On Monday, Head Coach Greg Schiano said that the defensive maneuver the Buccaneers attempted on a Saints field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter on Sunday was a legal play. At this point, however, he doesn’t feel particularly inclined to call it again.
In what proved to be a critical juncture of the Buccaneers’ 35-28 loss to New Orleans, the Buccaneers were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on what would have been a 51-yard field goal attempt by Garrett Hartley. The penalty gave the Saints a new first down at the Bucs’ 23, and from there they drove for their final touchdown of the game. The Bucs would later rally for one score and fall just short of another as time expired.
On the play, the Bucs had a group of linemen in three-point stances lined up against the right side of Hartley’s blocking wall. Shortly before the snap, the entire group is expected to shift to its right, and they do so at a shouted command of a linebacker standing farther away from the line. The team used the exact same play against the Washington Redskins in Week Four on a 57-yard field goal attempt that Billy Cundiff missed. The point of the Bucs’ maneuver is to confuse the opposing team’s blocking schemes at the last second to hopefully create a better chance of blocking the kick.
“Quite frankly it’s a legal play,” said Schiano. “We’ve done it before; we did it in the Washington game right there before the half, exact same thing. One time [the shift] went left to right the other time it went right to left but other than that it’s the exact same thing. I’m not going to get into…I know what we do and I feel very comfortable with it.”
In the Bucs’ postgame locker room, the players believed the flag was thrown because the shouted command (“Move!”) was deemed to be a disconcerting noise that simulated the snap. Later in the game, the Bucs were flagged for lining up over the long-snapper on a punt (the snapper must be given essentially a yard of clearance, horizontally and vertically), but the field goal shift is not intended to do that and was reportedly not the issue on the aforementioned penalty.
Of course, the problem for Schiano and the Buccaneers, even if they still believe that shift maneuver to be a good play, is that it has now been flagged once and another official could make a similar judgment. As such, it may not be worth the risk very often.
“The fact of the matter is that it got called Sunday, so I don’t know if you should be looking for that one very much anymore because that would be downright stubborn, right?” said Schiano. “But as far as I’m concerned it was a legal play.”