One can certainly argue the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) had their best offensive performance against a pretty good Seattle Seahawks (6-4) defense in Week 10.
Moving forward, the question now centers around if it was just a flash in the pan or a sign of things to come.
The Buccaneers’ rushing attack is a big reason why there was so much success. But it was a certain side effect -well, according to the coaching staff it was a side effect- of the rushing attack that had a bigger impact on why the offense looked as solid as it did:
The play-action pass.
Per Pro Football Focus, 34.5%, or 10 of 29, of Tom Brady’s dropbacks featured play-action. They were highly successful, as Brady completed nine of his 10 pass attempts for 121-yards. The 121 passing yards made up 46.9% of Brady’s total passing yards on the day and five of the nine completions resulted in a first down.
This easily represents the highest play-action rate of 2022. PFF says only 15.5% of Brady’s drop backs have featured play-action, which ranks 43rd out of 45 qualifying quarterbacks. The Buccaneers have gone over a 25% rate just twice this season – the other being their Week 7 matchup against the Carolina Panthers.
The aforementioned rate is important because, historically, the Buccaneers are nearly unstoppable when 25% or more of Brady’s dropbacks feature play-action.
Since Brady’s arrival, 11 games have seen a play-action rate of 25%. In those 11 games, Brady has thrown 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions over the span of 118 pass attempts. He’s been sacked just three times, as well.
And the Buccaneers are 9-2, overall.
It’s obvious this is a trend that bodes well for the Buccaneers, but the problem is they don’t use it often. Unfortunately, the coaching staff is of the old-school mentality that you have to be successful on the ground in order to be successful with play-action.
“There’s no such thing as play–action pass without running it [well] enough for it to be true,” Byron Leftwich recently told reporters. “… [Play-actions] come off how well you’re running the ball – it’s always been. Or you’re just wasting time doing a [play–action] – it won’t do the job that you’re setting out for it to do.”
This has been disproven over the years, but the staff’s actions back up their statements. The Seahawks matchup was the Buccaneers’ best rushing performance of the year, so it’s not much of a surprise Leftwich called play-action as much as he did.
If Leftwich and co. can meet that 25% threshold on a routine basis, then this offense will begin to look like a good offense, again. Outside of being repetitive or predictable, there’s honestly no reason to continue to avoid using play-action. Especially when the results are as drastic as they are.
And it’s almost impossible to deny that only good things will come, as a result.
Featured image via Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports