Key 1. Eliminate Self Destructive Tendencies
The sky didn’t just fall last week in Jacksonville – it totally collapsed. After an early 14-0 lead, I’ll be honest I thought the rout was on. And it was. Just the wrong team doing the routing. While no one person can take the blame, there is no doubt the momentum took a huge turn when punt returner Preston Parker committed his second fumble returning a second-quarter punt. Jacksonville scooped up the ball and scored and never looked back.
While no one in the locker room wants to admit it, the lack of leadership is clearly evident as we have seen all season long. When things start to go wrong the Buccaneers have no one player who can break this team from their funk. So in order to win the Dallas game the Buccaneers are going to have to nearly eliminate any adversity from even beginning. This will require turnover-free football and limited penalties.
I’m not sure Tampa Bay can accomplish this goal but in order to have any chance at breaking their seven-game losing streak it will require a nearly mistake free football game.
Key 2. Keep Your Head Up
As discussed in the previous topic, without a bona fide true leader on this team the Buccaneers will need to play nearly perfect football, free of the mental and physical errors that have plagued them throughout the seven-game losing streak.
No one can expect the Buccaneers to not give up any points on defense, or not to have any three-and-outs offensively. Even the mighty Packers aren’t perfect. However when these negative things do occur it will be crucial for Tampa Bay to not get into the woe-is-me mentality and begin looking for the other shoe to drop.
Each player must try and take it upon themselves to fight through the issues and not get discouraged. And hopefully, even if the Buccaneers lose, it will be clearly because the Cowboys were a better football team as opposed to the snowball effect we saw last week in Jacksonville.
Key 3. Rope In Romo
Raheem Morris compared Tony Romo to Aaron Rodgers earlier this week pointing out his ability to take over a game with his arm and buying time with his feet. While those in Wisconsin would laugh at the comparisons there is no argument that Romo is a gifted quarterback and can carry a team on his back. Unfortunately for Cowboys’ fans, Romo can also single-handedly lose a game with poor decision-making.
The Buccaneers know the key to slowing Romo down is to make him throw a few balls up for grabs which he known for. The way to do that is with pressure and the Cowboys have struggled as of late in protecting Romo. In the last four games, which the Cowboys have won just two of, Romo has been sacked 13 times, nearly as many as he had been in the previous eight.
Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers have played well – for rookies – and will be coming guns-a-blazing for Romo, and Dekoda Watson seems fully recovered from a groin injury that has hampered him over the last several weeks. If these three – combined with a strong middle push from DT Albert Haynesworth – can pressure Romo, Aqib Talib and his secondary teammates may see some turnover opportunities head in their direction.
Key 4. Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting
Pride should be one of the most important attributes a professional athlete in any sport maintains, even when things aren’t going well. And we will see exactly how much pride the Buccaneers have left around midnight when the two teams walk off the field. If the Buccaneers somehow manage to knock off the favored Cowboys or even if they keep it competitive we will know Tampa Bay at the very least has their pride intact.
Playing on the national stage is an opportunity athletes love, as their families, friends, former college teammates and peers can see them in action – sometimes for the first time all season. No one wants to be embarrassed on such a stage and several Buccaneers players we talked to this week mentioned how much they are looking forward to showing the country they are a better football team than perceived nationally.
A sold out crowd with a semi-college Saturday night feel may very well provide this young Buccaneers with a much needed spark.
Key 5. Loose As a Goose
A lot has been made of the relationship Raheem Morris has with his team and some have questioned if they get away with too much. But I am beginning to think the pressure of the losing streak and all of the talk surrounding a perceived exit of Morris may have created a pressured environment that neither the players nor coaches are exempt from.
I have a cousin who used the expression, “wound up tighter than Dick’s hatband.” Now I don’t know what Dick is so stressed about or even why that would affect a hatband. But the pressure for both the coaches and players may be having a negative affect. As Scott Reynolds pointed out on last Wednesday’s PewterReport radio show, where is the Raheem Morris of last season? You know the chest-bumping, fired up sideline guy we saw as opposed to the Tony Dungy-style arms folded quiet coach. A seven-game losing streak can leave little chest bump over but the head coaches’ body language speaks volumes. Maybe these players are playing and the coaches are coaching to not make mistakes.
The Buccaneers' coaches and players need to come out and play – and coach – with reckless abandon. Play loose, have fun, and see what happens. And if they can accomplish that, they just may shock the country.
Obviously protecting Freeman, getting Blount going and slowing down Romo will all be important factors is giving themselves a chance. Josh Freeman said this might be the most talented team they will face all season. But this 53-man roster and coaching staff are playing with their jobs on the line. This may very well be the last game ever at Raymond James Stadium in a Buccaneers uniform for a few of these players and coaches. Hopefully they will let it all hang out and walk off the field with at the very least – fewer regrets.
Cook’s Prediction: Cowboys 30-21
Reynold’s Prediction: Cowboys 33-20
Horchy’s Prediction: Cowboys 31-20