Super Bowl 55 Preview 2 The Unimaginable

Posted: February 7, 2021 in All Things Power Spread
“There’s nothing I can know that I’m not supposed to know” – 9:00 minute mark – It’s Magic

The Unimaginable. Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl. With the Saints in control in the 4th Quarter one week. The Packers with all sorts of chances and more yardage the following week.

A 21-10, soon to be 28-10 lead by Tampa Bay could have easily been 14-14 or at worst 17-14 at the point where Tampa’s second starting Safety had to leave the game and Green Bay scored 2 TDs in a row. Even after all that happened, Green Bay had a chance to tie the game late and again couldn’t get the ball into the endzone. Again.

What happened? How did Tampa win a seemingly unwinnable game?

Most look at the Magic of Tom Brady. Others look at what HC Bruce Arians has put together in a short time. Then there are some who are really, finally, truly seeing the value of DC Todd Bowles and the effect he’s had on a young Defense that has gotten the Bucs to their first Super Bowl in almost 2 Decades.

A Punch, a Hail Mary and 2 Endzone Stops

It’s amazing but the Tampa Bay playoff run can almost be boiled down to these couple of plays or series’.

I talked about the punch by Antoine Winfield Jr and turn around versus the Saints in my Championship Preview. Bowles later tricked Saints QB Drew Brees by mixing in a Zone Coverage after playing Man for so much of the game. Interception and essentially game over.

The Endzone Stops that resulted in 2 FGs cost Green Bay 8 points. Again Bowles shifted from Man to Zone in 2nd Half and a tricky type of Quarters at the Goaline. Rodgers hesitated and lost.

Finally, the Hail Mary was a combo of a conservative Defense called by Green Bay, a nice play design by Arians and Brady’s willingness to go for it. Also, this Team is playing with great Energy right now and can strike with a big play at any time from anywhere on the field.

Arians deserves the credit for gathering the pieces and letting everyone do their part in putting it together. Brady’s presence is also very important for the Energy of this Team as Bowles himself explains. But without Bowles Defense, the Bucs aren’t here.

Todd Bowles

Bowles has had 3 distinct Gameplans for each playoff game this year.

  1. Washington – Confuse the young backup QB with a heavy Zone Coverage Mix. If he starts making the reads in the Coverage, bring the Blitz. Max Blitz or Surprise Zone Blitz.
  2. New Orleans – Pressure HOF QB Drew Brees with a 5 man Rush/Blitz out of Cover 1. On passing downs use 3 Safeties, with one at the Line of Scrimmage for Variety in Pressure and Coverage. Bowles made an In Game Adjustment by going to 1 Man early on as he must have felt his guys could handle the beat up Saints WRs.
  3. Green Bay – Rodgers eats the Blitz for lunch. Adams is a top notch WR. Both players had another big year. Star Rookie Safety Winfield was injured. More adjustments for Bowles. Cover 1 Man Under with one Safety Bracketing Adams in Double Coverage. Very little Blitz — only as a surprise. Stand up DT Suh and use him like Winfield to pressure, cover or stuff the GB power run attack.

Bowles made a big adjustment in the Saints game going to M2M with a surprise Zone look late. He did it again versus Green Bay in the Red Zone and to compensate for injuries to his Safeties. Constant Flexibility in his use of Aggressive Variety.

Goaline Stand #1

As I said above, Bowles played a lot of Cover 1 Man Under with Double Coverage on Adams. Rodgers and co were able to play off of this and use other talent to matriculate down the field for their first TD. Bowles stuck with this scheme with Tampa in the lead and GB drove the field again.

It’s a tricky thing for a Coordinator to call plays. Too much mixing can tax his players too much. Not enough makes it tough on his players as well because the opponent knows what to expect. Bowles can sometimes lose his balance, but usually not for long.

Versus a top QB like Rodgers, it’s not easy, but once GB got in the redzone a second time, Bowles changed up the scheme. First, he brought his “Bracket” Safety (Double Coverage on Adams) on a big surprise blitz. Perfect timing screwing up Rogers on what would have been Adams in easy isolation vs the CB for a Touchdown!

