Carolina’s Cam Newton could find no phone booth last Sunday to change into Superman, as Tampa Bay seemed prepared with Kryptonite shoulder pads in its 16-10 win.
But what will the Buccaneers use in an effort to beat the New York Giants?
It’s going to be decidedly tougher to take down the Giants. Not only will Tampa Bay be traveling to MetLife Stadium into hostile territory, but when New York steps onto the field Sunday the team will have had 10 days to prepare for the Buccaneers.
To overcome these obstacles and beat the Giants, here are three suggestions for Tampa Bay’s game plan.
Push the Run Game
Rookie running back Doug Martin averaged four yards per carry on his way to a 95-yard performance against the Panthers. D.J. Ware and LeGarrette Blount added 22 more yards as the Buccaneers bruised along to the tune of 130 yards on the ground.
The Giants finished 19th last year in run defense, giving up an average of just over 121 yards per game. Last week, they were even worse, allowing the Dallas Cowboys 143 yards rushing.
DeMarco Murray averaged 6.6 yards per carry and gained 131 yards against the G-men, and Tampa Bay will need to do the same kind of damage to be in the game at the end.
The Bucs got good news Wednesday when Blount found out that the injury that forced him from Sunday’s game was a pinched nerve. He returned to practice Thursday and has a decent shot at playing in New York.
Tampa Bay needs the one-two punch of Martin and Blount.
Get Pressure on Eli
Talk all you want about the fantastic rookie season Cam Newton had last year. Know though, Eli Manning is a better quarterback.
The Buccaneers gave up 303 yards through the air to Newton and 93 of those were on big plays of 20 yards or more.
Manning only notched one play of 20 yards or more last week, but last season no quarterback in the NFL that took at least 60 percent of his team's snaps attempted more deep passes than Manning, and he was successful too, with 12 touchdowns and 1,490 yards on big plays, according to Pro Football Focus ($$).
Tampa Bay will need to stop those big plays from happening Sunday, and the first step towards that goal is pressure on the quarterback.
Both defensive end Michael Bennett and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had a sack on Newton last week, Bennett added a quarterback hurry and McCoy two. They’ll need to continue getting to the quarterback in New York, but a quality pass rush won’t be enough.
Manning was 6-for-12 last week when under pressure, he can definitely take the heat of a good pass rush. Tampa Bay’s secondary will have to hold strong when Manning evades the front four.
Keep Josh Freeman Clean
With Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants have one of the most feared pass-rushing attacks in the NFL.
Simply put, left tackle Donald Penn called the trio “freaks” in a Tampa Bay Times article.
Somehow, the Tampa Bay offensive line is going to have to slow Umenyiora, Tuck and Pierre-Paul down. That’s no small task.
In 28 dropbacks, Josh Freeman was pressured 13 times. He took two sacks but completed 5 of 9 passes. But the Panthers' pass rush isn’t anywhere close to what the Giants can bring. And now Freeman’s offensive line may not be in tact Sunday.
Starting right tackle Jeremy Trueblood injured his ankle in practice Wednesday and had to sit out Thursday. According to the Tampa Bay Times, it’s unclear whether or not Trueblood will be able to suit up.
As if Trueblood’s injury wasn’t enough, right guard Carl Nicks has a banged up big toe, and head coach Greg Schiano is hopeful Nicks will be able to play. The offseason acquisition at guard has been limited in practice both days this week.
If the Giants' pass rush gets to Freeman a lot Sunday, it could turn Tampa Bay’s offense one-dimensional. Schiano is a pounding ground attack guy anyway, but having only one successful mode of attack is never a good way to beat the defending Super Bowl champs.