It was a cold and soggy night at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers clearly wanted to turn the heat up Mac Jones, the New England Patriots' rookie starting quarterback.
Jones, who has been lauded for his poise and unflappable nature during his first month as an NFL starter, showed those traits off against the Buccaneers' aggressive defense, completing 31 of 40 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns and keeping his team in position to beat Tom Brady's Buccaneers right until the bitter end. Still, the Buccaneers did succeed in moving Jones around and getting him to the ground, recording season-highs in both sacks (4.0) and QB hits (12).
Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles and the Bucs achieved this by dialing up the aggression to some degree in Week Four. Linebacker Devin White was clearly pleased with this development.
"Me and Coach Bowles got back to being really aggressive," said a smiling White after the game, which the Bucs won 19-17. "When he gets aggressive we can do a lot of good things. I'm just thankful that we're not playing so much Cover Two, playing soft, and we're getting after the quarterback and just stopping people in the run game."
The NFL Next Gen Stats numbers suggest that the Buccaneers did indeed get more aggressive on Sunday night, particularly in its attempts to pressure Jones. Next Gen credits the Bucs with bringing five or more defenders after the quarterback on 22 of New England's 46 dropbacks. That 47.8% blitz rate is the highest of the season for Tampa Bay.
And it worked to some extent. Next Gen Stats has the Buccaneers' defense getting pressure on Jones on eight of those 22 blitzes, for a 36.4% pressure rate. That was far better than what the Bucs achieved in the previous two weeks against the Rams and Falcons and just a bit below their season-high blitz pressure rate in Week One against the Cowboys.
|Week||Opponent||Drop-Backs||No.||Blitz Rate||Blitz Pressures||Press. Rate|
|Week 3||L.A. Rams||39||10||25.6%||2||20.0%|
|Week 4||New England||46||22||47.8%||8||36.4%|
Two of the Bucs' four sacks came with five-plus defenders trying to get into the backfield, as did Antoine Winfield's interception in the second quarter, a play on which Jones was hit as he threw. One came with a four-man rush and the last actually was captured with just a three-man rush.
White didn't have any of those sacks but he did get two hits on Jones. When he did come after the quarterback, White closed with amazing speed. The average time it took white to get the pressure on Jones on those two plays was 2.20 seconds after the snap. He also had two hurries of Matt Ryan in the Week Two game against Atlanta and on those plays he got to the quarterback in 2.15 seconds.
According to Next Gen Stats, White is the only player in the NFL with two games in which he had multiple QB hurries and average time to hurry of 2.20 seconds or less.
Rookie outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka did have two of those four Buccaneer sacks on Sunday in Foxborough, the first two of his NFL career. Next Gen Stats credited him with three quarterback hurries, which he got in an average of 2.53 seconds off the snap. Through four weeks, only four players around the NFL have had three or more QB hurries in one game at a quicker pace than Tryon-Shoyinka got his on Sunday night. They are: the Chargers' Uchenna Nwosu vs. Dallas in Week Two; the Eagles' Javon Hargrave vs. Atlanta in Week One; the Bills' Matt Milano vs. Miami in Week Two; and the Dolphins' Emmanuel Ogbah against Las Vegas in Week Three.