The Buccaneers (0-7) travel to Seattle in search of their first win of the season and will face a stout Seahawks team (7-1) that is dangerous at home. What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s Week 9 game?
1. GREAT PASS PROTECTIONThe crowd noise at CenturyLink Field is among the loudest stadiums in the NFL – so much so that the Seahawks fans are dubbed “The 12th Man.” The effect a loud crowd can have on an offense is tremendous, but the biggest factor is disrupting the offensive line blocking. In a frenzied, hostile environment, offensive linemen can try to anticipate the snap and jump offsides, causing a 5-yard penalty.
But even more dangerous is an offensive lineman getting off the ball late and allowing a defensive lineman to get a jump on his pass rush. That can result in quarterback Mike Glennon getting early pressure before routes are developed and before he has time to go through his progressions, getting sacked, or throwing an errant pass that gets picked off.
In order for Tampa Bay to have a chance to win at Seattle, the offensive line has to get off the ball on time and keep Glennon off the ground. That could be a tall order given the plethora of pass rushers that the Seahawks have, headlined by former Buccaneer defensive end Michael Bennett.
2. MAKE GOOD USE OF SECONDARY RECEIVERS Seattle has two premier cornerbacks in Pro Bowler Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. Sherman is 6-foot-3 and Browner is 6-foot-4. Both have the size to match up with Tampa Bay’s wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who stands 6-foot-5 and the ability to limit his production.
While Jackson is the best playmaker on the Bucs offense, Glennon will have to pick and choose his spots wisely to get the ball to his Pro Bowl receiver, who will be tightly covered, and be sure not to force throws. That means that secondary receivers like Tiquan Underwood, Eric Page, Skye Dawson and tight ends Tim Wright and Tom Crabtree need to do their job and get open for Glennon and move the chains once they have the ball.
Seattle’s secondary is uber-talented, but a diverse targeted philosophy is the best way to attack it and pick up first downs. If Glennon can spread the ball around it will reduce the chances of throwing interceptions and increase the chances of getting Jackson open.
3. THE DEFENSE MUST CONTAIN WILSONTampa Bay didn’t do a great job of containing Carolina quarterback Cam Newton in last week’s 31-13 loss on Thursday Night Football. Newton was able to scramble for a season-high 50 yards on 11 carries (4.5 avg.) and one touchdown due to the Bucs defensive line failing to contain the edge. Newton had a season-long 19-yard scramble after the Bucs lost contain, and he also scrambled for a 6-yard touchdown in the first half.
Newton has rushed for 229 yards and three touchdowns on 50 carries (4.6 avg.) this year, and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, whom the Bucs will be facing on Sunday, is just as dangerous of a runner. Through eight games, Wilson has carried the ball 61 times for 339 yards (5.6 avg.), while picking up 19 first downs.
His longest scramble of the year has been a 25-yard jaunt against Houston in which he rushed for 77 yards on 10 carries (7.7 avg.) in a thrilling 23-20 overtime victory on the road. The next week, Wilson rushed for 102 yards on 13 carries (7.8 avg.) in a narrow loss against Indianapolis. Wilson is quick and fast and must be contained in order to avoid breakout runs.
4. CONVERT ON THIRD DOWNS OFFENSIVELYOne way to limit the Seattle offense is to keep them off the field as much as you can. The most effective way to do that is to strike a good balance between the run and the pass, putting the offense in manageable third downs.
If quarterback Mike Glennon is throwing the ball 50 times this week, the chances of winning is slim to none. Last week against the Panthers Mike James carried the ball just 10 times and head coach Greg Schiano said this week that getting away from the run was a mistake by the offense, something they need to avoid repeating against the Seahawks.
In a noisy environment like CenturyLink will offer on Sunday, the best way to get the crowd out of the game will be staying out of third-and-longs and converting on third down, keeping the chains moving and the Seahawks fans – and defense – frustrated. Tampa Bay has managed to only convert 36 percent of third downs so far in 2013 and need to see that number rise to near 50 percent in Seattle to give them the best chance to keep the game low scoring and come home with a win.
5. MANUFACTURE A TOUCHDOWNTampa Bay’s offense has struggled scoring touchdowns all season, and has just one rushing score, which came in Week 1. The team’s highest output has been just 23 points, which came on the road against Atlanta three weeks ago – and that was with running back Doug Martin and wide receiver Mike Williams. Martin suffered a shoulder injury in that game and is out for Sunday’s game, while Williams is out for the year.
With a rookie quarterback in Glennon, and without Martin and Williams, the Bucs offense lacks a dynamic quality to it, and that hurts in point production. In order for Tampa Bay to put more than 23 points on the board and having a chance to win in Seattle, the Bucs will have to manufacture some points unconventionally. Maybe that comes from a defensive score, such as a pick-six, a scoop and score on a fumble recovery or a safety. Or perhaps it comes on special teams with a punt return or a kick return for a touchdown by Eric Page, or a touchdown off a blocked punt.
6. FOLLOW THE FIRST RULE OF FOOTBALLThe first rule of football is “Don’t beat yourself.” It’s hard enough to play on the road in a very loud, disruptive environment like Seattle. It’s hard enough for Tampa Bay’s offense to face what might be the best secondary in football and a tremendous group of pass rushers. It’s hard enough for the Bucs defense to face a very physical running back and a dynamic quarterback that can make plays with his legs or his arm. Tampa Bay isn’t good enough to beat Seattle if it plays a role in beating itself.
The Bucs have to limit their own mistakes. That means cutting their penalty numbers in half. Tampa Bay is averaging eight penalties for 76 yards per game, and that’s simply too high. The Bucs also need to avoid turnovers at all costs and be at least plus-2 in the turnover margin to beat a Super Bowl contender on the road.
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]
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