Any Given Sunday
The weekend's biggest upset goes under the Football Outsiders lens.

Any Given Sunday: Bucs Over Chiefs

by Rivers McCown

Kansas City is, fundamentally, a team built on ball control. With Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Maclin hurt, they become even less explosive than they were before. (Admittedly, Tyreek Hill is pretty fast, but still.) In this game, the Chiefs met a team that was more than happy to ugly it up with them, and matched up well with their strengths.

The Chiefs envision themselves as a ground-and-pound team, but they are actually 25th in rushing DVOA. Spencer Ware has been fine when given space on screens, so the issues here are A) Charcandrick West dragging down the sample with a horrifying minus-92 DYAR on 72 carries coming into the game, and B) an offensive line that ranks just 17th in Adjusted Line Yards. Tampa Bay can't really deal with quarterbacks that can expose them deep, but the Bucs have finished in the top 10 in run defense DVOA the last two years in a row, and were at -10.0% coming into Week 11. The Chiefs gained just 82 rushing yards against Tampa Bay, and a big chunk of that came on Alex Smith's coverage scramble into the end zone for Kansas City's lone touchdown.

Once this game entered the ugly zone normally reserved for Ravens contests, neither team managed to break out. Neither squad could convert in the red zone once it got there. Roberto Aguayo managed to not miss a field goal, on a day when everyone else was doinking kicks left and right, because of course he did. The Chiefs went 3-for-4 in the red zone, but with a field goal and an interception. The Bucs went 4-for-5, but with three field goals and a fumble. In a league where you always need to be closing, neither team could actually do it.

But, as has become the normal in this space, let's break down Kansas City's red zone trips.

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Mmm ... can't see how it would be hard to score a touchdown after running that on first down.

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No, no, that's not what you want either.

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This is important because it was a hurry-up play. Kansas City got the ball with 6:26 on the clock, and made it to the goal line with 3:13 to play. After a defensive penalty, the Chiefs watched 3:09 fall to 2:27 between two failed rushes and a touchdown pass to Albert Wilson.

Kansas City got the ball back one more time with eight seconds to play. You all, as learned football fans, probably understood that this is how Andy Reid operates by now. Well, it was instrumental to this loss.

By the VOA

KC 17.1% 9.0% 3.9% 12.1%
TB 7.1% 16.0% 2.9% -6.0%
KC 20.5% 9.1% 3.9% 15.3%
TB 2.9% 12.8% 2.9% -7.0%

Another one where the losing team outplays the winner, which is not all that surprising when you consider a) the 0.6 yards per play disparity and b) the large amount of negative rushing plays that Tampa produced, as we'll document in a second.

Protecting Jameis

Per our Sports Info Solution partners, the Chiefs rank 30th in pass pressure rate among all NFL defenses. Kansas City's Adjusted Sack Rate is 19th -- in part because defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is a creative blitzer -- but it definitely gets less pressure on the quarterback than the average team.

Justin Houston's return to the lineup didn't help much. Houston played 55 of 77 snaps and had just one quarterback hit. The Chiefs as a whole had just five, and Winston's lone fumble came on a ball he mishandled while transferring to throw rather than a great play by the defense.

Winston did not have a great day, despite the box score. He put a few balls out there that were plenty interceptable, but Marcus Peters wasn't around to do the honors for him. But the No. 1 thing that stood out was that this was as good as the protection has been around Winston for his entire career in Tampa Bay. The Bucs offense is middle-of-the-pack as far as Adjusted Sack Rate with Winston, in 17th place through Week 10. But the team is second-to-last in pressure rate per Sports Info Solutions, allowing Winston to be hassled on 22.6 percent of dropbacks.

It occurs to me that, despite the 5-5 record, there's not much interesting about Tampa Bay's playoff chances. The Bucs are currently eighth in the NFC, a game and a half behind sixth-place Washington. The remaining schedule is downright brutal: Seattle, Carolina, New Orleans twice, at San Diego, and at Dallas. It would be an incredibly unlikely story for the Bucs to overcome that schedule and make the playoffs at this rate.

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But, if such a path exists, it probably exists via Doug Martin and the offensive line gelling together to keep Winston a little more safe. In his first full game back from a long-term hamstring injury, Martin rushed for 63 yards on 24 attempts, but those numbers undersold his prowess a bit. Ten of Martin's carries went for 1 yard or less, including quite a few large negative gains that can be put firmly on the offensive line play.

The Bucs have been set up to run clock via their workhorse back on offense, but they haven't had a healthy Martin all year. This was the first game where he looked like the back that broke the most tackles in the NFL in 2015. Trying to work that same formula with Jacquizz Rodgers has not been anywhere near as successful.

So, the hope for the Bucs is that Martin can live up to his big contract for the rest of the season, that the offensive line can play up to the level they did in this game, and that Winston can go forward with a little less pressure in his game. The likely scenario is that the offensive line is simply too bad to let this happen. But, after the last few years, it probably feels nice for Bucs fans to at least feel like there's a shot.


