With time running out, the Jameis Winston-led Bucs were driving down the field in need of a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons. Trailing 34-29, they were out of timeouts and had just spiked the ball. How this was going to finish was predictable. Winston would drop back three times and try to make a dart or two to the end zone.
There just wasn’t enough time left to try and dump the ball off and gain extra yards. Maybe they could have thrown one to the sideline, but closing distance to the end zone can tighten a defense up. Space was at the Bucs’ advantage here. But Tampa Bay, seeing that advantage of space and the precarious situation they were in, tried to catch the Falcons defense completely off guard. They didn’t go for a pass play, but instead a run and lateral.
Winston, seeing the field completely open ahead of him, darted forward and when Falcons defense closed around he pitched the ball back. It wasn’t clean though and the Bucs started to fumble it around. Despite this, Tampa Bay held on to the ball and managed to pitch it twice more and had set up everything perfectly. Desean Jackson, near the sidelines, had blockers and space to the end zone. He just needed a clean pitch to run with. He didn’t get one.
This was almost the greatest play of the season. All the Bucs had to do was get a clean pitch to Jackson near the sideline and he’s probably running straight for the end zone. There’s no guarantee he gets there, of course, but he’s fast enough to at least make a diving attempt at some points. Unfortunately for them, though, the Bucs final pitch couldn’t find its way into his hands. Atlanta won and manages to fight off what would have been an embarrassing way to lose.
It didn’t work, but it’s incredible that the Bucs at least tried this play. Not many teams are willing to take this kind of risk on the final plays of the game. They’d much rather play it safe and traditionally heave it to the end zone or go for a quick throw to the sidelines. The Bucs, however, tried something different.
It was ultimately a failure, but it was the best possible failure we could have hoped for. More teams should try this. Forget traditionalism. Do something different and catch the defense off guard! You never know when that last lateral actually ends up in someone’s hands.