Pewter Report Intern
The Buccaneers are looking to snap a four-game losing streak this Sunday at home against the Rams. What five things can the Buccaneers do in order to walk off the field with their seventh win? Find out what Pewter Report's Haley Cornish thinks in this weekly feature, The Five Keys To Victory.
After last week’s blowout loss to the division rival New Orleans Saints, the Bucs find themselves facing a five-game losing streak this Sunday against the Rams. Finishing another promising season with a big losing streak would be the absolute worst scenario for the Greg Schiano era.
This Sunday’s game against St. Louis is arguably the most important game of the season. While the Rams aren’t a force in the league, they do have a better record than the Bucs and will prove to be a tough matchup. Winning this game would prevent the players and fans from wondering if this is just a repeat of 2011, and will provide confidence for these young players going into the 2013 season.
Also the Bucs will need to win this game if they hope to finish with an even record of 8-8. Many fans will be pleased with that record, considering how young and inexperienced the defense is. An 8-8 record would also be twice as many wins as they had the previous year and would really encourage fans to stand behind this team come next season. Below are five keys the Bucs will need to accomplish in order to avoid a losing record this season.Key 1: Take Advantage of Miscues
The Rams young quarterback Sam Bradford has a great arm, but tends to make poor, costly decisions. He sometimes throws into double-coverage or makes bad throws to open targets. This should bode well for the Bucs, who have been above average in terms of interceptions.
However, Tampa Bay has been unable to snag a pick in the past two games against the Eagles and the Saints. At the end of the Eagles game, cornerback Danny Gorrer dropped a game-winning pick. He also saw a deflected Drew Brees pass bounce right off of his helmet in the first half of last week’s game.
The Bucs will have to capitalize on these opportunities this week because that is the only way the secondary has been able to stop opposing quarterbacks for much of the season. Of course if quarterbacks have all day to throw the chances of making a mistake drastically decreases, which leads me to my next key.Key 2: Help Your Secondary
Front four pressure continues to be a key to victory as it has every week. It cannot be stressed enough how vital it is for this defense. The secondary simply does not have the talent to keep up with NFL receivers. It has nothing to do with effort or practice, they are just too inexperienced and don’t have the skill set to be successful as starters.
Last week, the defensive line failed to get any pressure on Brees, aside from a Da’Quan Bowers sack, and must turn that around this week. Against a young quarterback like Bradford, pressure can do wonders for your defense. If the D-line can’t get to Bradford, it’s going to be another long day for the secondary.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Michael Bennett should be poised to bounce back from last week and prove why they are being considered for the Pro Bowl. Also look for Da’Quan Bowers to continue to be disruptive as he has been since returning from his injury. Even with limited play time, Bowers has been consistent and continues to improve every game. Key 3: Build Freeman’s Confidence
Josh Freeman had his worst game of the season on Sunday against the Saints. While the entire loss can’t be blamed solely on him, he threw four interceptions in the red zone, which will always result in defeat. His confidence seemed to deteriorate with each pick he threw.
Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan should go into the game on Sunday looking to build Freeman’s confidence after last week’s catastrophe. They should feed the ball to Martin and call high percentage completion plays, such as screen passes in the beginning of the game. Once Freeman calms down and is playing with the confidence he had a month ago, Sullivan can start calling more risky plays.Key 4: Do What You Do Best
The secondary wasn’t the only issue against the Saints. Tampa Bay's number one ranked rush defense was poor as well. They gave up 149 yards and one touchdown to a weak Saints rushing attack. It looked to be a combination of bad tackling and too big of holes for the running backs.
This week they face a much stronger Rams rushing attack with the combination of veteran power-runner Steven Jackson and rookie Daryl Richardson. The Bucs need to get back to the swarm-style run defense they had against the Eagles and rack up the tackles for loss.
The reason the Bucs run defense is so successful is because of all the tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Lavonte David, who wasn’t as much of a factor against the Saints as he usually is, will be a key factor in the success of the run defense.Key 5: Understand the Importance of this Game
With the playoffs well out of reach, this game might just be the most important game of the year. It is easy for a young team like the Bucs to think these last two games are meaningless since they aren’t in the playoff hunt. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. After last year’s 10-game losing streak, it is very important for these players to know that they are capable of finishing a season strong.
There is a big difference between finishing 6-10 with a six game losing streak, and finishing 8-8 with a two game winning streak. Not only will finishing strong get the players hyped up about next season, it will also encourage fans to go out and buy season tickets. This team has shown so much promise and, although they had a misstep against the Saints, looks to be headed in the right direction. The players need to keep that in mind going into Sunday’s game and play as if they are still in the playoff race.Pewter Prediction
Haley Cornish: Buccaneers 20-17
Mark Cook: Buccaneers 28-23
Andrew Scavelli: Rams 27-24
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