After facing two backup quarterbacks, the battered Buccaneers will be facing a Pro Bowler in Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. What are the six things PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s upcoming game? Find out right here in SR’s Pick 6.
Who: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at St. Louis Rams
Where: Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA
When: 8:25 p.m. ET – CBS, NFL Network
Last year: Bucs and Falcons split series 1-1
Overall series: Bucs lead series 21-20
1. RUN RAINEY, RUN
Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey was one of the few bright spots in Tampa Bay’s 19-17 loss to St. Louis last week, rushing for 144 yards on 22 carries (6.5 avg.) and catching three passes for 30 yards. Rainey could get the start again this week as Doug Martin is still dealing with an injured knee and he’s listed as questionable.
Rainey tore up the Falcons last year for 163 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to a receiving touchdown. Whether or not Martin can play, Rainey has earned the right to start because he’s quicker and more productive than Martin has been, in addition to being healthier. Atlanta has surrendered 309 yards in two games, an average of 154.5 yards per game and a 4.2 avg. The Bucs need to unleash Rainey on the Falcons early and often and have him be the featured weapon until Atlanta proves it can stop him.
2. PLAY PERFECT FOOTBALL
The Buccaneers will likely be without three starting defensive linemen, the starting middle linebacker, the starting running back and the starting tight end in Atlanta for Thursday night’s game. With a lot of the team’s talent sitting on the sidelines after the first two weeks of the season, the Bucs just aren’t good enough to commit turnovers and penalties and win games with the team’s current state of health.
The good news is that the Bucs are tied for the league lead in fewest penalties with just seven for 45 yards. The bad news is that Tampa Bay is minus-3 in turnover ratio and has just one takeaway during the season on defense. Quarterback Josh McCown must do a better job of throwing the football as he has three costly interceptions in the first two games, including one in the red zone last week. For the Bucs to win, McCown has to be flawless and the defense has to be engaged in taking the ball away.
3. BUCS’ STARS MUST SHINE IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (knee), defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand), and defensive end Michael Johnson (ankle) are all questionable for Thursday’s game in Atlanta, and the team may not have those players in Atlanta. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and middle linebacker Mason Foster have already been ruled out. While the Bucs’ backups need to step up and play well, the team’s remaining healthy stars must shine on national television.
Free safety Dashon Goldson came up with 11 tackles and a fumble recovery last week, but must do more in the passing game to break up some passes or get an interception. Linebacker Lavonte David has 17 tackles through two games, but no takeaways, sacks or pass breakups. On offense, Vincent Jackson has just eight catches for 87 yards through two games. That was a typical game for Jackson last year as he eclipsed 1,200 yards receiving for the second straight season. It’s time for these high-paid, star players to rise up in Atlanta and make up for the losses of Tampa Bay’s injured stars.
4. TAMPA BAY MUST PRESSURE RYAN INTO MISTAKES
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has been sacked three times in two games and has thrown three interceptions. The Bucs have had success against the Falcons when they have been able to get to Ryan with pressure and force him into mistakes. Through two games the Bucs only have three sacks, and one of those is from defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who is questionable for Thursday’s game with a broken hand. The defensive line is banged up with ends Michael Johnson (ankle), Da’Quan Bowers (abdominal) and Will Gholston (shoulder) not at 100 percent and with Johnson possibly missing his second game.
When given time, Ryan has a plethora of weapons to throw to, including wide receivers Julio Jones (204 yards), Roddy White (114 yards), Harry Douglas (107 yards), Devin Hester (101 yards) and running backs Antone Smith (73 yards) and Devonta Freeman (40 yards). Blitzing didn’t work in the second half of the Rams game, but Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier may have to dial up some more blitzes to pressure Ryan – otherwise he’ll pick apart Tampa Bay’s secondary.
5. SHORE UP TAMPA BAY’S SPECIAL TEAMS
Outside of a 45-yard kick return by Chris Owusu against St. Louis, Tampa Bay’s special teams were a disaster last week. Bucs safety Major Wright missed a block on T.J. McDonald and gave up a blocked punt in the second half of the team’s 19-17 loss. That led to a Rams field goal. In the fourth quarter, Bucs tight end Luke Stocker whiffed on McDonald, who blocked a field goal that could have won the game for Tampa Bay.
