Five keys hang in the balance as the Buccaneers attempt to make the NFC South race more interesting with a win against the division-leading Atlanta Falcons. With a win the the Buccaneers will move to 7-4 on the season and close the Falcons lead in the division to just two games. What are five things the Buccaneers need to accomplish to have a shot?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers find themselves in the thick of the playoff race after 10 games, and beating the Falcons on Sunday would give them a much needed signature win against an upper tier football team.
The 9-1 Falcons lead the NFC South by three games over Tampa Bay, and with a win Sunday it virtually assures the Falcons a NFC title and at the very least, a spot in the post season.
PewterReport.com has come up with Five Keys To Victory that will go a long way in helping the Buccaneers walk off the field on Sunday with their seventh win.Key 1. Front Four Pressure
Matt Ryan is having a terrific season. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter came aboard this offseason and has used Ryan’s strengths to help produce the NFL’s fourth best passing offense, averaging 292.3 yards per game. Of course it helps to have weapons like wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White, and a hall of fame tight end in Tony Gonzalez.
The Falcons have struggle to run the football, and with the Buccaneers leading NFL in rush defense – and last in pass defense – expect the Falcons to come out on Sunday throwing the ball all over the field. The NFL is a copycat league and when the Falcons’ coaching staff turned on the tape of the Giants, Saints and Chargers games against Tampa Bay, they most certainly began salivating at the prospect of a 400-yard day through the air by the Ryan.
Ryan is not the most gifted athletically QB in the league, but is smart enough to drift from pressure or step up in the pocket. The Buccaneers need to get their pass rush from their front four and force Ryan into mistakes, while also staying disciplined in their rush lanes.
If the Buccaneers are unable to generate rush with Bennett, McCoy, Bowers and Miller they will be forced to bring linebackers or even safeties at times, which could spell disaster on the back end.
Key 2. Keep The Hamster Rolling
Bucs running back Doug Martin has been sensational over the last few weeks and with his 138 yard performance last Sunday, now sits at 1,000 yards on the season.
Things didn’t look great in his first few games for Martin and the Bucs, but since the bye-week, Martin has not only lived up to his first round draft billing, he has exceeded even the most optimistic fans’ expectations.
The Bucs need for Martin to maintain his magic again on Sunday, one reason to help open things up in the passing game, but also to put together longer extended time-consuming drives. The longer Ryan, Jones and Gonzalez spend on the sidelines, the better the chance is the Buccaneers come away with a win.Key 3. Keep Up With The Jones’
When the Falcons gave up the farm in the 2011 draft to take Alabama wide receiver a lot of people wondered just exactly how big of a mistake it would turn out to be. While it didn’t rival the Herschel Walker or Ricky Williams fiascoes, the Falcons gave up an awful lot (five draft picks) to move up to get Jones.
So far Jones hasn’t disappointed, nabbing 54 balls for 954 yards including eight touchdowns in just 13 games a rookie, and in his follow up season Jones has been even better.
It is obviously no secret the Buccaneers have struggled to defend the pass this season and Sunday Tampa Bay must keep the receivers, Jones in particular, in front of them and eliminate the quick-strike long touchdown pass.Key 4. Make It Special
The Buccaneers special teams have been a mixed bag all season. The kicking game itself, including the coverage teams, has been outstanding. The return game however leaves much to be desired. In a game where it is assumed both offenses will be able to move the ball, field position most likely will play a huge key in which team comes away with a victory.
One thing the Buccaneers have done to change field position is to be aggressive in their punt block schemes. Of course, twice it has backfired – in Dallas and Oakland – with two roughing the punter calls, but the blocked punt and TD return against the Chargers was a huge boost for the Buccaneers.
Again, in a game where most feel the score will be close, any outstanding special teams play – or miscue – could be the difference in winning or losing.Key 5. Keep Freeman Safe
Last week against the Carolina Panthers Josh Freeman was under duress a good part of the game, and through three-and-half quarters, Tampa Bay’s signal-caller struggled with accuracy. The pick-six in the second quarter was certainly a poor decision by Freeman, however, the Panthers were able to get pressure on Freeman contributing to the errant throw.
Tampa Bay has done an excellent job for the most part this season keeping Freeman upright and inside a fairly clean pocket. For the Buccaneers to pick up their seventh win of the year, that will need the solid protection to continue, as the Falcons can get after the quarterback. John Abraham leads the Falcons with 9.0 sacks, and as a unit, Atlanta has collected 24 takedowns this season.
Freeman has proven this year that when giving ample time, he can be one of the top QBs in the NFL.Pewter Prediction
Mark Cook: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 28
Scott Reynolds: Falcons 38, Buccaneers 27
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