The Bucs blew an 11-point lead and committed a season-high 15 penalties for 113 yards in a crushing overtime loss at New Orleans last Sunday. What are the six things PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s upcoming game against Baltimore? Find out right here in SR’s Pick 6.
Who: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Where: Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, Fla.
When: 1:00 p.m. ET – CBS
Last meeting: Bucs lost at Baltimore, 17-10, in 2010
Overall series: Tied at 2-2
1. RUN FOR THE YOUR LIVES, BUCCANEERS
With the exception of Week 2, the Bucs have struggled to run the ball all season long, and the return of starting running back Doug Martin two weeks ago at Pittsburgh has done little to increase the productive of Tampa Bay’s ground game. In three starts this season, Martin has rushed for a paltry 2.5 yards per carry and has yet to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark.
Whether it is Martin or backup Bobby Rainey, who has twice the production Martin does, the Bucs ground game needs to get going against Baltimore to prevent Tampa Bay from being one-dimensional. The Ravens boast the league’s eighth-best defense against the run, averaging 91.4 yards allowed per game, so it won’t be easy. But the offensive line and tight ends must rise to the occasion, and the running backs need to make a guy miss and get creative with some of their runs on Sunday.
2. BUCS MUST NEUTRALIZE NGATA
At 6-foot-4, 340 pounds, Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is a beast against the pass – but not in the way you might expect. Ngata doesn’t have a sack yet this season, but has been a force against opposing quarterbacks by leading Baltimore’s 3-4 defense in passes defensed (six) and interceptions (two). Of course Ngata does most of his damage at the line of scrimmage by getting his long arms up and batting down passes – or picking them off.
Ngata can collapse the pocket, too, and has 23.5 career sacks. The combination of left guard Logan Mankins and left tackle Anthony Collins must keep Ngata at bay and off the back of quarterback Mike Glennon on Sunday. Double teams may be required at times to do just that, but the Bucs then run the risk of putting a tight end like Brandon Myers, Luke Stocker or rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins one-on-one with pass-rushing outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
3. TAMPA BAY’S THIRD DOWN DEFENSE MUST IMPROVE
Tampa Bay’s defense has been abysmal on third down this year, allowing opponents to convert 48 percent. Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy says the team’s goal is to be in the mid-30 percent range. Getting the Ravens into third and long may seem like a sound strategy, but Joe Flacco’s arm coupled with the legs of Torrey Smith and Steve Smith can connect on long passes with ease.
Getting pressure on Flacco is a must. He was sacked just three times prior to last Sunday’s game at Indianapolis and had not been sacked in 91 straight snaps before being taken down four times by the Colts in a 20-13 loss. Left tackle James Hurst is an undrafted free agent and surrendered three of those sacks, which means right defensive end Michael Johnson has the potential for having a big game. The Bucs defense knows the importance of getting off the field on third down after last week’s loss, and will make strides in this area.
4. LOCK IT UP, MIKE
For all intents and purposes, backup quarterback Mike Glennon has played his way into the starting lineup with stellar play and offensive point production. With starter Josh McCown under center, the Bucs scored 31 points through 10 quarters, an average of 12.4 points per game. But in the last 10 quarters under Glennon, the offense has come to life and scored 58 points, an average of 23.2 points per game.
While head coach Lovie Smith has praised Glennon for his play, he has yet to officially name him as the starter while McCown’s thumb is healing. With five touchdown passes and only two interceptions, Glennon can lock up the starting job for good through the bye week with another great outing on Sunday against Baltimore. The Ravens’ strength is in their front seven and their secondary is susceptible to big plays in the passing game. If Glennon has both 6-foot-5 wide receivers Mike Evans (groin) and Vincent Jackson (ribs) at his disposal as expected, the Bucs have a good chance of winning and Glennon has a very good chance of being named the starter for the rest of the season.
5. MURRAY MUST CONTINUE FIELD GOAL MASTERY
The Buccaneers aren’t going to rout the Ravens, which is a team stocked with talent on both sides of the ball. Both of Baltimore’s losses, a Week 1 defeat at Cincinnati and a loss last week at Indianapolis were by only seven points. The chances of this week’s game between Tampa Bay and Baltimore being decided by a touchdown or less – as three of the Bucs’ and Ravens’ games have been decided this year – are quite good.
That means that the leg of kicker Patrick Murray could come into play in deciding the outcome. Since having his initial NFL attempt blocked by St. Louis in Week 2, Murray has made all four of his field goals since and is 4-of-5 on the year (80 percent). Murray made a career-long 55-yard field goal at New Orleans last week and has two kicks of at least 50 yards on the year. The rookie will have to continue to be perfect on field goals this week if Tampa Bay has any chance of winning a close game against an AFC North power like Baltimore. He and the Bucs can’t afford a miss.