Then on 3rd Down Bowles does it again! He goes back to Bracketing Adams and m2m underneath. Rodgers hesitates, maybe thinking it was really a zone coverage with a man look. By the time he threw it, Adams was out of the endzone. Worse yet, Rodgers missed a wide open Lazard underneath due to his focus on the coverage on Adams.

Instead of 14-14, it was 10-14. Then 10-21 after the big TD pass by Brady to Miller right before the half. The third play of that series will haunt Rodgers. But this is not as much as Rodgers making a mistake as Bowles getting in his head.

Goaline Stand #2

So now, because of the End of the Half disaster for Green Bay, they had to play catch up. Thankfully for them, Tampa Bay lost another Starting Safety. With 2 Backups in the game, Bowles got conservative. Cover 2 Zone. Now Adams was open and more importantly, Rodgers had time to work his magic vs a conservative Zone with a 4 man rush.

After 2 Touchdown Drives to pull Green Bay back close, Bowles went back to 1 Man Double Adams. Just like that – GB is stopped on 2 consecutive drives.

Unfortunately, Bowles got a little conservative again on GB’s final drive, where they were attempting to tie the game. That is my only fault with Bowles. He sometimes lets his foot off the gas and plays safe with the lead.

GB drove down the field to set up another series inside the 10. Amazingly, GB ran some similar schemes they ran in the first half that didn’t work. Bowles did not.

Suddenly, Bowles went into a Quarters look – first with the LCB involved – then with the LCB in m2m and the NB as the Left Quarter in the Zone. Completely threw Rodgers off.

Rodgers already had “happy feet” from the TB Dline rush. More than anything, Bowles Quarters Mix made Rodgers hesitate. Again, he was late to Adams twice and thoroughly confused on the last play.

Bowles vs Andy Reid and Pat Mahomes

The Buffalo Defense in the AFC Championship Game played more conservative than the GB Defense. McDermott and Frazier have done a great job in scheme and play calling throughout the year. They called a great play on the Lamar Jackson interception the week before. But their Gameplan vs KC was way too passive.

This will not happen with Bowles. IF it does, I will be shocked. Tony Romo commented that Bowles should Double Cover speedy Hill all over the field. No way. Then the rest of the talent on KC will burn the Bucs. Just like it did versus Cleveland. Stars as Decoys. (see above)

Bowles will bracket Hill at times for sure. But he will need to be the aggressor. Be offensive and put the Chiefs Offense on the defense. Mix – and deceive – with Passive Aggressive Variety. The hardest thing to achieve, but which Bowles does almost better than anyone – Flexibility.

It won’t be easy as Reid is a mastermind and has a ton of Talent. Mahomes is a great talent as well and more than that – a Leader. But I can tell you this. KC will be dealing with a whole other beast than what they dealt with versus Cleveland and Buffalo. While, Tampa has already faced two dynamic Offenses coming into this Super Bowl.

Brady and the Offense

The last piece of this “Unimaginable” Super Bowl appearance in Bruce Arians second year and Brady’s first is the Offense. I know the Defense will bring it and give Tampa Bay a chance to win. Still, KC will score points. They’re too good. The bigger question is Tampa’s Offense.

Brady is getting Old

Many are marveling at the success Brady is having this year at his age. The fact is that he is getting older. And it’s showing. I detail the 3 interceptions he threw versus Green Bay in the video above. For me, it’s just some Letdown Fatigue in the 2nd Half.

I break down Tennis Players (Tennis Crier YouTube) in this way – Emotional, Mental, Physical – my EMP system for Empathy. From afar, trying to get some sort of sense as to what the player is going through. No one can ever know another’s perspective completely and fully, but I feel one can at least have an empathetic understanding.

For me, and the sense I was getting, Brady letdown just a bit – a slight letdown – in all three phases – in this order – emp. Physically you could see it in his feet. Feet – as Bill Walsh once said – is everything. It creates Energy and Timing. Keys for the QB position. In the 2nd Half Brady lost that just a bit.

Brady is still a great Leader and has a strong Mind. These factors outweigh a lot of the Aging Process. This is why Tampa is in the Super Bowl.

