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November 12, 2011 @ 3:44 pm
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Cook's Five Keys To Victory Against Houston

Written by Mark
Mark Cook


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Each Week PewterReport.com's beat writer Mark Cook comes with with five things the Buccaneers can do to help beat their upcoming opponent. Following the game Cook revisits those keys and grades the team on how well they accomplished the keys.

Key 1. Score First, Score Often
The Buccaneers haven’t scored an offensive touchdown on an opening drive since Craig Erickson was quarterbacking this team in the mid 90’s. Ok, a bit of an exaggeration but it has been a while. To say Tampa Bay’s offense is having troubles starting games fast is an understatement.

At some point the law of averages has to go in the Buccaneers' favor. A defensive back falls down, a blown coverage, a tipped pass that ends up in a receivers hands; it’s almost impossible to think the Buccaneers aren’t due a little good luck early in games.

But as head coach Raheem Morris and Greg Olson both stated over the last few weeks, a lack of execution has been the root of the problem. Penalties, missed assignments and poor decisions at times by Josh Freeman are killing their chances for success.

At some point however the coaches, Greg Olson in particular, must take some responsibility. Olson did just that on Wednesday when addressing the media, saying he must do a better job calling plays.

Hopefully this is the week the football Gods shine down in the Buccaneers' favor. Or how about a just a better executed drive combined with a little more imagination from the O.C?

Key 2. Take Time To Tackle
At some point excuses get old. Injuries are certainly a factor, missed assignments create running lanes and sometimes the defensive coordinator just guesses wrong on the call and the offense makes them pay.

But there is no excuse for poor tackling. In fact, tackling is just as much about attitude and want as it is about technique. When the Buccaneers come out with a physical mindset (Atlanta, Indianapolis, first New Orleans games) they are successful and it reflects in the win column. Obviously in the Buccaneers' losses (Detroit, San Francisco, Chicago New Orleans) Tampa Bay gave up too much on the ground.

With Arian Foster and Ben Tate coming to town the Bucs’ defense must quickly establish the line of scrimmage and force the Texans to put the game in the hands of their quarterback. Offensive coordinators are notorious for giving up on the running game if things don’t go well early and Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison are capable of the same thing if Tampa Bay can shut down the Texans' ground attack early.

Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, the Texans have two guys with the ability to gain 100 yards and that will create more of a headache for Raheem Morris and his defense. But if the Buccaneers can somehow manage to make Houston a one-dimensional offense their odds of being 5-4 instead of 4-5 go up dramatically.

Key 3. Be a Football Thief
With just eight interceptions and at least 11 dropped ones according to defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake, the opportunity to change a game with momentum and potential defensive touchdowns have been wasted several times this season. But even more disturbing is the Buccaneers lack of forcing fumbles by opposing running backs and wide receivers.

The Buccaneers defense has forced eight fumbles this season but five of those happened on quarterback sacks. The Bucs aren’t creating many turnover opportunities and need to improve on this in order to make a serious run at the playoffs. When was the last time we saw a Buccaneers player trying to rip the ball out in a pile or even try and chop the ball out when coming up from behind to make a tackle?

With the Texans certain to try and run the ball 40 times Sunday, Tampa Bay should be given ample opportunity to try and separate the ball from the ball carrier. If the Buccaneers can cash in on potential interceptions and force the ball on the turf it can make the difference in the game.

Key 4.Bust Out With Blount
The Buccaneers have clearly made it known the identity of their offensive football team is to establish the run first and take shots off of play action. While not the most exciting formula in the minds of the fans, it is what it is. Tampa Bay doesn’t have the speed to spread the field with four- or five-receiver sets and chuck the ball all over the place.

The good news is the Buccaneers’ LeGarrette Blount is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. The bad news is Houston’s run defense doesn’t allow many 100-yard rushers.

With Jeremy Zuttah looking like he will be back in the starting lineup and Blount showing no ill effects of his MCL sprain Tampa Bay will have the chance to establish dominance in on the line of scrimmage but must avoid needless penalties and also not fall too far behind. If the Buccaneers can keep the game close and not panic and abandon Blount they have a chance to wear down Houston’s front seven and run their style of offense.

