The Buccaneers are coming off a bye week and are looking to get their first home win over a struggling Minnesota Vikings team with a 2-5 record and a rookie quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. 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 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Where: Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, Fla.
When: 1:00 p.m. ET – FOX
Last meeting: Bucs won at Vikings, 36-17, in 2012
Series notes: Bucs have won last six meetings
1. THROW THE KITCHEN SINK AT BRIDGEWATER
Minnesota comes to town starting its second-round draft pick, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Like most rookie QBs, Bridgewater has struggled during in his first NFL season, evidenced by five interceptions and just one touchdown pass. For as mobile as he is, Bridgewater has also been sacked 15 times in four starts, including 13 times in the past two games. Detroit sacked Bridgewater eight times two weeks ago, and Buffalo sacked him five times last Sunday.
The Vikings offensive line has been a sieve and the Buccaneers defense hasn’t recorded a sack in two weeks. Something has got to give, and if Tampa Bay has any plans on winning on Sunday, it better be prepared to send a myriad of blitzes after Bridgewater to sack him or confuse him into throwing picks. The Bucs’ game plan starts with pressuring the rookie quarterback into making mistakes.
2. VIKINGS’ GROUND GAME MUST COME TO A HALT
The good news for Tampa Bay is that Adrian Peterson remains suspended and won’t be suiting up in purple on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. The bad news is that rookie Jerick McKinnon has rushed for 309 yards and a 5.2 avg., while Matt Asiata has gained 250 yards on the ground and has scored three touchdowns. Even without Peterson the Vikings’ ground game is alive and well thanks to the efforts of Minnesota’s massive offensive line.
Tampa Bay’s defense is surrendering 128.3 yards per game on the ground and has not done a good job of stopping the run this year. The Bucs defense is an undersized unit that relies on speed and quickness rather than size to beat opponents. Tampa Bay defenders must do a good job of slipping blocks and penetrating the backfield to stop McKinnon and Asiata before they get started.
3. BUCCANEERS MUST WIN THE FIRST QUARTER
No quarter has been more atrocious to Tampa Bay than the first quarter. To say the Bucs have gotten off to a slow start in games would be an understatement. Note that Joe Flacco’s four touchdown passes had Baltimore up 28-0 at the end of the first quarter of Tampa Bay’s last game. In 2014, the Bucs have been ambushed by a combined score of 72-17 in the first 15 minutes.
It’s no coincidence that Tampa Bay’s lone win came in a game in which it took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. That happened at Pittsburgh when a sack-strip by defensive end Michael Johnson led to a touchdown pass from Mike Glennon to Mike Evans. The Bucs need to start faster in the first quarter, and Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said that he would consider putting his offense out first if he won the coin toss rather than his usual method of deferring to the second half and putting the defense on the field first.
4. BUCS MUST MAKE BIG PLAYS ON DEFENSE
Tampa Bay’s defense recorded a season-high five sacks and two forced fumbles at Pittsburgh in a close road win. The defense recorded a season-high three interceptions, including a pick-six, in a narrow road defeat at New Orleans the next week. But in the blowout loss to Baltimore, the Buccaneers defense just didn’t show up in the big-play department at all. No sacks, no interceptions, no forced fumbles – nothing.
Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said he didn’t believe it was a lack of physical play that was hurting the defense, rather it was a lack of playmaking. The return of starting cornerback Johnthan Banks and safety Dashon Goldson should help. Both have the ability to create turnovers and need to do so to help Tampa Bay’s chances of winning.
5. KEEP GRIFFEN OFF GLENNON
New Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer tried to sign defensive end Michael Johnson before he opted to sign with Tampa Bay. Instead, the Vikings re-signed Everson Griffen to a five-year, $42.5-million contract and he has rewarded the team with seven sacks this season, which is tied for second in the NFL and one shy of his career-high eight that he had in 2012.
Griffen has moved from left end to right end to replace Jared Allen, who departed to Chicago via free agency, and has thrived. He will be a big challenge for Bucs left tackle Anthony Collins, who has struggled with surrendering pressures and sacks and penalties. Collins’ five penalties this year are tied for the lead in Tampa Bay this year. He will have quite a challenge keeping Griffen off Mike Glennon’s back on Sunday.
6. BUCS NEED IMMEDIATE DIVIDENS ON HOLLIDAY’S RETURNS
In an effort to boost it’s mediocre return game, Tampa Bay signed veteran return specialist Trindon Holliday this week to replace rookie Solomon Patton. Holliday has returned three punts and three kickoffs for touchdowns in the NFL and also has a punt return and a kickoff return for a score in the postseason. While Patton wasn’t careless with the football – Holliday has a tendency to fumble – his runs weren’t spectacular.
The Bucs are hoping that Holliday’s hamstring is healed up to the point where he can be at full speed and inject some life into Tampa Bay’s return game and help the offense with good starting field position. There’s no time like the present as the team has looked lifeless at times this year and the Bucs desperately need a win on Sunday against the Vikings.
SR’s Prediction: Buccaneers 27, Vikings 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 protected]
Turn loose the hounds of hell. Turn’em loose! Meow! Meow! Come on man. Don’t start that stuff again!
In a sober moment, Bucs win, Bucs win! 38- 21
Go Bucs! The game is a toss up. Special Teams will make or break the difference! Bucs 23-20.
Just read that McCoy signed a 7 year contract with Bucs thru 2021. Go Bucs!
Vikings win 21-14
They should win this game but not getting my hopes up.
If McCoy sparks the Defense and Sims opens holes for himself for a decent running game and Josh gets the start and starts off fast, the Bucs will take this one. Better put a blocking TE on the left to chip the Vikes’ hot DE too. Another great article, Scott!
At least this game against the Vikings is at home and we don’t have to hear that stupid horn on TV. I know this much; it can’t be as bad as the Ravens game when busloads of crow fans perched at our stadium. It’s time we have at least some semblance of a home crowd. It’s time that we aren’t behind on the scoreboard from the start of the game. It’s time we stop being a vacation destination for the opponent’s fans. It’s time for the players to stop cowering in the face of adversity and show a little Popeye “It’s all I can stand cause I can’t stand no more” attitude. It’s time our high-priced free agent signees start earning their paychecks. It’s time to showcase the Dunkaneers. It’s time for Scubog to actually want to watch the rest of the days games when I return home after a victory. Go Bucs!
Well said Scu, it’s time to put up. Have fun at the game.
Glad I didn’t go to the game or get to hopeful of winning today. Figured buc’s would find a way to blow this one chance to get back on track at home. This is the worst team I’ve seen in over 25 years as Buc’s fan. Banks was horrible today and dropped the int. that could have won it for us and avoided OT. Very disappointing to say the least despite having feeling they wouldn’t do it.
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