For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to optimize efficiency when they pass to WRs in the Super Bowl, they absolutely MUST target the slot more and less to the perimeter.
The bottom line is, the Chiefs’ perimeter corners are playing outstanding.
Tampa must avoid them as much as possible. That also includes throwing to RBs and TEs more.
And it also means throwing to slot WRs.
In the Week 12 meeting, look at WR targets based on where they aligned pre-snap:
Slot: 64% success, 9.8 YPA on 9.9 aDOT, +0.38 EPA (14 att)
Wide: 29% success, 3.0 YPA on 14.4 aDOT, -0.44 EPA (7 att)
Every single Chris Godwin target but one (when he was aligned pre-snap in the backfield) featured him in the slot.
And on those slot targets, look at his average: 75% success, 12.1 YPA, +1.02 EPA
Mike Evans, on the other hand, was primarily targeted when he was out wide, but did have a few slot targets. Look at Evans’ splits:
Slot: 67% success, 12.7 YPA, +0.25 EPA (3 att)
Wide: 17% success, 2.0 YPA, -0.65 EPA (6 att)
It appears the Bucs and/or Tom Brady were generally unprepared for what they were going to find with the Chiefs defense in that earlier meeting.
In the first half, of their nine targets to WRs, four were out wide, three were in the slot and two were to WRs aligned as RBs.
Brady was terrible on the WR-as-RB passes and the slot-WR targets were productive, but the WR targets out wide recorded 3.0 YPA, 25% success, and -0.58 EPA.
In the second half, the Bucs scrapped WR-as RBs (zero targets) and of 14 total WR-targets, threw only THREE TIMES to WRs out wide and 11 targets to WRs in the slot. Results:
Slot: 64% success, 11.4 YPA, +0.42 EPA
Wide: 33% success, 3.0 YPA, -0.26 EPA
Hopefully, Tampa will have a better understanding of how to operate in this rematch game, and not waste so many of their passes on WRs out wide.
And although Mike Evans operates some from the slot, this looks very likely to favor Chris Godwin.
Look at the pre-snap alignment for each player:
Godwin slot: 82 of 112 targets (73%)
Godwin wide: 20 of 112 targets (18%)
Evans slot: 47 of 131 targets (36%)
Evans wide: 83 of 131 targets (63%)
It’s not that Evans is bad in the slot, either. In fact, his success rate, EPA/att, and YPA in the slot are all superior to Chris Godwin’s.
But the fact is, Godwin eats most of the Bucs’ slot targets, and that’s all that matters when projecting production in this game. Godwin has almost 2x the number of slot targets on the season and runs almost 75% of his routes from the slot, whereas Evans runs only 36% of his routes from the slot.
Because it wasn’t just in Week 12 that the Chiefs were great defending WRs aligned out wide and bad vs slot WRs. Look at the Chiefs’ defensive splits allowed to WRs on early downs the second half of the season:
Slot: 63% success, 8.9 YPA, +0.22 EPA (67 att)
Wide: 49% success, 7.1 YPA, -0.10 EPA (49 att)
Now look at all downs over the second half of the season:
Slot: 55% success, 8.3 YPA, +0.18 EPA (102 att)
Wide: 45% success, 7.2 YPA, -0.12 EPA (62 att)
Advice for the Bucs: start with a game plan which attacks the weakness of the Chiefs’ pass defense, don’t adjust mid-game. The Chiefs are incredible vs perimeter WRs aligned out wide, but are significantly worse defending slot WRs. Stick to targeting slot WRs as much as possible, with a few deep shots to the perimeter (ideally set up with play=action) and mix in enough higher efficiency RB and TE targets.