright dominant to win a franchise-record eight games in a row including a Super Bowl.

Sharp types in his Sharp Football Analysis 2021 Preview that the Bucs decided to lean on their strength. Rather than running just to run, the Bucs passed more.

And — voila! — the offense hummed.

From Weeks 1-14, the Bucs had a very run-heavy approach on first downs early in the game. In the first quarter, they ran the ball on 61% of their first downs (NFL average was only 55% run), even though these runs gained just 3.0 YPC, second worst in the NFL.

In the first half, they ran the ball on 52% of their first downs in the first half (NFL average is only 50% run), even though these runs gained just 2.7 YPC, worst in the NFL.

There was nothing more frustrating than watching a team with Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, and Antonio Brown take the ball out of Brady’s hands, make these receivers run block, and just stick the ball into Leonard Fournette’s or Ronald Jones’s belly over and over and over with terrible results. …

But over the last three weeks of the regular season, they completely flipped the switch.

In the first quarter on first downs, they shifted to 67% pass, up from 39% pass. These passes averaged 8.5 YPA with a 57% success rate. (Their runs were still terrible at a 3.1 YPC, 29% success). In the first half on first downs, they shifted to 61% pass, up from 48%.

Tampa decided to put the ball into Tom Brady’s hands early in the games and let him get to work on the defense. It was their best adjustment they made all year.

Interestingly, however, Sharp points out the Bucs reverted to the run-first approach in the playoffs. And while Sharp maintains the Bucs became very predictable offensively postseason, the Bucs ran the table.

Sharp believes the predictability nearly cost the Bucs against Washington and if not for turnovers by the slimy Saints, the Bucs were in a dogfight in New Orleans.

Just yesterday, Joe ran a video of former offensive lineman Brian Baldinger explaining how the Bucs just physically beat up the Packers. Maybe that was Bucs Super Bowl-winning coach Bucco Bruce Arians’ idea: The Packers couldn’t handle the Bucs’ bruising so he decided to take it to them?

It will be interesting to watch this season whether the Bucs (Leftwich?) take advantage of their sick passing weapons, or will the Bucs still try to pound the ball up the middle on first downs?

And while the Bucs may have been “predictable” when they focused on the run, the team still averaged over 30 points a game.

Guess that was predictable as well.

17 Responses to “Offensive Mindset Flipped 2020 Season”

  1. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I agree that passing more early in games helped….but I think it was a combination of that……defense & players that made the difference.

    On offense we had Brady, Wirfs, Fournette, Brown & Gronk…..all new from 2019…..look at those players on our offense and tell me they didn’t have a huge part in it.

  2. Infomeplease Says:

    Like BA said last year mid season, when pressed about what kind of offense the BUCS had. “This team can do everything”.
    BL just needs to work the offense so it’s not predictable. That run first down time after time after time was brutal to watch last season. When the Bucs went to more play action, everything clicked. GO BUCS!

  3. Jeebs the Honey Bear Says:

    For the first 2/3 of the season, I continuously called for Byron Leftwich’s head for his terrible, predictable play-calling. In fact, look at the comments on old articles and you will see many were right there with me. I kept saying that if I knew most first downs were HB dive (which I actually coined “the Leftwich Special”), you better believe the other team knew it was coming.

    I would yell “Look at our weapons! Pass on first down, and use more play action! All the data says play action works regardless of run game efficacy!” (I can’t even count how many comments I posted here about that). I don’t know I Byron checks the comments on here, or maybe if Arians or Brady sat him down, but thank God he got the message. I pray every day that Byron doesn’t forget the lesson, and sticks to the new offensive gameplan. Thank you for pointing out that in the playoffs we actually did revert back a little bit to stupidity and almost lost! Man oh man….

  4. Alanbucsfan Says:

    The Bucs were very effective running the ball against WFT in 1st playoff game. The main reason Washiu stayed in the game was because White and Vea were out and there’s no way the Bucs win SB without those 2 players.