20 comments, Last at 08 Aug 2019, 6:45am

1 Re: Any Given Sunday: Bucs Over Chiefs

Reid also screwed up calling a timeout with 2:11 left on 3rd and medium. It only saves about 15 seconds, which isn't how you want to use a timeout there. Plus, if TB throws an incomplete pass on 3rd and medium, you've essentially wasted the two minute warning -- it's going to happen after a TB punt, when the clock would have stopped anyway. Much better to let the clock run down, save the timeout, and take it after 3rd down if the clock is running.

3 Re: Any Given Sunday: Bucs Over Chiefs

Eventually a smart team is going to hire a "game clock coach" whose entire job is to manage the clock, so the head coach can focus on the things they are actually good at, and then other teams will see that and copy it, and every team will have one, and we will all look back and say, "can you believe it took until year x for teams to do this?" -- that's going to happen, right... right?

Andy Reid should thank Bill O'Brien for getting him off the hook for the "Worst Clock Management of the Week" award. Punting from your own 44 on 4th-and-5, down 7, with 3:13 remaining and only one timeout left -- that's an all-time blunder of gutlessness. If you can't trust your offense to get five yards, how are you going to trust them to drive the field with under two minutes remaining and no timeouts? (And that's assuming your defense gets a three-and-out, which they didn't.)

5 Re: Any Given Sunday: Bucs Over Chiefs

Bill O'Brien's sequence of decisions was bizarre. First, with 6:18 to go in a tie game, 4th and 1 from the Raiders' 15, he decides to go for it. And they fail. Now I haven't seen the video so maybe they "really succeeded" and there is something to be said for being aggressive, but in a tie game with 6+ minutes left, it's OK to take the FG.

So they lose the ball on downs and quickly give up a 85-yard TD drive in 5 plays. So maybe O'Brien was right to not trust his defense. But if that's how he feels, what's up with the punt? The punt is completely indefensible. If you don't trust your defense in a tie game, how can you trust it down 7 points? No, this was a classic "I was forced to punt" decision. Because turning the ball over on downs on two successive drives would lead to much mockery.

6 Re: Any Given Sunday: Bucs Over Chiefs

I think O'Brien's thought in going for it was more that if they don't get it, KC could kick a field goal by picking up 6 or 7 yards. I think that's still a mistake, because a mid 50s FG in that stadium is tough, and if they miss, they give the ball back close to midfield. So I strongly doubt Reid would attempt it. But that's the thought at least.

9 Re: Any Given Sunday: Bucs Over Chiefs

The ball was at Houston's 44, so that's a 62-yard field goal. Even gaining a few yards it's a long kick for anybody at any altitude.

The Texans' best chance was clearly to go for it. By punting, if Oakland just runs it into the line three times and punts it back, the Texans are probably getting the ball back with about 1:45 on the clock around their 35-yard line. Then they have to drive the field and score a touchdown with no timeouts. That's a tall order, and all this is *assuming* the Raiders don't get a first down (which obviously they did -- two, in fact).

The win probability estimator at pro-football-reference says the Texans essentially cut their win probability in half by punting (from around 7% to 3.5%). And this is *without* considering several other factors working against the Texans: They only had one timeout left; Their punter is notoriously bad at pinning opponents deep in their territory; The Radiers have a great offensive line; The Raiders have a great punter.

It was a long shot no matter what, but O'Brien made it a much longer shot by punting.

2 Re: Any Given Sunday: Bucs Over Chiefs

Meh, I don't really feel like there's much of a shot of the playoffs, but it's just nice to not be inherently awful in all aspects. Winston is still far too erratic, the offensive line is up and down, and there's still only one real consistent receiving threat on the team (to be fair, Mike Evans is a really, really consistent receiving threat). The defense lacks an effective pass rush, none of the CBs really stand out, and the safeties are bad enough that nobody can beat out Chris Conte, who gets beat very deep at least once a game (seriously, every single game). This isn't a playoff team, but it feels like a team that could be a playoff team within the next year or two if Donovan Smith finds some consistency at LT, they find a solid #2 WR, Winston stops getting so damn jumpy early in games, Hargreaves turns into an at-least good CB, Noah Spence develops at DE, and there's a real safety on the field.

Yes, it's a lot of ifs, but, considering the last decade, there's at least something here.

4 Re: Any Given Sunday: Bucs Over Chiefs

Feel like TB has really been hurt, like so many NFL teams, by all the RB injuries. You lose 2 quality RBs, get production from a 3rd RB you didn't expect to and he goes down in the OAK game.Martin seems to need some more time to get back to 100%. If they actually had 2 healthy RBs at the same time I think it would help pass protection big time. Brutal schedule, espcially with 3 road games, but only one game with a great defense (SEA) and you get them at home. And they have a QB who can get really, really hot, no matter who they are playing.

8 Re: Any Given Sunday: Bucs Over Chiefs

Tampa has to face Seattle, Dallas, and the Saints twice and, while the Saints aren't good, the Bucs' biggest weakness defensively is deep pass coverage, and, you know, Drew Brees. So, those four games plus San Diego and Carolina again. Realistically speaking, Tampa probably has to go 5-1 against that schedule and get to 10-6 to get into a wild card spot, or even 4-2 and hope Atlanta utterly collapses. Simply based on difficulty of schedule, I figured Tampa would go 6-10 or 7-9 this year but show enough improvement where 2017 looks good. Still feel the same way.

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