What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer
Scott Reynolds will be looking for in Tampa Bay’s trip to New England to
face the Patriots? Find out in this edition of SR’s Pick 6.
The Buccaneers (0-2) travel to New England in search of its first win of the season and will face the injury-ravaged Patriots (2-0). What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s Week 3 game?1. FREEMAN NEEDS TO THROW HIS WAY OFF THE HOT SEAT
Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman has joined head coach Greg Schiano on the hot seat in Tampa Bay after two very lackluster performances. Granted, Freeman had a crucial, 75-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson negated due to a penalty last week against New Orleans, but the offense only generated seven points in the team’s 16-14 loss in Week 2.
Freeman has completed less than 50 percent of his passes to the start the season, and there were rumors that he might asked to be traded because he and Schiano don’t see eye-to-eye. With a 0-2 record and mediocre stats, some Bucs fans wouldn’t mind seeing Freeman depart. Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback is 1-7 in his last eight games despite the defense surrendering a couple of late fourth quarter leads in the final minute of the contest in games against Philadelphia last year and New York and New Orleans this season. It’s baffling to think that Freeman is playing so poorly in a contract year, but he is.
If he has any hopes in staying in Tampa Bay and the Bucs making a playoff push this season, Freeman has to start completing more than 50 percent of his passes, eliminate the turnovers and start throwing more touchdowns. Sunday in New England would be a good time to start.2. LINEBACKERS NEED TO CONTINUE TO DOMINATE
Tampa Bay’s linebacker corps is the first in NFL history to have each one of its starters have a sack and an interception through the first two weeks of the NFL season. In fact, weakside linebacker Lavonte David leads the team with 2.5 sacks and middle linebacker Mason Foster is second with two QB captures.
New England head coach Bill Belichick, a future Hall of Famer, has a lot of respect for Tampa Bay’s linebacking crew, and the unit cannot disappoint on Sunday. David, Foster and strongside linebackers Dekoda Watson and Jonathan Casillas need to continue to be the heartbeat of the defense and get after Tom Brady from a pass rush and pass coverage standpoint.3. BETTER FIELD POSITION FROM TAMPA BAY’S SPECIAL TEAMS
The Buccaneers offense still needs help in terms of field position, and has only scored one touchdown this season when it has started from its own side of the field. The special teams unit can help the struggling offense by generating good field position in a number of ways.
Eric Page and the return game can help the Bucs’ offense with good punt and kick returns in New England, and the punt rush team could put heat on new Patriots punter Ryan Allen. It’s time for Dekoda Watson or Jonathan Casillas to break through and block a punt. Tampa Bay’s field goal block unit also needs to get a good push and make Stephen Gostkowski miss to help generate better starting field position for the offense.4. TAMPA BAY MUST STOP BEATING ITSELF WITH PENALTIES
The Buccaneers have been flagged for 23 penalties for over 200 yards in the first two games of the season. Tampa Bay’s defense is averaging three personal fouls per game, which has accounted for 45 penalty yards alone each week. Head coach Greg Schiano says that reducing penalties is being discussed at One Buc Place, but the players aren’t responding thus far.
The offense has been just as guilty with delay of game penalties, false starts and illegal formation penalties. A Bucs wide receiver lined up on the wrong side of the formation last week and it cost the team a 75-yard touchdown by Vincent Jackson. The first rule of football is to not beat yourself, and that’s exactly what the Bucs have done in their 0-2 start.
Quarterback Josh Freeman and the offensive line have also contributed to the mistakes. In Week 1, center Jeremy Zuttah snapped a ball into the end zone when Freeman wasn’t looking and it resulted in a costly safety at New York. Last week, Bucs left tackle Donald Penn, who has given up two sacks in as many games, was beaten and it resulted in a sack-fumble. Freeman has also thrown two drive-killing interceptions over the past two weeks.5. BUCS NEED TO MAINTAIN MOMENTUM IN QUARTERS 2-3
Last year, the Buccaneers offense sputtered in the second and third quarter and that trend is continuing in 2013. After outscoring opponents 94-71 in the first quarter of games in 2012, the Bucs were outscored 127-77 in the second quarter. In the third quarter, the defense clamped down, but the offense didn’t come to life, either, as Tampa Bay outscored opponents 88-73. The Bucs offense scored the most points in the fourth quarter with 124, but the defense gave up the most points in a quarter with 123.
In 2013, the Bucs have outscored their opponents 14-12 in the first quarter and 10-9 in the fourth quarter, but seem to fall asleep in the middle of the game, especially on offense. Tampa Bay is being outscored 10-7 in the second quarter and 3-0 in the third quarter.
What’s the best way for Tampa Bay to stop close losses in the fourth quarter? Quit making the game close in the fourth quarter. Under head coach Greg Schiano, the Bucs have done a good job in the first quarter on offense, but they need to do a better job of maintaining momentum. That means better play-calling from offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and better execution from the 11 players on offense.6. TAMPA BAY’S DEFENSE NEEDS FASTER PLAY-CALLING, BETTER TWO-MINUTE PLAY-CALLING
The Buccaneers defense has been playing well the season – first the first 59 minutes of the game. In Tampa Bay’s two defeats, which have been by a combined three points, the team has seen its opponent start on its own side of the field and drive down for the game-winning field goal in less than a minute. During the two-minute defense Tampa Bay has not forced a sack or a turnover yet this season.
That has to change as a Buccaneers defender must step up and make a play, but defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan needs to scrap the two-minute, prevent defense because all that has done is prevent the Bucs from winning. Whether it’s mixing in a zone blitz or rushing four defenders rather than three, something has to be done because the prevent defense in Tampa Bay has not gotten the job done.
The defense is also going to need to get the play calls in quicker from Sheridan, as New England quarterback Tom Brady will undoubtedly and unexpectedly switch to an up-tempo offense to try to catch Tampa Bay’s defense out of position. That worked effectively for a couple of plays during the preseason as the Patriots picked up two “gimme” first downs by catching the Bucs off guard.
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