Photo by: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Sunday’s game in Atlanta will be the ultimate test of resilience for the young Buccaneers. After letting a 24-0 lead slip in Washington last week, many now question whether the team will be able to rebound mentally following such a heartbreaking loss.
But Gerald McCoy put it best last Sunday,
“We have to (come back). If we breakdown now, it’s going to be a repeated cycle in Tampa and we don’t want that. So we have to.”
With 10 games still to go, Tampa Bay can’t afford to lament in defeat. The mourning period is over and it’s on to the Falcons, where they have an opportunity to upset a division rival on the road and start 2-1 in the NFC South.
Defensively, Tampa Bay will have their hands full. While the Falcons offense has dropped off in recent weeks, the talent-filled unit featuring the likes of Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and of course Matt Ryan is always poised to breakout, especially at the Georgia Dome. No team knows that better than the Buccaneers, who’s 56-14 Thursday Night loss in Atlanta hasn’t escaped the team’s memory.
In fact, Matt Ryan has been a Buc-killer the past two seasons at the dome, completing a combined 41 of 50 passes for 559 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. Tampa Bay, who had just one sack over both games, cannot allow that type of efficiency and expect to win, especially considering the Falcons fifth ranked rushing attack in 2015. Running back Devonta Freeman is taking the league by storm, with four 100-yard rush outings and three 50-plus receiving games. Bucs’ coaches and players have sung his praises this week, including former college teammate Jameis Winston who called him “an all-around back.”
The Buccaneers run defense was immovable last Sunday, holding Redskins running backs Matt Jones and Alfred Morris to a combined 34 yards. Yet even in predictable passing situations, they struggled to apply pressure and saw the secondary get torched again with quick passes over the middle. Sunday will only get tougher with Julio Jones, one of the NFL’s best receivers, and Roddy White lining up on the other side. Whether it’s been an issue of technique or scheme, the Bucs cornerbacks – Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins – need to step up and start contesting more passes. Same goes for the safeties in deep zone and linebackers underneath. Kwon Alexander, who’s steadily improving and gaining more trust from the coaches each week, will have another test this Sunday against tight end Jacob Tamme. While Tamme’s not Greg Olsen or Jordan Reed, he’s prone to run deep over the middle, an area in coverage where Alexander is still adjusting to his role.
Moving to the offensive side of the ball, the Bucs have numerous players who are coming off a season-best performance last week, including Jameis Winston who was 21 of 29 for 297 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in Washington. The rookie QB has been turnover-free since his five-turnover game in Week 4, but will need to show even more poise this Sunday, as he’ll be without two of his top three wide receivers. With Louis Murphy (ACL) out for the year and Vincent Jackson likely to miss at least one game, Tampa Bay will rely even more on Mike Evans, especially if Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who’s doubtful for Sunday, will need to miss his fifth game with a shoulder injury. Expect recently re-promoted Adam Humphries to fill in for Murphy in the slot, while Donteea Dye resumes his role as Jackson’s replacement.
Again, it all starts with pounding the rock for Tampa Bay. The Bucs one-two punch has been as lethal as Devonta Freeman the past three weeks. Doug Martin’s production is no longer a surprise after four months, dating back to training camp, and Charles Sims has established himself as a true threat in the passing game as well as a hard-nosed runner, despite one botched play from the goal line last Sunday. Martin has out-performed his previous game the past three weeks, rushing for a season-high 136 in Washington while adding 35 yards receiving. And although Martin has silenced critics the last three weeks against formidable run defenses (Panthers, Jaguars and Redskins), Sunday may be his toughest test yet. Already ranked second in the league against the run, Atlanta should be able to sell out to stop Martin considering the Bucs situation at wide receiver. Tampa Bay will have to prove they can throw the ball at least some, whether it’s screens to the running backs or quick passes to the rookie receivers, to prevent Atlanta from doubling Mike Evans in the backend and zeroing in on the backfield duo in the front seven.
This game is important, to put it lightly. After a monumental collapse last Sunday that turned playoff talk into top five draft pick talk, the Buccaneers have an opportunity to prove their character and show tremendous resilience with a win over the Falcons this Sunday. Not to mention they’ve lost the last six out of seven games in Atlanta since 2008. A win this weekend would give them their first victory over a team with a winning record (6-1), and surpass their total from 2014 seven games into the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) at Atlanta Falcons (6-1)
Sunday, November 1, 2015, 1:00 p.m. ET
Georgia Dome (71,228)
Network Television: FOX (WTVT Local)
Play-By-Play: Justin Kutcher Analyst: Charles Davis Sideline: Tony Siragusa
Bucs Radio: US 103.5, Flagship Station (103.5 FM, 620 AM & 95.3 FM)
Play-By-Play: Gene Deckerhoff Analyst: Dave Moore Sideline: T.J. Rives
Last Game: Tampa Bay Lost at Washington, 31-30; Atlanta Won at Tennessee, 10-7
Pewter Report’s Predictions
Scott Reynolds: Falcons 36-23
Mark Cook: Bucs 27-24
Eric Horchy: Falcons 34-20
Zach Shapiro: Falcons 31-16
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: email@example.com
We lose; I just hope we aren’t embarrassing.
Falcons 35 points or more; Bucs 24 points or less.
With you horse. We get killed Falcons 38-10
Feel if we keep it close we will win, but more likely a blowout. Atl 45, TB 21.
I don’t like doing predictions, but I see this game a little closer than many expect. I guess it’s wishful thinking that the team will have a little fire in their eyes while the Falcons just may take this game a little lightly.
This all on our DL. If they don’t plug up the holes and get pressure on Ryan, Freeman will run all over us and Jones will be blowing past our secondary all day long!
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