Tampa Bay faces a potential 0-3 start to this season. Fortunately for them, the New England Patriots are a bit banged up. The Patriots may be without a couple players that play big roles in their offense. If so, the Bucs will have a better chance at avoiding another loss.
The following keys to victory could result in the Buccaneers escaping New England with a win.
Key 1. FREEMAN HAS TO EXECUTE
“Coach calls the play. Our responsibility as players is to go out and execute that play.” That was quarterback Josh Freeman during his Thursday press conference when asked about executing on third downs — something the offense has had problems with. But the offense will only go as far as their quarterback will take them.
Freeman also said he s surrounded by talent, a talent in which is not being utilized properly and it shows by their 31st place ranking and 149-yard average per game the first two weeks. His completion percentage of 45.3 percent is also low. Sure you can add in the six to seven drops by receivers and his percentage can easily be above fifty, but that’s not reality.
Whether or not receivers are dropping passes, Freeman — to this point — isn’t getting it done. Several factors can tie in to a quarterback’s performance but reading a defense, scrambling when he needs to, and making throws he should or should not make is on him. And that’s something Freeman needs to do against New England.
Key 2. PENALTY FLAGS
The Buccaneers continue to put themselves in holes. They also continue to giftwrap field position to their opposition.
In the first two weeks of the season, the Bucs have gotten penalized 23 times for 220 yards, 10 of which have come before the snap. Second and shorts have become second and longs. Defensive stops have turned into opponents extending drives.
The Patriots are not the same from years past. However, if Tampa Bay gives Tom Brady and that offense extra downs or they shoot themselves in the foot on offense with pre-snap penalties, it’ll be another long afternoon for the Buccaneers.
Key 3. KEEP THE PRESSURE ON
After Week 1, the Bucs defense showed some flashes of past defenses against the Jets but the jury was still out. In Week 2, that same defense made Saints quarterback Drew Brees uncomfortable on several occasions. Because of that performance, many have now bought into the Bucs’ revamped defense.
Tampa Bay has registered nine sacks in the first to games of this season where they only had three at this point last season. They have also created a lot of post-snap movement from all three levels (defensive line, linebackers, secondary) to confuse the offensive lines of the Jets and Saints. The Bucs should do more of the same in Week 3 in New England.
Key 4. NEEDING A SECURITY BLANKET
They haven’t admitted it, but the numbers don’t lie. Josh Freeman and the Bucs offense lacks a tight end as an alternate option. Do they trust the ones on the roster? It could be that Freeman isn’t looking for them. But that’s speculative.
See, the Bucs have targeted the tight end position twice in 53 pass attempts (3.7 percent) in 2013, both targets being successful receptions by Nate Byham. Last season, the tight end was targeted in 19.3 percent of Freeman’s pass attempts — or 11.5 percent in the first two games last year with one less pass attempt. What do both seasons have in common? Luke Stocker was not targeted in the first two weeks of either season. Veteran tight end Dallas Clark was the only one targeted.
It’s time to get the tight end involved. No matter who it is.
Key 5. THE THREE BUCCANEERS
The trio at linebacker of Lavonte David, Mason Foster, and Dekoda Watson has contributed greatly to the Bucs defensive success so far. Between the three, each has recorded an interception and have 5.5 of the team’s nine sacks this season (David with 2.5).
David and Watson have presented post-snap problems for Geno Smith in Week 1 and Drew Brees in Week 2 and on two instances resulted in interceptions. The Bucs will expect the same from the young linebacking group in New England on Sunday and provide much of the same disguised blitzes and coverage as they did against New Orleans.
Gil Arcia (0-2): Buccaneers 24, Patriots 20
Mark Cook (1-1): Buccaneers 23, Patriots 21
Scott Reynolds (1-1): Patriots 20, Buccaneers 16