Bucs Head Coach Greg Schiano doesn’t really believing the overwhelming power of the cure-all “halftime adjustment,” and he has a good point. NFL halftimes are only 12 minutes long, and between going back and forth to the locker room and taking care of any equipment, injury or rehydration needs, there’s really not much time for a grand Xs and Os session.
Adjustments, Schiano has said, are made throughout a game. So there’s something to be said for the adjustments that the Buccaneers’ defense is able to make beginning at halftime.
Tampa Bay’s defense ranks 15th in the NFL in points allowed, which is almost right in the middle of the pack. Over the last four games, however, the Bucs have given up just 23 points total after halftime. The two games that stand out most jarringly are the Week Four contest against Washington and last Sunday’s effort against the New Orleans Saints. Both were narrow losses decided in the game’s final seconds; neither went the Bucs’ way, but it took a serious improvement after halftime to even put the home team in position to win.
This past Sunday, the prolific Drew Brees guided his Saints to 458 yards of offense against the Bucs (Josh Freeman and his side actually topped that with 513 yards). Only 111 of those yards came after halftime, however, and Brees only had 64 of his 377 aerial yards after the break. CB Eric Wright said the Bucs’ improvement after the break came down to fixes in both scheme and execution.
“It was a little bit of both,” he said. “We made a few adjustments, we just tried to limit those big plays, and some of the things [in the first half] we basically gift-wrapped for them.”
Brees led his team on four straight touchdown marches to end the first half after the Bucs had gone up by a score of 21-7. In the second half, however, the Saints had just one scoring drive, and that one almost ended in a 51-yard field goal attempt. A penalty on the kick against Tampa Bay prolonged the drive and it eventually ended in the touchdown that provided the winning margin in a 35-28 game.
“We just came out and played a lot better than we did in the first half,” said DE Michael Bennett. [New Orleans] schemed up better in the first half, but, obviously, in the second half, we came back and made a lot of adjustments to what they were doing.”
As Schiano himself pointed out on Monday, the Bucs’ defense has to figure out a way to stop giving up the long plays in the passing game. Hopefully recent successful adjustments after the first half are an indication that this team knows how to identify and solve its problems.