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Washington vs Tampa Bay Week 10: Five Questions with Bucs Nation

How many times can we reference playing the Bucs tough in that one playoff game last year? Before losing, of course.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It’s week 10 of the NFL season, and the 2-6 Washington Football Team will be facing a 6-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team at home in FedEx Field this Sunday at 1 PM EST. Washington is last place in the NFC East right now, while the Bucs are first place in the NFC South and just ahead of the Cowboys as the 3rd-seed NFC team. Although the Bucs are flying high in terms of overall record, they are smarting from a big loss to their division-rival Saints last week and may be playing with a chip on their shoulder.

The Bucs won last season in dominant fashion, blowing out each team they faced in the playoffs and dominating the Chiefs 31-9 in the Super Bowl. However, they are a team that (on paper) look to be even better this year, as they return all of their playmakers from last year and Tom Brady and his talented group of pass catchers gain another year of familiarity in the Bruce Arians system. Last year, Brady transformed from a short-passing, game-managing QB under the Patriots to a deep-passing, risk-taking QB under Bruce Arians, adopting Arians’ “no risk it, no biscuit” philosophy and relying heavily on deep passes and big plays to advance the offense and score. This year, the Bucs rushing game (featuring RB Leonard Fournette) looks much improved, which has allowed for easier down-and-distances and a healthier balance of short passing as well as deep passing.

The biggest problem for the Bucs this year has been injuries, particularly along the defensive secondary. As a result, although the Bucs have consistently been able to shut down the run, teams have had success passing on the Bucs. Teams have been most successful passing against the Bucs when they are good at picking up blitzes, as the Bucs are the most blitz-heavy team in the NFL, with a 39.7% blitz rate.

I asked Gil Arcia of Bucs Nation five questions to better understand the state of the Bucs and what to look for in this game.


1) The Bucs have had a top 5 run defense over the last couple of years according to pretty much any metric. Why is their run defense so good and how much of it is due to gamescripts in which the Bucs run up the score early, forcing opponents to pass? Have any opponents found success rushing against the Bucs and if so, how?

Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles does a great job ensuring his players on defense fill gaps that allow for the front seven to get penetration and they do a very good job upfront with reading running plays. Guys like Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea are a big reason for that up the middle. The speed across their linebackers also helps on the outside if backs try to bounce it around the edge. However, they aren’t perfect. We saw Chicago have some success a few weeks back when their offensive linemen were able to get to the second level and make blocks on the linebackers. Draw plays and delays seem to throw them off a bit, too.

The Bucs have had one of the best run defenses in the league, but Khalil Herbert of the Bears rushed 18 times for 100 yards against them in week 7. The Bears offensive line has been particularly good at run blocking this year.
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

2) Injuries have been a significant factor for the Bucs this year. Catch us up on their most significant injuries and how the team has overcome them?

Their best defense has been a good offense, to be honest. The injuries in the secondary have really hurt them defensively. Tom Brady and the offense have done a good job putting points up on the board to give the Bucs defense room for error. But recently it has been much better as the offense hasn’t been scoring on demand and instead using up the clock more by running the ball frequently. So that has been a big reason for them to overcome the injuries they have suffered. Offensively, despite the injuries to receivers and tight end Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay has so many weapons that Brady feels comfortable with that they don’t necessarily miss a beat.


3) Tom Brady continues to shock the NFL and break our assumptions about age and performance. What have you learned about Brady since he started wearing a Bucs uniform that you didn’t know or didn’t think before? What have you seen from this year’s Tom Brady compared to last year?

Kind of ties in to what I just previously stated: He has been so incredibly comfortable in this offense. After the Chiefs game during the regular season in 2020, he and the offense started clicking and clicking often. Head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich just let him be and have full confidence in his ability. Brady honestly seems more rejuvenated this season then when things came together for him last season. Which is incredibly weird to say considering his age.

Tom Brady transformed last year from a short-passing, game-managing QB under the Patriots to a deep-passing, risk-taking QB under Bruce Arians. With a second year in Arians’ system, he already has 2,650 passing yards in 8 games and is on pace for over 5,600 yards this season.
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

4) Bruce Arians assembled an all-star coaching staff in Tampa Bay. What have you seen out of his coordinators and which of them has impressed you the most?

Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich has really come into his own. From Day 1, Arians never stepped on his toes and Leftwich — for reasons I still don’t understand — has gotten criticized often for his playcalling, but from those outside the organization. And since Brady has been in Tampa Bay, Leftwich has gotten just more comfortable in calling plays while Brady has done nothing but rave about him. The two have honestly been a good pairing.

Bucs’ OC Byron Leftwich is frequently discussed as a top head coach candidate and may not be with the Bucs beyond this season.
Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

5) How would you gameplan to beat the Bucs on both sides of the ball?

If I were an offensive coordinator, I wouldn’t stop targeting their secondary downfield. The Bucs have shown they have struggled to overcome their injuries in the secondary. As a defense, it gets difficult. You can’t blitz up the middle because Brady can release the ball so quickly and the offensive line has done a good job picking up blitzes this season. You can’t sit back because Brady will take apart a secondary with time. I would apply consistent pressure off the edges, overloading the tackles, and see how quickly you can then get to Brady.


Thanks again to Gil Arcia for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Bucs.


Poll

As of right now, Vegas has Carolina as 3.5 point favorites over Washington. How would you bet?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Carolina wins by more than 3 points
    (238 votes)
  • 9%
    Carolina wins by 3 points or fewer or it’s a tie
    (41 votes)
  • 37%
    Washington wins outright
    (167 votes)
446 votes total Vote Now

Poll

As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 43 points. Which would you bet?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    43 or more total points are scored (both sides combined)
    (120 votes)
  • 64%
    Fewer than 43 total points are scored (both sides combined)
    (215 votes)
335 votes total Vote Now

Poll

If you could take one player off the Bucs roster and put them under the same contract for Washington, whom would it be?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    2nd-team All Pro WR Mike Evans
    (6 votes)
  • 3%
    2nd-team All Pro WR Chris Godwin
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    1st-team All Pro WR Antonio Brown
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    1st-team All Pro TE Rob Gronkowski
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    1st-team All Pro DT Ndamukong Suh
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    1st-team All Pro DE Jason Pierre-Paul
    (2 votes)
  • 30%
    2nd-team All Pro LB Devin White
    (53 votes)
  • 1%
    2nd-team All Pro LB Shaq Barrett
    (3 votes)
  • 54%
    Some guy named Tom Brady
    (96 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (specify below)
    (2 votes)
175 votes total Vote Now