The Buccaneers (0-5) travel to Atlanta in search of their first win of the season and will face an injury-riddled Falcons team (1-4) that will be playing without WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White, RB Steven Jackson and OT Sam Baker. What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s Week 6 game?
1. PRESSURE AND HIT RYANTampa Bay was able to pull off a 22-17 upset in Week 17 last year because the Bucs pressured quarterback Matt Ryan early and often. Weakside linebacker Lavonte David and defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim each recorded sacks for the Buccaneers, and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was in Ryan’s face all day. The Falcons quarterback came into that contest completing 69 percent of his passes, but was held to 63.6 percent (28-of-44) that day, and limited to just 238 yards and one touchdown by Tampa Bay’s defense.
Atlanta’s offensive line has been shaky this season, and will be without left tackle Sam Baker, who is out due to an injury. Once again, Ryan is completing 69.3 percent of his passes, completing 151-of-218 passes for 1,649 yards with 10 touchdowns and just three picks, and needs to be pressured by the Buccaneers.
With the exception of last week, Tampa Bay’s secondary has shown great improvement in pass coverage. Without wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White to throw to, Ryan may be holding onto the ball a second longer than usual if the Bucs defensive backs can clamp down on their replacements and tight end Tony Gonzalez. That’s when defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Te’o-Nesheim need to hit and sack Ryan.
2. WIN THE FIRST QUARTER IN THE GEORGIA DOME The Falcons have outscored teams 34-3 in the first quarter this season, including a 17-3 mark in three games at home this season. The Buccaneers will have to remain poised through the first quarter and get the lead to help quiet the noisy Georgia Dome. The good news is that Tampa Bay has edged its opponents 27-19 in the first quarter, which is the only quarter it has outscored its foes.
If the Bucs can weather the storm in the first quarter and gain a lead, chances are the team will be able to put up some points in the second quarter, as the Falcons have been outscored 50-30 in that quarter this year. Atlanta has also had trouble in the fourth quarter, especially on defense as the team has been outscored 51-37. Tampa Bay’s fourth quarter has been slightly worse, as the Bucs have been outscored 35-13.
3. GLENNON NEEDS TO AVOID SAMUELThere’s a good chance that Falcons veteran cornerback Asante Samuel will be covering wide receiver Vincent Jackson on Sunday, so that means that Bucs rookie quarterback Mike Glennon needs to look towards wide receiver Mike Williams and tight end Tim Wright more often on Sunday. While Jackson is Tampa Bay’s best receiver, Glennon threw two fourth quarter interceptions to Patrick Peterson, Arizona’s best cornerback, while targeting Jackson too much in a 13-10 loss to the Cardinals.
Samuel doesn’t have a pick this season, but will love his chances going against a rookie. Last year, Samuel had five picks in 2012, including one against the Bucs in Week 11, and he returned one interception for a touchdown last year. The 32-year Samuel is in his 11th NFL season and has 50 career interceptions with six defensive touchdowns.
“Asante Samuel’s a dangerous player,” said Bucs head coach Greg Schiano. “He’s a guy who can take the ball away, and we’ve got to be careful there. We’ve got to make sure that we’re not careless, at all, around him because he’s done it to everybody, and guys who have coached against him that are on our staff said, “Yeah, I remember this one, he got us at this place.” When enough guys that have been around keep saying, ‘He got us, he got us, he got us’ and then I can stand up and say, ‘Yeah, he got us, too,’ and that’s enough.”
4. PENN MUST SHUT OUT UMENYIORAThe Falcons let aging defensive end John Abraham go this past offseason, and replaced him with former New York Giants sackmaster Osi Umenyiora. Atlanta’s star defensive end has recorded four sacks in the first five games of the season and has made an instant impact.
“Osi’s got four sacks,” Schiano said. “He’s bringing it – and violent sacks too – off the back end. He’s bringing it.”
Bucs left tackle Donald Penn needs to play his best football this Sunday and protect rookie quarterback Mike Glennon’s blindside. Glennon is a pocket passer with limited mobility, and Penn, who has surrendered four sacks in five games this year, needs to block out the crowd noise, get off the ball quickly and keep Umenyiora off his quarterback’s back.
5. BARRON NEEDS TO REBOUND After a hot start to the 2013 season, Bucs strong safety Mark Barron may have played his worst game of the season in last week’s 31-20 loss to Philadelphia. Barron was out of position on both of DeSean Jackson’s touchdown catches last week played a role in costing Tampa Bay 14 points on defense.
Barron had a great game the last time he played the Falcons, notching two pass breakups, including one on fourth down on Atlanta’s last play when he swatted a ball that was intended for tight end Tony Gonzalez. With Jones and White out, Ryan will be targeting Gonzalez quite often on Sunday and Barron needs to rebound and have another solid performance against the future Hall of Famer.
6. LINDELL MUST BE PERFECT IN ATLANTAThe Buccaneers are 3-8 in games decided by a touchdown or less under Schiano. To make matters worse, Tampa Bay is 0-6 under Schiano in contests decided by three points or less. However, one of the close wins came last year when the Bucs upset the Falcons, 22-17, in Week 17, after losing the first meeting at Raymond James Stadium, 24-23.
New kicker Rian Lindell started the season luke warm for the Buccaneers, connecting on just two of his first four field goals. But since missing a field goal at New England, Lindell has hit on his last four kicks, including a 50-yarder against Arizona, and is now 5-of-7, which is 71.4 percent. With Sunday’s game expected to be a close contest like last year’s, the 36-year old Lindell needs to remain perfect and hit on all of his kicks when given the opportunity in order to give the Bucs the best chance of winning.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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