Key 5. Sack the Schaub
The last stat I thought I would have found to be true at the halfway point of the season would be where the Buccaneers rank in league sacks. 31st. Really? After Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers were drafted? After Brian Price has stayed healthy? After Raheem Morris brought in two coaches in Grady Stretz and Keith Millard? Who could have imagined Sean Jones and Ronde Barber with more sacks than Bowers through eight teams?

But that is where this team is and it's part of the reason they find themselves sitting in third place in the NFC South. Five of 12 of Tampa Bay’s sacks have come by linebackers and defensive backs, meaning just seven sacks have come from the defensive line.

Sunday’s matchup with the Texans doesn’t bode well for the Buccaneers to move up the sack stat ladder as Houston has a solid offensive line that hasn’t given up many takedowns (13) of their quarterback Matt Schaub.

Somehow the Buccaneers will need to get their defensive linemen on track and get to Schaub. Again, the Texans, with their 1-2 punch at running back, aren’t very likely to throw the ball 30 or more times Sunday so it will be crucial for Tampa Bay to make the most of what may be limited sack opportunities.

Final Analysis: It doesn’t take a rocket to scientist to figure out the formula in beating Houston on Sunday. Very simply, stop the Texans ground game, establish your own and play smart football. The Buccaneers are desperate for the win and the Texans are looking forward to their bye-week. The Buccaneers muster up just enough to slow down the dangerous Foster and Tate and do enough offensively to win the game.

Cook’s Prediction:
Buccaneers 23, Texans 12
Reynold’s Prediction: Texans 23, Buccaneers 17
Horchy’s Prediction: Texans 26, Buccaneers 21

Last modified on Saturday, 12 November 2011 16:04

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  • avatar

    The good news is our offensive line is back and if we can run and throw more than a 15 yard pass we can win. Bucs 26; Texans 20. Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    I'm hoping to see the 2010 Bucs today.
  • avatar

    Good stuff Mark. Perhaps another key will be the Bucs fans getting behind the home team without the infestation of fans wearing the colors of the visitors. It really gets annoying when we are subjected to "Let's go Lions" from people who live right here and were embarrassed to claim they could even find Detroit on a map until late last season. It's a real pain in the neck seeing all of the Manning jerseys on those spoiled fans now in the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes. The "Dirty Bird" fans at least travel from Georgia and don't seem to have a cheer at all since they sucked for so much of their history. Of course the Saints fans only came out from hiding under their Aint's bags after Brees blew into town. The "Who Dat?" gets old in a hurry but the "We Dat!" was a lot of fun. So today we have the Texans, a team that rarely comes to town. Not sure how their following will be since their team is as up and down as the Gruden Bucs. Thank goodness they didn't retain that horrendous Houston Oilers song (sounds like the Dolphins song). I don't know if they have a cheer, but "Ole" would seem appropriate. "Texans"; what a stupid name for a team. Did they ever hire a marketing expert? The Tampa Floridians. The Pittsburgh Pennsylvanians, Bring back the Oilers with the cool oil rig on the helmet.
  • avatar

    Lets put it this way, if Haynesworth is somehow able to regain his old Pro Bowl form now that he is in a one gap defense like he excelled in at the Titans, and he is able to play the entire game then the Bucs have a chance in this game, but the sloppy tackling I have seen too much of this year, and the incessant dumb penalties, if they keep up, will doom us too. I do not understand why the Bucs did not keep Cargo and bring in Haynesworth as well. We need four defensive tackles ready to go that we can rotate, because I don't believe Haynesworth will be able to play the entire game without relief. The last DE from the practice squad should have been sent back to the practice squad to make room for Haynesworth. Hopefully, i am wrong, and the Bucs will wake up and revert to their better play down the stretch like they did last year, but the Texans are an elite team now, and i understand why the majority of the PR writers did not pick our Bucs this time.
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