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October 15, 2011 @ 11:56 am
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Cook's Five Keys To Victory Against The Saints

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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The banged up Buccaneers host the New Orleans Saints Sunday at Raymond James Stadium with first place in the NFC South on the line. PewterReport.com's Mark Cook takes a look at the matchup and offers his Five Keys To Victory.

Each week PewterReport.com’s beat writer presents his Five Keys To Victory column where he lists things he feels the Buccaneers must do in order to come out victorious in their upcoming game. On game day he revisits those keys and grades the team on how well they accomplished each goal. In addition he hands out individual unit game grades.

Key 1: Play Mistake Free Football
This key encompasses many things. Penalties, turnovers and missed lane or gap assignments just to name a few.

Silly mental mistakes like motion penalties and neutral zone infractions are something that has hampered the Buccaneers since the first preseason game at Kansas City. Through five games Tampa Bay has committed 44 penalties and in just the last two games they have given up over 200 yards of penalty yardage. What makes matters worse is it seems the penalties have come at critical times that either stopped offensive drives or extended opposing offensive ones.

Mike Williams' motion penalty on Tampa Bay’s first drive at San Francisco last week negated a first down and led to the offense going three-and-out. While it would be unfair to say it cost the Bucs the game, it certainly helped set a tone. Instead of extending the drive, Tampa Bay ended up punting to give the 49ers good field position that they were able to capitalize on by scoring a touchdown.

After the first domino fell, the long chain continued to fall. Before long the Bucs were in a hole that led to quarterback Josh Freeman forcing passes that turned into interceptions.

If the Buccaneers thought the Niners had a high-powered attack that took advantage of mistakes, the Saints can make the 49ers look like a high school offense.

The Buccaneers must make the Saints earn every yard, through the air and on the ground, and not gift wrap an additional 100 yards with penalties or give them short fields to work with.

Key 2: Control the Clock
With the propensity of slow starts that has plagued Greg Olson’s unit over the last two seasons, this week would be the perfect time to find a way turn it around.

Drew Brees and Co. are as loaded offensively as any team in the NFL and the additions of Darren Sproles and rookie running back Mark Ingram makes it almost unfair. Add in the fact Sean Payton is an offensive guru and it is a recipe for disaster.

The Buccaneers must find a way to keep the Saints' high-powered attack watching the game from the sidelines. With LeGarrette Blount all but guaranteed to miss the contest, the goal will be even more difficult. Maybe Earnest Graham finds the old spark that he had in 2007 that saw him rush for 898 yards and 10 touchdowns when he took over for an injured Cadillac Williams. Maybe Kregg Lumpkin can provide a boost on third down that this team desperately needs. And maybe this is the week Josh Freeman looks like the Freeman from last year’s Seattle game.

For the Buccaneers to have any chance against the Saints, Tampa Bay will need to win the time-of-possession battle by having a balanced ball-control attack.

Key 3: Limit Jimmy Graham
Perhaps Raheem Morris would be wise to call Miami Heat star Lebron James in for a tryout at tight end for the Buccaneers. It is certainly working for former University of Miami basketball player turned NFL tight end, current Saint Jimmy Graham.

The 6-foot-6, 260-pounder has emerged as one of, if not the best, hybrid receiver/tight ends in the NFL in just his second season. With three straight 100-yard receiving games, it is almost unfair that Sean Payton has yet another toy to play with as Bucs’ secondary coach Jimmy Lake said earlier this week.

Tampa Bay did an excellent job in shutting down Graham’s idol, another basketball star turned tight end, Tony Gonzalez in Week 3, limiting the future hall-of-famer to just two catches. But Graham may already be better than Gonzalez and has gaudy numbers (24 receptions, 364 yards, three touchdowns) through just five games to state his case.

Covering Graham with 5-foot-9 Ronde Barber doesn’t seem like a great idea on paper but as Barber was able to show against Gonzalez, he loves the challenge of facing one of the best. Maybe Raheem Morris mixes up his coverage and gives Barber some safety help, or maybe the Bucs play nickel all game. Either way a gamble like that will leave the Saints wideouts drawing single coverage from the Bucs corners at times making it critical for the D-line to get quick pressure on Brees.

Key 4: Score Early and Often
This key goes somewhat hand-in-hand with Key 2. While the Buccaneers need to get off to a fast start and convert third downs, they must also take advantage of their red zone opportunities and score touchdowns, not field goals. Ask the Houston Texans what happens when your trade touchdowns for field goals.

There are a few things in life that are virtually guaranteed. We will all die one day, the sun will rise tomorrow morning and the New Orleans Saints will score points week in and week out.

While the Saints' offense is beyond good, the defense has been suspect at times and is surrendering an average of 25 points per game. Buccaneers offensive coordinator Greg Olson can go a long way in making Bucs fans forget about the San Francisco debacle if he can find away to get his unit into the end zone a few times on Sunday.

Key 5:Find A Way to Replace Blount and McCoy
As LeGarrette Blount goes, so do the Buccaneers. In Tampa Bay’s three wins Blount carried the offense, and opposing defenses, on his back. In the two losses he was a non-factor. This week is appears Blount will be in street clothes, watching from the sidelines in hopes of returning next week against the Bears in London. It will be up to the combination of Earnest Graham and Kregg Lumpkin to fill the void and it may not be as big a challenge as it looks from the outside.