6. SPLASH PLAYS MUST CONTINUE
While Tampa Bay didn’t record a sack last week at New Orleans and surrendered 511 yards in a 37-31 overtime loss to the Saints, the Buccaneers did intercept Drew Brees three times, returning one of those picks for a touchdown. In the past three games the Bucs registered six sacks, forced three fumbles, recovered three fumbles and notched four interceptions with strongside linebacker Danny Lansanah returning two of those for TDs. In the first two games of the 2014 campaign the Bucs did not have any splash plays at all.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown three interceptions and fumbled once this year and the Buccaneers defense has to force him and his teammates into turnovers. Mason Foster returns from a three-game absence due to injury this week at middle linebacker and has a history of creating takeaways, which should help Tampa Bay’s defense. Cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks, who is questionable with a neck injury, are not only charged with the responsibility of shutting down Steve Smith, who has 30 catches for 463 yards and three touchdowns in his first year in Baltimore, they are also responsible for generating interceptions as they each did last Sunday in New Orleans.
SR’s Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Ravens 20
MC’s Prediction: Ravens 24, Buccaneers 23
EH’s Prediction: Buccaneers 20 Ravens 16
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 protected]
I see Bucs win 26-23
Flacco is going to tear it up. I hope I am wrong but I am going to call this 35 Ravens 17 Bucs.
I keep giving the Bucs defense too much credit. I missed it by 13 points
If the Bucs running game picks up we win. If not a one dimensional passing game will not beat the Ravens, I don’t believe.
I remember Chris Simms losing his spleen against the Ravens at home years back. I hope the Bucs win, but more importantly I hope they all come out of it with their vital organs! Bucs win, 24 to 17.
Mike Glennon has proven to be as poised and confident and as good as any QB in the league for at least 3/4 of his game… If He continues to improve and we can get something… Anything Please… Out of our running game and if our Defense can play relatively penalty free we can beat anyone in this league… Last game our defense went from catch and tackle ball to being on top of almost every ball thrown… So if they continue to improve as well we may just very well be unstoppable… As long as Glennon is in there this year and both sides of the ball continue to improve I would put my money on the Bucs every week… Go Bucs…
Surferdudes the Panthers ruptured Simms splean not the Ravens. I was at the game.
Yep, it was the Panthers. They were also the team that took out Caddy twice. I’m just looking for improvement week by week These guys are auditioning for jobs for 2015. Playoffs are just a dream. I doubt Tedford would have helped.
Schtick # 1 “Take a Break?: As long as Ngata is sitting in the middle of that defensive line we are not going to be able to dislodge him to try to create a running lane up the gut. But the big guy is going to need to take a few breaks in the Florida heat. That’s when we should run against them. Schtick # 2 “Good to the Last Drop”: Many were critical of the play of Mason Foster ….until we saw Dane Fletcher struggle. With Foster back in the lineup he needs to take the proper drop to defend the deep middle and come up quickly on those short passes that have been converting third downs. Schtick # 3 “Dunk vs Punk”: Can you imagine how it felt for the Panthers fans when that punk Steve Smith (now senior)caught that tipped pass for a TD? That guy has killed us time after time. For some reason, he just intimidates the CB’s trying to defend him and to tell you the truth I miss having Aqib Talib on the team to stand up to him with a little punkery of his own. Our Dunkaneers need to show up big (no pun intended) and match the production of # 89. Schtick # 4 “Kill the Pooch”: I suspected that Koenen was being directed to punt high and short instead of just blasting the ball as far as he could. But that strategy has backfired when the opponent basically gets 10 to 15 yards of field position by just catching the ball. Can we stop doing that? Schtick # 5 “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”: Finally our favorite team is back at Ray Jay. As is the norm, there will be a multitude of fans cheering “Let’s Go Ravens”. Baltimore is the city who lost their team and stole another. Wonder how many cheer for the transplanted Colts. We need to start fast, get a nice lead and keep those purple clad Floridians quiet. Schtick # 6 “No More Hankie Pankie”: Fifteen accepted penalties last week was ridiculously disproportionate when the Saints had only six. The officials seem all too eager to throw a flag so the players need to avoid the silly infractions that just killed our upset effort. No cursing, no somersault into the endzone, no lining up wrong, no offsides, no illegal motions, no blocks in the back and above all no hands to the face. Want to improve the game day experience? Win!
Great points Scu
It’s simply about our DEFENSE. Are we physical enough and can we stop them on 3rd down, if we do, we win. Go Bucs!
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Tampa paper states the Bucs’ defense still trying to learn Lovie’s version of the Tampa 2, & that it generally takes 2 years. Maybe that’s just an excuse for ranking near the bottom of the league, but apparently it took 2 years for Brooks, Sapp & Lynch. I do think they will continue to improve, but Steve Smith seems to have his way with us. Still no running game for the Bucs in the near future. Can Glennon get it done without one?
Yeah if it was the loss to Carolina Simms ruptured his spleen in then it was Baltimore that had made comments after that that Simms whimpered every time they hit him when we played them that season… The Ravens have always been a bunch of murdering cocky pieces of S**t… I wish to God that even though they are murdering US right now that We will somehow find a way to stop the insanity and come back to destroy these idiots…
Only thing this team is destroying is any chance of all the games not being blacked out next year….
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