The Buccaneers (4-10) battle the St. Louis Rams (6-8) and are trying to finish the season with a bang. What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s upcoming game?
1. GLENNON MUST COMPLETE A HIGH PERCENTAGE OF PASSESThe Rams pass defense is among the worst in the league and among the worst in NFL history. St. Louis is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 69 percent of their passes, as New Orleans QB Drew Brees did last week. However, the Rams defense made up for it by sacking Brees four times and picking him off twice.
Glennon hasn’t fared well against two of the top pass defenses in recent weeks as he struggled to complete passes against Buffalo and San Francisco. Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan needs to get Glennon into rhythm with short, high completion percentage passes that move the chains, as that is what typically works against the Rams.
By taking what the defense gives Glennon, patience will pay off and when the opportunity to strike with a big pass play presents itself, the rookie quarterback must connect on the deep ball downfield. Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins has been bothered by back pain and could be targeted by Glennon throughout the game. Jenkins only has one interception this season after having four last year as a rookie, including a pick-six in last year’s win at Tampa Bay.
2. HELP PENN BY DOUBLING QUINN
Former first-round pick Robert Quinn may be the best defensive end in football, evidenced by a league-high 15 sacks and an amazing seven forced fumbles. Quinn has proven he can get sacks in bunches, as he has four multiple-sack games this season, including a two-sack effort last week against Drew Brees.
There used to be a time when Tampa Bay left tackle Donald Penn could handle a premier pass rusher one-on-one, but at age 30, those days may have come and gone. With quarterback Mike Glennon not being very mobile, Penn will need help against Quinn in the form of a running back or tight end chipping against the All-Pro-caliber defensive end. The times where Penn must block Quinn in a one-on-one situation must be far and few between for Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.
3. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE CLEMENS, COOKThe loss of quarterback Sam Bradford to a season-ending ACL injury at midseason has been eased by the surprising play of journeyman Kellen Clemens. Clemens completed 14-of-20 passes for 158 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in last week’s upset of New Orleans. St. Louis has won three of its last five games due to the improved play of Clemens, who has thrown six touchdowns and just three interceptions during that span.
With the Rams not having a featured, go-to receiver and spreading the ball around so well, Clemens can be tough to defend without applying pressure. The one target he will look to often against Tampa Bay is Jared Cook, as the Bucs have struggled to defend tight ends this year, evidenced by Vernon Davis’ 52-yard touchdown catch last week against the 49ers. With strong safety Mark Barron listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, the Rams will likely feature Cook, who has 44 catches for 614 yards and four touchdowns, on Sunday.
4. TAKE STACY AWAY FROM RAMS OFFENSEA big reason why Kellen Clemens is having success this season is because his play has been complemented by the ground game led by rookie running back Zac Stacy. The hard-charging play of this 5-foot-8, 224-pound rusher has produced three 100-yard games for the Rams, including a 133-yard, one-touchdown effort on 28 carries (4.8 avg.) against New Orleans.
A fifth-round pick in 2013, Stacy has rushed for 854 yards and six touchdowns on 202 carries (4.2 avg.) during his rookie season. He was held to a season-low 25 yards on 14 carries (1.8 avg.) in a 30-10 loss to Arizona two weeks ago. The fact that the Cardinals offense jumped out to a big lead early in the game also helped its cause against Stacy, and the Bucs offense will have to help its defense out by attempting to do the same thing to take away the balance in St. Louis’ offense.
5. WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLETurnovers are usually vital to winning any game in the NFL, but for teams that have some weaknesses, such as Tampa Bay and St. Louis, having a positive turnover margin is usually the recipe for success. The Rams won the turnover battle against the Saints last week and prevailed in a 27-16 upset. St. Louis quarterback Kellen Clemens didn’t throw an interception, while New Orleans passer Drew Brees was picked off twice.
It took five takeaways and a blocked punt for the Bucs to win their last road game, which was at Detroit, by a narrow margin. The Bucs created five turnovers in Tampa Bay’s 27-6 win over Buffalo, but didn’t record a takeaway in last week’s 33-14 loss to San Francisco. Tampa Bay’s defense will have to be takeover-minded and its offense must play mistake-free football to beat an improving Rams team on the road in St. Louis.
6. SHOW YOU CAN COACH, SCHIANO The Buccaneers have been outcoached and out-schemed at times this year, which has contributed to Tampa Bay’s disappointing 0-8 start and 4-10 record. Head coach Greg Schiano and his coordinators, Mike Sullivan (offense) and Bill Sheridan (defense) have been criticized for not making timely adjustments on both sides of the ball, which has led to the Bucs either losing halftime leads (see losses at Seattle and against Arizona), or opponents pulling away in the second half (see games against Carolina and San Francisco).
St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher is one of the best head coaches in the business, and does as good of a job with adjustments as anyone currently in the league. The Bucs have outscored their opponents 181-162 in the first half, but the second half has been an entirely different, dismal story. Opponents have outscored the Bucs 66-27 in the third quarter and 93-50 in the fourth quarter for a combined second half deficit of 159-77. It’s time for Schiano, Sheridan and Sullivan to get it right after halftime and put points on the board offensively, and get some needed stops in the second half defensively.
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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