Through five games the Saints are allowing over five yards per carry, which is 29th in the league. What has benefited New Orleans has been that its offense is getting out to big leads or creating shootouts and limiting the carries by opposing teams. If the Bucs can keep the game close and not get in a position where they must throw every down, there are holes to exploit.

Replacing McCoy is also a tough task but Tampa Bay’s plan is to rotate Frank Okam and rookie Da’Quan Bowers in McCoy’s three-technique defensive tackle position. Bowers told PewterReport.com he played the three in college some last season in certain packages and also played there his first two years in high school. At 280 pounds, Bowers has the size to man the spot and the quickness to get up field on throwing downs. The question will be his run recognition. The three must be a balanced attacker and make adjustments mid play much more so than at defensive end.

Okam had one of the better preseasons of any defensive lineman and is a tough body to move. Look for Okam to be on the field during standard run downs and Bowers to get more of his reps on third down.

Final Analysis: While not many people are giving the Buccaneers much of a chance to win the game, this team was humbled last week at San Francisco and has a lot to prove. Unfortunately the injuries may be too much to overcome. The Buccaneers will need to play a perfect game and hope the Saints are off a little bit to win.

Cook’s Score Prediction: Saints 28, Buccaneers 27
Reynold’s Score Prediction: Saints 30, Buccaneers 17
Horchy’s Score Prediction: Saints 31, Buccaneers 23

Last modified on Sunday, 16 October 2011 14:56

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  • avatar

    Great play calling today. I'm burning my Winslow jersey today, and I hope he is traded before the deadline...I'm very serious.
  • avatar

    Amazes me how quickly fans tunr on someone because of one little incident. The guy has been great since coming to the Bucs. One argument on the sidelines and you are marching with pitchforks. Unbelievable. - - - - - - - - - - While they are at it they might as well cut Blount and McCoy and Grimm because they obviously don't need them.- - - - - - - - - - ridiculous
  • avatar

    Hope it stays close but with no momentum or spark to speak of I dont see it happening today. We will need a pick 6 or special teams (Spurlock anyone? He was clutch for us last year, where did he go?) to give us a strong start and hope the DEF can frustrate the Saints into a sloppy, tough but crucial win. If not, Saints and the many Who Dat nation fans in the stands today will be enjoying a 41-7 win. Really not looking fwd to seeing all those NO fans today...
  • avatar

    Why not move Price and Bowers to the three and have Okam and Miller man the nose. Prices quickness off the snap is awesome ...he probably is better off the snap than McCoy!
  • avatar

    If we cant move the ball on offense it will be a long day, Im just hopin for a pick 6 for my boy T-Jacs return!
  • avatar

    Gee, it's not like the Saints are the Harlem Globetrotters and the Bucs are the Washington Generals. Yes, the Saints and Drew Brees pose quite a challenge, especially with the injuries this week, but defeating the Saints is not an impossible task. There are really only two things the Bucs must do to have a chance. 1.) Don't turn the ball over. The Saints will score enough on their own without handing them gifts. 2.) Limit the penalties. The Saints will slow the Bucs down enough without being Plaxico Burris and shooting ourselves in the leg. And a bonus Key. Have Chidi Ahanatu give Drew Brees a strong pre-victory cigar to make him woozy. Then the "Who Dat" cheer will be because no one knows who their back-up QB is.
  • avatar

    Scubog, all that is okay especially the cigar (keep TJ away from any strong odd smoke smell). Might have to expect the Offense to score some points too. Special Teams need to helpe us with a lot of points too. Yep, it's that simple; on paper that is. Today should be "wing it day", not "conservative run day". We have nothing to lose and all to gain. I would play very loose and treat this like a preseason game. My focus is on beating the Bears in Europe and going into the bye week 4/3. Let the injure heal somemore. I know I will be watching the game no matter what and all I want to see is that "no one gives up"!
  • avatar

    if we hold the Saints under 40 pts it will be a success-lol seriously though 36-13 Saints
  • avatar

    dexfields22 "hit the nail on the head" for sure! Olsen is worthless.
  • avatar

    The Bucs chances lies in the hands of Graham and Lumpkin because without Blount the Saints will drop 6/7 and rush only 4. Ball control offense and better play calling Bucs 24 - 21
  • avatar

    3rd down and 2. Freeman handsoff to Josh Johnson!! Our new 3rd down back.
  • avatar

    The Bucs can win without MCcoy and Blount but they won't.Olsen play book and slow receivers is really the problem..Raheem is getting out coach and MCcoy is not a difference maker.We beat the Saints last year without MCcoy in New Orleans.
  • avatar

    We always have a chance but with Blount and McCoy out, coupled with the fact that the visiting team has won the last 4 meetings........not real promising.
  • avatar

    First time I am predicting a loss. I just want us to stay close, but I don't see it happening; too many tools missing in the shed to make that happen. Buc 16 Saints 38. Go Bucs! Surprise me, please!
  • avatar

    So you're saying we have a chance?
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