The Bucs’ special teams need to rebound in a big way on Thursday night in Atlanta, and will have the challenge of containing Falcons return specialist Devin Hester, who played for Lovie Smith in Chicago. Hester is the NFL’s all-time touchdown producer on kick and punt returns. In the first two games of the season, Hester has returned five kicks 139 yards (27.8 avg.) and is capable of breaking a big one at any time. Hester has been less successful on punts, averaging just four yards, but has 13 touchdowns in his career on fourth down.
6. BETTER COACHING – PERIOD
The Buccaneers have had several questionable coaching decisions in their first two games. Against Carolina, Lovie Smith electing to punt on fourth-and-1 instead of giving kicker Patrick Murray the chance for a 53-yard field goal proved to be a very conservative move. Against St. Louis last Sunday, Smith proved to be ultra-conservative by not calling a timeout before the Rams’ field goal attempt and letting 40 seconds run off the clock and then not calling a timeout on Tampa Bay’s last drive. Going into halftime with three timeouts and not attempting to score was a waste of a possession.
Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo appears poised to call plays for a fourth straight game dating back to the preseason finale against Washington with offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford still sidelined as he recovers from heart issues. Arroyo drew criticism last week when he called for a run by Bobby Rainey on third-and-7 inside the red zone on the last play of the third quarter. That led to a blocked field goal to start the fourth quarter. Arroyo also didn’t call for any passes into the end zone after Josh McCown’s second quarter interception. Smith needs to take more chances directing the game and Arroyo has to be more aggressive in the play-calling in order to beat Atlanta.
SR’s Prediction: Falcons 31, Buccaneers 20
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
Wow, the Falcons by 11. That’s hard to take. They were awful against a banged-up Bengals team. We usually play them tough. I see a 3-4 point game, perhaps six. The Falcons can’t rush the passer either. If this is a blowout, then I’m really worried about the future. If Atlanta puts up 30+, then we are in big trouble. Ryan is no stranger to us. Yes, he’s got tremendous weapons, but we know what they run. There will be no surprises.
The play calling, the QB play and the defense is certainly NOT built to win now or anytime soon. This is a rebuilding year now and if Lovie Smith cannot understand that after HIS team’s abysmal start I have absolutely no confidence in his leadership OR his conception of reality and believe he should be fired. Going on with this pathetic charade is more than most fans can or should have to stand. It was a MISTAKE! Let’s either start rebuilding or get rid of this dreamer living in the past.
Whatever we do don’t knock Ryan out of the game, we can’t handle back up Q.B.’s! Seriously, the Hawks at home should easily out score us. Maybe we’ll be looser on the road, and play better. Anymore bonehead plays from McCown, just sit him.
No need to play anybody who didn’t practice Monday. It’s a blow out when it counts; first three quarters. Falcons will pull back the throttle in the 4th quarter so 5 yard passer McCown stats will look great. Glad to read reality check is occurring. This was a rebuilding year when Lovie was hired and probably told Glazers it from the get go. He might have been hoping, but not anymore. I hope we get Martin healthy and trade him before the deadline. We need draft picks. Go Bucs!
doug martin in reality another first round bust plus we traded up before this year 1910 rushing yards, 251 gained in one game against the raiders over 13 percent of rushing yards gained in one game
What bothers me most is that we lost the two easiest games on the schedule. Who are we going to beat? Our defense is average at best. Our special teams are not special at all. The play calling is weak at best. We were told that the offense would run the ball and make long passes down field. No passes past twenty yards. I like McCowen. He reminds me of Rivers with the Chargers. He is trying to win, but the coaching staff is trying not to loose. The players are giving it their all, but errors are killing us. From what I have seen so far, this is a below average team coached an average coach.
Fire the coach after two games for stating publicly that the team expects to win now because the “rebuilding” excuse to postpone those expectations is not acceptable? What would you have him say at his introductory press conference? How about “You know after evaluating the roster, this team sucks worse than I thought. Good thing my pay isn’t per victory. We won’t be able to win this season so fans shouldn’t bother coming to the games. Spend your money on a big-a$$ TV so you can watch you old hometown team. I’ll do my best to limit your misery by not calling time-outs and running the ball to speed up the game just to get it over with. But wait until next year when we stock up on draft picks by trading Doug Martin, Mike Glennon, Mark Barron and Jonathan Banks. We’ll save the Glazers money by not re-signing Luke Stocker, Adrian Clayborn, DaQuan Bowers and Mason Foster. We’ll use that money to extend the contracts of our only good players, Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David; but also to sign a bunch of other team’s second stringers we like. John McKay had a five year plan and won after only four. I have no plan so don’t hold me to anything. No promises, no hopes, no expectations from me. Next question.”