  5. Bird Says:

    No excuses now. No covid offseason / OTAs/ workouts like last year.
    No excuse for new players/ system/ coaches

    No excuse gronk and AB sat out a year talk

    This team has a year under its belt working together. And they added a running back that can catch the ball consistently…unlike before…and a true brady calling card. Move the chains on 3rd and 3…4..5

    Brady and coaches said it directly…that team was still a few weeks away from peaking. Trust me..they got some great leaders in that locker room who will not let team play possum. Jpp/ lavonte/ white/ suh/ evans/ and the GOAT

    Cant wait for this season to start

  6. DoooshLaRue Says:

    BA is telling BL to just listen to TB in the pic.

  7. Beeej Says:

    When the other team is exPECTING 3 yards and a cloud of dust, it’s a REALLY good time for a play-action pass. If I (and most of us here last fall) can figure that out, went couldn’t Byron?

  8. Mike Says:

    I think the Bucs coaches learned a lot this year about the importance of being unpredictable and saw great results when they self scouted and changed things up, both offensively and defensively.

  9. PassingThru Says:

    @Jeebs the Honey Bear

    As a general rule, yes, but that general rule should be broken. The best way to defend a balanced offense is to spot their tendencies within a given situation. That means as an offensive coordinator (or QB) you need to mix things up. It’s Game Theory 101. In poker, you don’t give away the strength of your hand by betting aggressively every time. Lure them in with tendencies, then pounce by sucking them into the pot by looking weak, or bluffing your way through when you only have a pair of deuces.

    The most dangerous down in football is second and short yardage. The defensive team has to figure out whether you’re going for the first down, or going for chunk yardage. If you’ve been conservative, you’ll see the opposing team put a heavy personnel package on the field to stop the run. That’s when you pass. You can establish a pattern, but you should also break that pattern often.

    I like pass plays on first down too, but I also know that you need to break that pattern often. It keeps the defenses honest. Again, if you’ve been passing on first downs you know the defense will play a dime or nickel package. That’s when you bulldoze them with a run.

  10. Jeebs the Honey Bear Says:


    You don’t need to tell me, you need to keep reminding Byron Leftwich lol.

  11. PassingThru Says:

    @back at you Jeebs:

    I give Leftwich credit though on some of that game theory of mixing shtuff up. That first Gronk TD was classic: The tendency was to put Gronk in motion to help block on either strong side or weak side runs, it’s a poker tell because Gronk is too good a blocker. That forced the outside LB to move towards to the outside of the LT presnap. Gronk never stopped moving, he broke into a run right when the ball was snapped and caught a quick pass from Brady. The outside LB never had a chance, he took himself out of the play. It was a thing of beauty, violating your own tendencies to screw with your opponent.

  12. 813bucboi Says:

    BL just produced the best offense in bucs history and folks are complaining…lol…


    GO BUCS!!!!

  13. geno711 Says:

    Arians and staff are one of the best in football.

    You just can’t win it all without superb coaching.
    Not sure why that is so hard to understand for some.

  14. Miller5252 Says:

    I think this also speaks to how comfortable Brady was in the system through the season. If you’re struggling to understand all the plays, the receiver reads, and Brady’s reads run the ball and try and help him out. Just my .02.

  15. DavidBigBucFan99 Says:

    That 3.1 average came thanks to Lenny and McCoy, ROJO and Keyshaun were rippin it up but BL or BA kept taking it out of ROJO’s hands for no good reason. ROJO would’ve had 1000 yards before that last game if they would’ve stick with him more!

  16. Jeebs the Honey Bear Says:


    The offense was maddeningly inconsistent for the first 12 games. It wasn’t until after the bye week that the play-calling got far better. Credit where credit is due: BL made the necessary adjustments when it counted most. All I’m saying is that I hope he remembers to use motion, play action, and first down passing to keep defenses off balance.

  17. unbelievable Says:


    Many of us were endlessly b!thing about how predictable it was to run in every goddamn 1st down for those first 10-12 weeks. I honestly got sick of talking about it.