In the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there have really only been praiseworthy, memorable players on defense, and at fullback. In fact, when we went through Bucs Bracket earlier this year, the finalists were defensive players and Mike Alstott.
And so it was again on Monday, when the Buccaneers earned their first victory of the season. Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, Darrelle Revis and Mark Barron had spectacular games on defense, and it was the play of Erik Lorig which paved the way for a victory on offense.
Lorig was the lead blocker for three different running backs on Monday night, all of whom were backups before the season and not expected to play such a major role on the offense. But they all ran well and earned a victory in spite of poor play from quarterback Mike Glennon.
Let’s take a look at the film and see a couple of plays where Lorig was at his best.
After having a 17-yard run called back on the first drive of the game, the Buccaneers went right back to the well and ran the ball once again, and earned all of their yardage back on the first try.
There are seven men in the box, and seven blockers. Every man has a man, and they all do their jobs on this play. As you can see, it’s Lorig’s job to get to the second level and take out the middle linebacker, just as it’s Tim Wright’s job to get to the second level and take out the strongside backer.
And look at that. They all did their jobs! Lorig has leverage on his man and drives him out of the running lane, while Tim Wright (an improving blocker at tight end) is doing enough to keep his defender out of the way as well. Mike James can now run to daylight and help set up a touchdown later in the drive.
Let’s take a look at another play.
By now, Brian Leonard is in the game, yet the Buccaneers have not given up on running the football. On this play, they’re going to run the ball to the right using a pulling guard and Lorig as lead blockers.
As you can see in the picture, Tom Crabtree and Demar Dotson are going to double team the defensive end, leaving the two linebackers on the outside as the responsibility of Lorig and the pulling guard, Meredith.
The play is just underway in the picture above, and it already looks like trouble. Meredith is on the wrong side of the center and Lorig seems to be too far inside, considering that the “gap” in front of Leonard and Lorig is about to collapse.
But Lorig is going to get outside of his defender and drive him inside, while Meredith is going to finally reach the action and kick his man outside.
Perfect. Lorig and Meredith allow a running lane just side enough for Leonard, and he dashes through for a nice gain.
Overall on the evening, the Buccaneers ran the ball with running backs a total of 29 times before the nonsense at the end of the game when Brian Leonard was running out the clock (those plays are not included in any of these calculations).
Three of these plays were called back due to penalties, but on the whole, here are the statistics for when Lorig was on the field, versus when he was not.
Lorig on the field: 15 carries (3 called back by penalty), 116 yards (7.73 yards per carry), 1 touchdown.
Lorig not on the field: 14 carries, 46 yards (3.54 yards per carry), 0 touchdowns.
If you eliminate the plays with penalties from Lorig’s statistics, it becomes 12 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown, for an average of 7.5 yards per attempt.
Fullbacks are a dying breed in the NFL, but Lorig remains as one of the best at the position in the league. He started off slowly this season due to injury, but his last three games have been very encouraging. He’s cleared a path for the backup running backs to have better statistics than the more talented Doug Martin, which speaks to just how good Lorig can be when he’s playing at his best.
So while the defense did what the defense does on Monday night and put forth a valiant effort, it was the play of Lorig which helped propel the offense to the points it needed to not allow the defense’s effort to go to waste.
All images obtained from NFL Game Rewind.