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Time to Spread 'em Around: Beating the Buccaneers' Secondary

When these men are happy, I'm happy.
When these men are happy, I'm happy.

Well say good-bye to the Tampa 2 - at least for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After reviewing the Bucs - Colts game from Monday night, it's abundantly clear that the Tampa 2 is a moribund coverage system recently.

And why not? Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib are, well, as beastly as I am cliché. They may not be the Dream Team (ohhahaha - way to anoint yourselves before the season starts, Vince Young), but they are a pretty nice bookends to an intense secondary. And with them, you can run all sorts of man-on-man cover, and they do.

So then, how does Curtis "Plays-Behind-Manning" Painter come in and complete more than two and a half passes? Well, let's talk some coverage and how to beat it. That is, after the jump.

For the most part, the Bucs run a Cover 1 (though sometimes they will drop a couple of safeties - it fluctuates), which opens up a lot of defenders to blitz, be it an occasional guy from the secondary or linebackers. Either way, and this should come as no surprise, the 49ers are going to have to shore up their intermittently hemorrhaging o-line in order to pass successfully. Man-to-man coverage can create opportunities for receivers to get separation like Michael Crabtree last game.

Another coverage the Bucs appeared to run is a coverage that is similar to the Tampa 2, in which the cornerback drops into the flat while another player drops either to a deep third of the field or a deep half. This was the cover Tampa was running when Pierre Garcon scored a TD on a medium catch-and-run pass play. Painter passed in between the flat and deep (and the deep defensive back bit on the seam route). Garcon basically had to shrug a defender off like an ill-fitting Snuggie and he was all alone.

So what's the real secret? Is it good protection from the line? Creative game planning that beats good coverage and excellent corners? Eh, a bit of both for sure, but at the end of the day, I think it will fall upon the receivers and Alex Smith to get the ball around.

Don't get me wrong, here, the Colts' receiving corps is not slouchy by any means, but, well, VD is so good; Crabs is showing the flashes of why we love (/hate) him; Josh Morgan is coming off a big game; and Frank Gore-Kendall Hunter looks like a deadly combo. Throw Delanie Walker and the occasional Ted Ginn or Kyle Williams in and the Niners are going to have to spread the ball around. Period. Smith, if he wants to beat this secondary, must show that man coverage won't work. He needs to show that we have too many players to just match up with one-on-one.

Force Tampa into zone-coverage. They don't cover as well in zone and, should they blitz, it leaves an open man (see: Morgan's slant TD amongst other versions of beating the blitz). Oh yeah, get the running game going too. Just use our weapons.