The 2-10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are trying to bounce back from a heartbreaking, 14-13 home loss to Cincinnati with a road upset at Detroit. 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 Detroit Lions Where: Ford Field – Detroit, Mich. When: 1:00 p.m. ET – FOX Last meeting: 24-21 win at Detroit last year Series notes: Lions have a 29-26 advantage over the Bucs all-time
1. DON’T TRY TO ESTABLISH THE RUN, ARROYO
The Buccaneers made the mistake of trying to do something last week against the Bengals that they haven’t been able to do all season, which is to establish the running game. It worked for a half until Cincinnati made some halftime adjustments that held Tampa Bay to just six yards rushing on 10 carries in the second half. By the fourth quarter, the Bucs passing game hadn’t got warmed up and into rhythm yet and Tampa Bay’s offense failed to generate at least 300 yards of total offense for the first time in a month as a result.
If offensive play-caller Marcus Arroyo tries to establish the running game against Ndamukong Suh and the Lions’ top-ranked rushing defense, which is allowing an average of just 65.9 yards per game, the Bucs will have no chance at winning. The Bucs’ best way of moving the ball is to spread the Lions out with three- and four-wide receiver sets and use the passing game to set up the run and only run the ball to keep Detroit honest. Advantage: Lions
2. FEED EVANS THE BALL EARLY AND OFTEN
The Bucs have gotten away feeding the ball to rookie sensation Mike Evans early in games to get him going. Although he has still had the same number of passes thrown his way in each of the last two games (11 times against Bears and nine times against the Bengals), Evans has only caught three passes for 47 yards and a touchdown at Chicago and four passes for 49 yards against Cincinnati, but one of those receptions was the last play of the game.
Evans has established himself as the most potent weapon on offense for Tampa Bay and what’s important is his production. When he has been at his best, which was a three-game stretch in which he averaged 152.7 yards game, Evans helped the Bucs’ offense produce in excess of 320 yards per contest. It is important to get Evans going early in the first quarter to help Tampa Bay move the ball and quiet Detroit’s home crowd. Advantage: Buccaneers
3. BUCS SHOULD BE WARY OF BUSH
Lions running back Reggie Bush has missed three game with an ankle injury, but is expected to return on Sunday against the Buccaneers. Detroit is hoping his return boosts the league’s 30th-ranked rushing attack, which averages just 81.7 yards per game. Joique Bell is a quality back that has rushed for 581 yards and five touchdowns this season as the leading rusher for Detroit, but Bush brings the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, too, and Tampa Bay has been susceptible to screen passes this year.
The Bucs have done a better job against the run since the bye week and have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher since Baltimore’s Justin Forsett ran for 111 yards and a 7.9-yard average. Atlanta’s Steven Jackson ran for 81 yards and a touchdown with a 5.1-yard average against Tampa Bay in Week 10 and Washington’s Alfred Morris ran for 96 and 4.8 yards per carry versus the team in Week 11, so the Bucs haven’t been dominant against the run. But in order for Tampa Bay to have a chance at pulling an upset in Detroit, it cannot allow Bell or Bush to eclipse 100 yards on the ground, nor can it allow the Lions to rush for 100 yards as a team. Advantage: Buccaneers
4. TAMPA BAY’S CBs MUST CONTINUE TO RISE TO THE OCCASION
Tampa Bay’s pass rush-pass coverage combination has been clicking since the bye week and the secondary has done a much better job of covering some of the league’s best receivers as a result. Despite the likes of facing DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, A.J. Green and Mohamad Sanu over the past three weeks, Tampa Bay has not allowed a receiver to eclipse 100 yards, and has allowed just two passing touchdowns to receivers in the past three games.
Cornerbacks Johnthan Banks, Alterraun Verner and Brandon Dixon each recorded an interception in last week’s 14-13 loss to Cincinnati and have played very well over the past month. The same is true for nickel cornerback Isaiah Frey, who has played better than Leonard Johnson. The Bucs have a big challenge – pun intended – in defending Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, who actually leads the team with 80 catches for 1,136 yards and three touchdowns. Banks defended Johnson well last year and recorded the game-clinching interception as a rookie. He’ll need to play that well again for the Bucs to have a chance to getting their third road win of the season. Advantage: Lions
5. TAKE AWAY THE LIONS TIGHT ENDS
The Buccaneers need to get pressure on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has been sacked 35 times this year and thrown 10 interceptions. Tampa Bay has done a good job of getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks with 11 sacks in the last three games, in addition to recording five interceptions over that span. When Stafford is pressured, he looks to the tight end position as his safety net.
Veteran Brandon Pettigrew has hurt the Bucs in years past, and has 10 catches for 70 yards. Rookie Eric Ebron, the team’s first-round pick, has 19 catches for 171 yards and one touchdown. Second-year player Joseph Fauria has four catches for 57 yards and is a red zone matchup problem at 6-foot-7. The Bucs have struggled to cover the tight end position this year, so linebackers Mason Foster and Danny Lansanah need to step up, as do safeties Bradley McDougald and Dashon Goldson. Advantage: Lions
6. BUCS MUST STOP BEATING THE BUCS
Tampa Bay play-caller Marcus Aroyo said it best this week when he said, “The Bucs can’t beat the Bucs” when he was talking about the team’s season-long penchant for ill-timed penalties. Tampa Bay had 13 penalties for 94 yards last week in a 14-13 loss to Cincinnati, including two penalties for 15 yards on the final drive that negated a 21-yard reception that had the Bucs within optimal field goal range.
The Buccaneers won the turnover battle 3:1 against the Bengals, yet were unable to prevail due to the staggering number of penalties. Tampa Bay was actually flagged 16 times, but had three penalties declined. The Bucs are tied for having the most penalties in the NFL with 102 for 807 yards this year, and it’s mostly the offense’s fault (https://www.pewterreport.com/articles/srs-fab-5-lack-of-accountability-hurts-bucs-tampa-bay-could-go-winless-at-home/). In order for Tampa Bay to have a decent chance of winning, the Bucs need to have a more manageable penalty total – like five – on Sunday for a change. Advantage: Lions
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
PewterReport.com prides itself on being the most complete, comprehensive news source covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and delivering inside scoop on the team found nowhere else.