You usually get into trouble when you tell someone else how to run their business. But today, I’m going to break that rule and hope no one is offended.
First a backdrop for all of the angry sentiment and the need for lowered expectations. Lovie and Licht created a problem for themselves. They acknowledged that we were a 4-12 team, but convinced us that were we were a win now team and set about dismantling the old team with 24 new players and an OC with a secret potion that would give us an offense that we’ve never seen the likes of before. Playoffs here we come!
Well mission accomplished – we bought into that hook line and sinker. Let me be clear, I’m not saying we were hoodwinked, they simply forgot that Murphy’s Law is real and spit happens. And miracles are rare – like turning Oniel Cousins into a starting OG. Lovie’s modified Cover 2 defense works, but is not easily learned, and cannot have any injuries when there are only two proven player’s in the line-up.
When the O-Line can’t block and the front four can’t generate pass pressure, a marginal-at-best QB tries too hard and makes a bad football team look even worse. When the highly touted OC and mystery offense is absent due to problems believed to be heart-related. Immediately and unavoidably, we have an on time failure.
If my assessment is correct, we have no choice but to lower our expectations, but still hold Lovie and Licht accountable for turning a 4-12 team into an eventual winner. The time table simply needs to be adjusted. I don’t know if the expression on OC Tedford’s face last Sunday was one of disgust or simply not feeling well, but at some point it may be better to move him into the former Jimmy Raye II position of Sr. Offensive Assistant, and hire a young chest-bumping OC who can teach and motivate his position players. Scott Frost-Oregon comes to mind and plays Tedford-style football.
Whatever the decisions made or actions taken, this is a work-in-progress that is going to take time!
Mac I hope your right about the T2 still working. I have my doubts, and even Gruden mentioned on MNF the scheme might be dead. When watching the games our secondary seems to be standing flat footed in zone coverage. Hopefully they’ll start making some plays on the ball. If we are indeed rebuilding, then coach must find out what we have in Glennon before the draft. McCown was a two year stop gap at best. We’ll never be a top team without a top flight Q.B..
This has the makings of a shootout. We will try to keep the Falcons offense off the field, but their potential quick strikes against our defense ultimately force us to throw and throw. I think we surprise them 29-27.
I hope you’re right about the shootout aspect for the Bucs offense. I’m sick of watching a team run it on 3rd down and settling for field goals.
Have my doubts that the defensive scheme is going to work in the latest update of the NFL, when your backfield is not allowed to touch the receivers under any circumstance without drawing a flag, basing your defensive scheme on physical hitting and intimidation doesn’t seem as effective.
Year after year we talk about the defensive front being great. Yet the Bucs still never sack the QB. We have 3 through 2 games. The defense also has zero interceptions. Zero! If our defense isn’t going to make big plays or cause turnovers, why is the offense being so conservative? It’s really frustrating as a fan, watching a team struggle to score for 3 quarters. The no huddle, spread offense seems to works. I know it might have something to do with the other team playing ‘prevent’, but Mccown seems more comfortable with it and it opens up the field. Why not use it more than 1 quarter?
everyone needs to look in the mirror and this means lovie too, the tampa 2 defense is history teams shred that d now in the nfl and even in college, coaches must change with the times. I was all for lovie, but after these games he learned nothing while sitting out a year, offense is ultra conservative and the tampa 2 is terrible, I don’t care if you have all the best d players in the league on the same team playing it, zone coverage with no safety intimidation anymore will get torched. teams have video and know where the holes are that is why we cant get third down stops todays coaches have to think outside the box and change d schemes weekly
Well, everyone seems to either have thrown in the towel for this season for thrown in the towel altogether. I didn’t have a good feeling about either of the first two games and I don’t have a great feeling about this one, but I do feel better about this game than the first two for several reasons. First, I think all the Bucs players are white hot angry and ready to knock the $#!+ out of somebody, so the Falcons are about to walk into a buzz saw. Second, our defense is better than theirs even with backups all along our D-line. I like the way Lansanah (sp?), McDonald and Gholston filled in last week. Third, even though the Falcons are weak against the run I think we’ll see a ton of passes to V. Jackson and M. Evans tonight since all that running still didn’t lead to a win last Sunday. Fourth, Ryan is overrated, plain and simple. Finally, it’s our only nationally televised game this season so I think we’re going to make it count. I think we’ll either win big or lose big and there will be at least a 14 point delta either way.
