Watching the game on Sunday, it seemed pretty obvious that we did not win the game so much as the Steelers lost it. With 13 penalties for 125 yards, a number of dropped deep passes to wide open receivers, and a missed field goal, the Steelers looked like they could not wait to hand us the game.
At least that was my first impression of Sunday’s game. One of the things that has always fascinated me about watching football is how the game rarely looks the same on second viewings. Kind of like how you watch a very complex movie twice and see so much stuff that you missed the first time around. Watching a game at the stadium and then watching it on television is always very revealing. I tend to try and not listen to commentators as much as possible because they have a tendency to try and push an agenda which, to me, distracts from the game, and when I do watch one after going to the game at RJS I am usually amazed at some of the things they highlight and talk about. It is usually a very different game.
Well, the Pittsburgh game, on analysis, is nothing like I thought it was on Sunday. We beat the Steelers. Plain and simple. It was not a matter of them playing down to our level or them playing bad which allowed us to win, it was a matter of we played better than they did. We have to admit our prediction that this would be our ugliest showing yet was flat out wrong.
Remember that horrible offensive line that we have been fielding? You know, the one that has looked like a wet paper bag so far this season? They handled 14 blitzes while giving up only one sack and 8 pressures. That, my friends, is impressive. They gave QB Mike Glennon (#8) a clean pocket all day. And, speaking of Glennon, he got the game ball for Sunday and deservedly so. He made excellent decisions all day long and threw very accurate balls. I did not see one bad pass. His time to throw was 2.5 seconds which is outstanding. That means that he was not sitting in the pocket or running around trying to find someone to throw to. He was very calm and calculating. The most impressive aspect of his play Sunday was the last drive. He threw the ball away instead of taking a sack, (which would have run precious time off of the clock) and then threw a beautiful 41-yard pass to WR Louis Murphy (#18) that set us up for the game winning touchdown with :35 seconds left. There were a number of games last year where Glennon had the opportunity to win at the end and did not execute well. This game was a coming out party for Glennon. He looked like he could be a franchise quarterback (thanks Schiano?).
Don’t get me wrong: there is plenty that Glennon needs to work on. The biggest flaw I see now is his play action. It is horrible. There was twice during Sunday’s game where he actually did a fake hand off and there was nobody there. He was faking to nobody. When he does have someone there to fake it to he does it too fast. Almost like he is going through the motions because he is told to do it instead of actually trying to fake out the defenders.
Another aspect of Glennon’s game that I would like to see improve, or exist at all, is some pump fakes. He does not do them. There were a number of times when I was analyzing the game that Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisburger (#7) pumped the ball and I thought he had thrown it causing me to have to rewind the tape and redo the play. Glennon does not pump fake at all. None. Zip. Nada. Pump fakes are invaluable for quarterbacks, ask Drew Brees.
Okay, enough of Glennon. How about the receivers? Well, I counted 9 dropped passes with 5 of them by WR Vincent Jackson (#83), three by Murphy, and one by WR Mike Evans (#13). That is too many. All three receivers played outstanding and had highlight plays though. Jackson had the game winning touchdown, Murphy had a 41-yard catch and run that set us up for the game winning touchdown, and Evans caught the very first touchdown in the first few minutes of the game. So we can complain about the dropped passes all day but when it comes down to it, they did their job.
Now for the defense. One of my take-aways from Sunday was that our defense did not play that well but the Steelers kept dropping passes and tripping over themselves. We registered five sacks but it seemed like it was a case of their offensive line not playing well more than it was that our defensive line was playing good. Again, after analysis, I have changed my tune. Our defense played exceptional.
Three of those five sacks came against their LT Kelvin Beachum (#68). All three sacks came from different defenders; DT Da’Quan Bowers (#91), DE Scott Solomon (#60), and DE Michael Johnson (#90). So normally I would come to the conclusion that Beachum played poorly. This is not the case. Roethlisberger gets the ball off quickly. In the game Sunday, he had a time to throw of 2.40 seconds. The vast majority of his throws were very quick and preplanned. Our defensive line had to really push hard to get to him because he got rid of the ball so quick. All three of those sacks that came against Beachum were good sacks. It is not like Beachum was falling down and our guys got an easy sack. No, all of them were legit hard press sacks. Johnson did get a sack in the first minutes of the game that was due to nobody blocking him. And DT Gerald McCoy (#93) got a sack in the second play of the game by pushing LG Cody Wallace (#72) out of the way with an excellent move. DT Clinton McDonald (#98) later used that exact same move on Wallace for almost the exact same results. If Roethlisberger would have moved in the same direction as before then McDonald would have had a sack as well.