Brady – Older, but Wiser

As I said in my last Super Bowl Post, Brady and his Coach have really come up with a great mesh of WCPS and Pro Spread for their Offense. Tom has acclimated to the Scheme, which is a big tribute to Arians’ skill in handling Talent and letting Players Play.

The Offense came out very Aggressive and Tom even bypassed open Receivers underneath at times to go for the big play! Here’s the thing – with Tom’s massive Experience – even when Tom makes a bad read, his experience gets him through. I detail this in the video above when Tom made a bad read, but threw a perfect pass for the 1st Down.

Brady has seen so much. He knows where to throw the ball. When to throw it. When not to throw it. He can be a bit stubborn in the way he plays – which I explain in the video – but he can get away with it. Especially with the Scheme that Tampa is running.

Fortunately for Tampa, Green Bay’s DScheme simply wasn’t good enough as Brady and the Bucs got away with a poor 2nd Half. Part due to Bowles Defense. Part due to GB DC Pettine’s conservative approach with his own Defense.

DC Mike Pettine

I said in my Preview, that my one worry of all the Coordinators of the remaining 4 Teams was GB DC Mike Pettine. He is now fired, so my fear was legit. But here is the truth. He isn’t as bad as people are making him out to be.

Pettine knows how to coach up his players and teach Technique within his Scheme. His Scheme isn’t innovative, but it certainly isn’t bad. It is actually based off the Ravens’ Psycho Defense. His play calling can get conservative and for me that is his biggest weakness.

Brady and the Arians Offense were able to dictate to Green Bay’s D. By aggressively targeting deep passes – stretching the Field Vertically – the Tampa O kept the GB D on their heels and opened up space underneath for both the Pass and Run game. The mix of Brady’s old WCPS short pass spread scheme with Arians more vertical Pro Spread worked to perfection in the 1st Half.

Pettine threw a couple of surprises Tom’s way in the 2nd Half. But not enough. More than anything, the beat up Tampa Offense let down as did Tom. As I detail in the “3 Picks” Video. Once Tom and the Offense got their focus back on track, they drove the field for a crucial Field Goal and then ran out the clock at the end.

Bruce Arians new Pro PS Offense

What I love is the Scheme and Play Calls on the final two first downs, which I detail in the video below. The first play is classic New England West Coast Spread. Tom again burns CB Kevin King. The second play is totally Power Spread. Or should I say Spread Power.

A Power Set – Bunch Formation – with Spread Personnel – 4 WRs, 1TEs, 0RBs. Motion Godwin – pitch right – SPREAD RUN FROM A BUNCH SET WITH NO RB! – First Down – Game Over. This is the effective way in which Arians and OC Leftwich are having fun with Brady and the Offense.

They will need to have this going on ALL GAME versus their next opponent and their very Aggressive PS DC Steve Spagnuolo.

Can Brady handle Spanuolo’s Aggressive PS Defense?

DC Steve Spagnuolo is an excellent mixer of Coverage and Pressure. In fact, his play calling in these Playoffs has been the best I’ve seen from him. Very Aggressive up front all game long with his usual mix in the DBackfield.

In fact, Spags took the offense away from the Bills by having his Defense be offensive. The Chiefs dictated to the Bills what to do. Even when giving up some big plays, KC kept coming. And they kept mixing coverages. It took a while for Josh Allen and the Offense to adjust.

Experience + Health = Big Plays

The good news for Brady is he has a ton of Experience and so do some of his teammates. Also, the Bucs saw a very tough PS Defense in their Divisional Playoff Game versus New Orleans. Maybe not quite as aggressive, but pretty close.

Possibly the best news is that Tampa’s Offense after a week off maybe the healthiest they have been in the Playoffs. They have not played one complete game during the Playoffs. They need to do so here. Even if Brady makes mistakes. It is ok as long as they continue to be Aggressive and make big plays.

Winning the Big Play Battle versus Spagnuolo won’t be easy, but with the new OScheme and Brady’s Experience and Leadership, Tampa has a chance. If Bowles does his thing and is able to dictate and battle with the great KC Offense, then Tampa has more than a chance to complete this Unimaginable Run to Glory.

~PS

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