Writing a Keys To Victory column may seem silly to some at this point, especially considering the circumstances (Saints must win, and the Bucs out of the playoff chase), and while the challenge of beating the Saints appears to be too tall of a task for the Buccaneers in Week 17, stranger things have happened. Not often, but they have.
So what five things can the Buccaneers attempt to achieve in order to notch the biggest upset in the NFL in the last couple years? Find out what PewterReport.com editor Mark Cook thinks in this week’s Five Keys To Victory.
Find A Way To RunThe task of beating the Saints is monumental in itself, and to think it can be accomplished without some semblance of a running game? That would be almost impossible barring Drew Brees, Cameron Jordan and Jimmy Graham coming down with food poisoning around noon tomorrow.
The fact is, it doesn’t matter who is calling the plays, lined up under center or giving the halftime speech – if the Buccaneers do not run the football in New Orleans on Sunday they are virtually guaranteed to pick up their 12th loss of the season.
That’s not to say the Buccaneers have to run for 150 yards, but averaging less than two yards a carry, and being in second-and-long all afternoon, will certainly equal defeat.
Keep Glennon CleanAlmost, and perhaps just as crucial as the first key, is giving quarterback Mike Glennon time to find open receivers. The offensive line is easily the highest paid unit on the team, and also the most disappointing. Being a rookie quarterback is difficult enough with a clean pocket, but succeeding with defensive lineman in your face or hammering you from the blindside doesn’t equal very much success.
A handful of these linemen are playing to prove if they are worthy to come back next season. Hopefully the magnitude of the situation has been pressed upon them. Glennon needs to have time to allow plays to develop if the Bucs have any hope to register an upset.
Stop Graham From GashingJimmy Graham burned the Bucs for 179 yards on 10 receptions back in September and that was with a healthy Mark Barron in the lineup. If Barron can’t go on Sunday the task of slowing down arguably the NFL’s best tight end becomes an even more difficult task. While Keith Tandy has been a decent fill-in this season for both Dashon Goldson and Barron at times, he is nowhere near ready to handle the duty of trying to slow Graham down by himself.
The Bucs would be wise to double Graham with a safety and the nickel corner, and let Darrelle Revis and Johnthan Banks live and die in man coverage. If Brees sees Graham alone in single coverage with just a safety, the results may be worse than the 41-0 drubbing at the hands of the Saints in the Superdome last season.
Let It All Hang OutWhat do you have to lose? Chances are, if Greg Schiano stays, then their will be some shakeups within the ranks of the coaching staff next week. So if you are offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, anything left in the playbook needs to be shown on Sunday. Heck, draw them up on the dry erase board on the sidelines if you have to, but don’t leave anything in the tank.
Bill Sheridan? Bring the house at times. Line up in a completely different look than you have shown at anytime this season. Turn Gerald McCoy and the defensive line loose, and tackle the runner on the way to sacking Brees.
If the Bucs try and go toe to toe with Saints using just their base looks and predictable schemes, it could get ugly early.
Embrace The ChallengeThe Saints have to win this game to guarantee them a place in the postseason, so this is essentially a wild card playoff game. While the Bucs will be home next week regardless of the outcome, the players need to look at the challenge of playing the spoiler role and inflicting serious damage on the Saints chances of the postseason.
The Superdome will be rocking, and the Saints will come out with a ton of emotion. If the Buccaneers want a small taste of playoff football they will get it on Sunday. Will they embrace it?
PewterReport.com Predictions:Mark Cook – Saints 30, Buccaneers 16Scott Reynolds – Saints 27, Buccaneers 13
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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