Not only did our defensive line play well considering Roethlisberger’s quick pass time but they did great, with the help of the linebackers, in containing the Steelers’ two headed monster run game. I only counted two missed tackles from linemen during the whole game. One came from McCoy and one from English. We had a total of five missed tackles during this game total with LB Lavonte David (#54) missing two and S Mark Barron (#23) missing one.
I have heard a lot of grief being given to the secondary for their coverage in the game, especially to the tight ends. It is my conclusion that they really could not have played any better. There was a few slip ups in coverage and assignments but no where near as bad as there has been. What really got us was the quick dump passes that Roethlisberger threw. Most of his passes were thrown in less than two seconds to receivers close to the line of scrimmage. Damn near impossible to defend. Looking at the stats it can be seen that they had an average of 6.6 yards per pass play while we had an average of 6.5 yards. Roethlisberger threw nine more completed passes than Glennon but only had 18 more yards in total! Those quick little passes made it look like our secondary was getting burnt but in reality they really did a good job in coverage. Nothing like the confusion and open receivers we have been seeing.
One of the areas of concern that we have had here at Buccaneers Observer is our defense’s inability to recognize and react appropriately to trick plays. Play action has been a stickler for our linebackers especially. On Sunday we saw the exact opposite. We saw a defense that had fantastic situational awareness. The Steelers ran a ton of trick plays, as they usually do, and our defense did an outstanding job of reacting. The Steelers ran 16 trick plays (that is a trick play every five plays!). Our defense reacted well to every single one of them. It is refreshing and relieving to know that they can and they will be able to not get tricked every game. Their ability to react to the trick plays was one of the reasons that I decided that this game was won by the Bucs instead of being lost by the Steelers. The Steelers tried, we just beat them.
While I have to give Glennon the game ball, and the offensive line for holding back the Steel blitz that they ran 22% of the time, it would be remiss of me to not give the defense kudos for them stopping the Steelers when they had to. The Steelers got the ball in their own redzone when we turned it over on downs with 1:44 left to go in the game. If the Steelers would have gotten a first down the game would have been over. The defense had to make a stop. The Steelers helped us out a bit with getting a false start penalty on second down. They picked up eight yards for a 3rd and 5 play. This was the whole game right here. If they pick up those 5 yards then it was victory formation for them and 0-4 for us. This is the time that great players make great plays. And McDonald did just that. RB Le’Veon Bell (#26) tried to run but was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. He then tried to bounce to the outside but was chased down by McDonald for a loss of 2 yards. Without that play we would never have had a chance to score the go-ahead touchdown. So hats off to McDonald for earning that big contract.
By the numbers:
Our defense ran 9 blitzes and 12 stunts. We had 5 missed tackles, got 6 pressures and 5 sacks. We rotated our defensive line more than usual with McCoy, Johnson, DE William Gholston (#92), Bowers, McDonald, Solomon, and DE Jacquies Smith (#56) all getting significant snaps. DE Larry English (#57) was the only defensive lineman that did not play.
Double team breakdowns were: Johnson was double teamed 10% of the time, McCoy 40%, Gholston 8%, Bowers 42%, McDonald 47%, Solomon 32%, Spence 53%, and Smith 10%. Spence drew the most double teams, as he did last year, with McDonald next, then Bowers, McCoy, Solomon, Smith, and then Gholston.
One thing I would like to mention, and will probably end up doing an article soon on, is that our lineman are getting blocked too much and too well by tight ends, running backs, and fullbacks. When they see one of those guys blocking them one-on-one then it should be a disaster for the opposing team but our guys are not getting past them. That needs to change.
After re-watching and analyzing the game thoroughly, our team flat-out beat the Steelers. Yes, the Steelers made mistakes. Yes, they had dropped balls and penalties. But we had more drops than they did so they cannot use that as an excuse. We had very very few mistakes. They threw the kitchen sink at us with blitzes and trick plays but we withstood the storm. I am very proud of the Buccaneers for this game and hope that we can continue this type of gameplay. It would be so nice to go to the Saints house next week and smack them in the face with a win.