Pewter Report Intern
Each week Pewter Report comes up with five keys that the Buccaneers should attempt to achieve in order to give them the best chance to win. Find out what Pewter Report thinks, then share your thoughts in this weekly pregame feature.
After last week’s crushing lost against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Bucs are in a must-win situation if they hope to finish the season with a winning record. Tampa Bay would need a miracle to make it to the playoffs at this point, but many fans still think a winning record is a success after last season’s 4-12 record.
Below are the Five Keys To Victory for Sunday’s game against the division rival Saints. In their last meeting, the Bucs lost a heartbreaker in the final seconds when the offense was unable to score the game-tying touchdown. If they hope to get redemption they will need to succeed in these five keys to the game.Key 1: Strong Start
In last week’s game against the Eagles, Josh Freeman and the offense were extremely out of sync in the entire first half. Luckily, they were playing a mediocre offense and only fell behind 10-0 at halftime. If they start slow against the Saint’s high-powered offense the game will be over at halftime.
The Buccaneers were able to get off to a fast start in their first meeting with the Saints. If they hadn’t, the Bucs would have been blown out by the end of the first half. In order for them to start fast they will need Freeman to come out with confidence unlike he did against the Eagles. Playing against the league’s worst defense should make a fast start a little easier.Key 2: Silence the Critics
Josh Freeman started the year decently, considering he was learning an entirely new system with new teammates. Then after the bye week he had as good of numbers as anyone in league, playing like an elite quarterback. But over the past month he has steadily declined in production and hit a low last week against the Eagles. He has been missing wide-open receivers and seems uncomfortable in the pocket again.
His recent play has fans questioning whether or not he is the answer for the Bucs’ future. Freeman has the perfect opportunity to silent his critics, at least for this week, facing New Orleans’s dreadful secondary. In their last meeting, Freeman had a career day throwing for 420 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Freeman had the opportunity to exploit the Eagles weak secondary last week and failed to do so. He will need to take advantage this week because Drew Brees will surely be doing the same against the Bucs’ 32nd ranked secondary.Key 3: Stay Hot on the Line
The defensive line continued their hot and cold streak last Sunday, sacking Eagle’s quarterback Nick Foles six times. DT Gerald McCoy and DE Michael Bennett both had huge games with two sacks a piece and multiple quarterback pressures and hits.
The last time the Buccaneers faced the Saints Brees had all day to throw and didn’t get sacked once. McCoy did have one big play when he tipped a ball at the line of scrimmage that resulted in an interception, but after that was completely silent along with the rest of the line. This lack of pressure allowed Brees to pick apart the secondary throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone.
The Bucs’ secondary is going to have their issues on Sunday. But if the defensive line can stay hot they can minimize the damage and cause Brees to make mistakes. The Atlanta Falcons were successful in doing this two weeks ago in their win over the Saints. The Falcons were getting pressure all game and it lead to Brees throwing a career-high five interceptions.Key 4: Teach them how to Dougie
The Saints are the worst team in the league against the run allowing over 150 rush yards per game. In Doug Martin’s first meeting with the Saints he had only 85 yards and one touchdown, on just 16 carries. The Bucs need to come out with more of an incentive to run against a team that allows over 5.1 yards per carry.
Yes, the Saints secondary is just as bad as their run defense and the Bucs will definitely need to throw the ball often. But running the ball successfully not only opens up the pass game, but it chews up the clock and keeps Drew Brees off of the field longer. The defense will need all the rest they can get, and getting 50-yard touchdown passes won’t do that. I’m not saying don’t take shots, but sustaining a drive for five-plus minutes as apposed to thirty seconds is much more effective.
Some teams do this by short and intermediate passes, but with Freeman’s inaccuracy with short passes they must rely more on Doug Martin. That’s not a bad guy to have to rely on. If the offensive line can do their part then Doug Martin will be doing the “Dougie” all the way to the end zone.Key 5: Finish
The majority of the Bucs’ losses have been due to their inability to finish out games, whether it’s on offense or defense. Last week’s loss was just the same old story when the defense just couldn’t finish the game after having a 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter.
In week seven Tampa Bay was in the perfect position to tie the game and send it to overtime or win the game with a two-point conversion. But when what originally looked to be the game-tying touchdown was negated due to an illegal touching penalty, it was just another case of not finishing.
There is a good chance the Bucs will find themselves in this position yet again, whether on offense or defense. They must find the will to win on offense, or prove everyone wrong by making a game-winning play on defense.
Haley Cornish: Buccaneers 31-28
Cook's Prediction: Buccaneers 33-30
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.