You didn’t feel good playing against the Rams with a 3rd string QB? I’ve never felt better about a game, and we still managed to lose that. The play calling is awful. Until that changes, we won’t win a game. I hope your “ton of passes” theory is correct.
Wow PR predicting a 10+ point loss for the Bucs …in this day and age thats essentailly a blowout in the NFL. That does not bode well for this team at all if PR is starting to jump off the bandwagin.
As for your #6 better coaching, the Bucs were out of timeouts which is why 40 seconds ran off the clock. That was obvious, yet you make coaching look bad. As for the end of first half, Bucs had clock stopped for them at 23 seconds at Bucs own 31 yard line. after an incomplete pass, there were 17 seconds left. After a draw play Bucs had ball at own 40 with 11 seconds left. Thats time for one play downfield. Lets not make it sound like Bucs let a minute go off the clock. To call that a bad coaching decision is suspect at best. Probably half the coaches in the league would have gone into the half with 11 seconds left ball at own 40.
Disagree agree about the Tampa 2 because it is an updated version. Our defense still has done enough to win the games; it’s the offense that wasn’t ready for regular season. I believe it starts with the QB in today NFL, then it’s the pass rush. I didn’t see Joseph as a No. 1 pick do much of anything against us. Clayborne before injury was the same Clayborne. Josh Freeman is not playing in the leagues. Martin can’t stay healty; Barron is just average player; same for Banks. Benn is out of the league as far as I know. Patriots aren’t imoressed with Revis or Talib. Bowers has done nothing. That’s a lot of misses on draft picks in higher rounds.
Wow, you guys are really touch critics. They say that hate is born of love. I know most of you really care and you just want your team to be a winner. So do I. Granted, the expectations were too high, though I’m still sticking with my prediction of eight wins. The Buccaneers were in position to win both of these games at the end. That’s more than I can say for roughly two-thirds of the games last year. Yes, the expectations were too high. That I’ll grant. It’s not that the talent is lacking; and the desire is there as well. The team just wasn’t win-ready. I agree with 55, the Buccaneers have been playing “tight.” That’s left over from the last regime. Habits are hard to break. At the risk of making excuses (which I don’t like to do), there are reasons for the Buccaneers relatively weak performances. I believe they were really counting on Sefarian- and his loss is huge. The other tight ends are average at best. Then Tedlock gets ill and that’s a huge loss, no matter how you spin it. Then you face two teams that when you look on the film you conclude are not going to give you time to throw the ball especially since the offensive line showed itself to be inadequate during the preseason. Thus the conservative game plans. I honestly don’t know about the Cover-2’s relevance in this era, but I do know that Lovie Smith has great credentials as a defensive coach. He’s not stupid. If you knew that McCoy and Foster were going to be hurt and for all practical purposes not play against St. Louis, wouldn’t that have changed your view of the likelihood of a win. Yes, they had a first-time starter as quarterback but our defensive quarterbacks were out. So really and truly, the playing field was even and they just beat us because we didn’t make the plays down the stretch. I just think a lot of the anger–though I understand it–is misplaced or displaced. You can’t judge a season by the first two games. When the schedule came out, I anticipated a 1-4 start. I thought we’d split the first two games and lose all three on the road. It doesn’t get all that much tougher than road games at Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans in succession. I mean, how many teams have three game road trips at any time over the course of the year? Less than 5, I believe. There’s no shame in lowering your expectations. We won 4 games last year. If we win 7 or 8 this year, well in the NFL that’s a big improvement. Six is a modest improvement. Anything else will be a disappointment. Regardless of all the quarterback hype, football still is a game won in the trenches and with turnovers. Carolina and St. Louis won those battles. New Orleans is 0-2 because they lost–to two 4-12 teams no less–the battles in the trenches. Get a beer, sit back, and relax tonight. I expect a highly motivated team that will play their hearts out, though badly beat up.
@mac…my tongue is still orange from all the Koolaid I drank. 4-12 is the dread zone….selecting 6-10th and missing out on the top few guys that could actually turn us around…leading to a never ending cycle of 4-7 win seasons…just tank it and get Mariota and get us out of this mess. @pinkstob: I agree there will be some angry players…probably the yound ones…uh oh, that make us “youngry” again and we know how that ended up.
It all depends on how the ball bounces, maybe the Bucs are due? Any given Thursday? Go Bucs! Do something. Win.
I read all these comments and is pathetic to see fans already firing the staff after two games. It’s a new staff and I think they deserve the chance to get their work together.
BUMS…SPACE PIRATE BUMS…
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