Pewter Report Intern
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head into their final game of the season
against the division rival Atlanta Falcons with a five-game losing
streak. Below are five keys the Bucs should attempt to focus on to finish up the season and attempt to notch their seventh win of the season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head into their final game of the season against the division rival Atlanta Falcons with a five-game losing streak. After a 6-4 start, finishing the season 6-10 with a six game losing streak will feel a lot like déjà vu for Bucs’ fans after last years 10-game skid.
Falcon’s Head Coach Mike Smith has yet to state whether or not he will rest his starters, simply stating they will play to win regardless of the circumstances. That makes it difficult to determine what the Bucs will need to do to win, in terms of stopping Falcons players.
Below are five keys that the Bucs will need to accomplish in order to win the game, regardless of who the Falcons play.Key 1. Don’t Force It
Over the past two weeks Freeman has had two of his worst games of his career. He has forced the ball on multiple occasions, held the ball too long, and has looked indecisive in the pocket. Miscommunications and receivers slipping have caused some of the turnovers, but a large amount of the blame fall on the player making the decisions.
Freeman needs to stop trying to force the ball to make big plays, and instead look to make easy completions to gain his confidence. Some of this falls on offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s play calling, but most falls on Freeman. There have been a number of plays this season where Freeman has two options: force the ball to his receiver, or check it down the Doug Martin. Over the past month, Freeman has chosen to force the ball, which has caused a large number of his turnovers. He wants to make big plays for his team, instead of gaining yards to make a more manageable second or third down.Key 2: Get Martin Going
Martin has cooled off in recent weeks after an outstanding mid-season performance. Many may attribute that to him hitting the “rookie wall”, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The injuries on the offensive line have caught up to the Bucs, and they are unable to make any sort of room for Martin to run. In fact, they have allowed Martin to be met in the backfield on multiple occasions.
The rookie’s struggles can also be blamed on the unimaginative run plays the Bucs have been running. With the offensive line struggling, running the ball up the middle on almost every play is not going to work. Martin’s successful runs over the past month have been to the outside, allowing him to be in the open field and make people miss.
Another way to get Martin more involved is screen plays. Martin has been very effective on screens this season, including the 64-yard touchdown against the Vikings. Screens are a great way to counter the blitz because there usually isn’t anyone accounting for the running back.Key 3. Attention to Details
Prior to the start of the season, Coach Schiano stressed attention to detail on a daily basis. That seemed to pay off early in the season, but has been in decline over their losing streak. Whether it’s a miscommunication, being out of position on defense, or poor route running, details have caught up to the Bucs in recent weeks.
The Bucs need to get back to the detail-oriented, disciplined football they were playing before this five-game skid. To do that the Bucs will need to take a step back, refocus, and remember what their jobs are. Tampa Bay’s defense was able to do that, for the most part, last week and will need to continue to do that in order to stop whoever plays for the Falcons on Sunday.Key 4: Understand the Need to Win
After last week’s loss to the Rams, the Bucs will finish the season with a losing record no matter the result in week 17, but Tampa Bay still has plenty to play for. They need to play for their fans; get fans hyped about next season by ending on a positive note. They need to play for themselves so they know they have the ability to finish a season. If the Bucs are in the playoff race at the end of next season, having the confidence in themselves and their teammates to finish the season could make a big difference.
Fans might think that beating the Falcon’s back-up players isn’t important. But losing to their back-up players would be detrimental to these young players’ confidence. Beating the second-stringers might not feel as good as beating the starters, but losing to them will feel a whole lot worse. Key 5: Make it Count
There are a number of Buccaneer players who will be free agents next year, or who could simply be cut. DE Michael Bennett and DT Roy Miller are the biggest free agents from the Bucs. Bennett will likely be asking for a big contract and a big game in week 17 could help his case. Miller has stated on multiple occasions that he really wants to return next year and definitely could. He has been a huge part in the Bucs run defense, but the Bucs may want to get a DT opposite of Gerald McCoy that can rush, too.
Eric Wright could be in danger of leaving Tampa this offseason, but not as a free agent. The Bucs can get rid of Wright regardless of his guaranteed money next year because of his disciplinary issues. The Bucs could either cut him, or restructure his contract to a more reasonable price. If Wright has a great game on Sunday, it could be the difference between getting cut or remaining with the Buccaneers. Wright, along with the 2013 free agents, may consider Sunday’s game as their last chance to prove they deserve to be on the team in 2013. Pewter PredictionsHaley Cornish:
Buccaneers 27-24Andrew Scavelli:
Falcons 34-23Mark Cook:
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