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Buccaneers vs. Cowboys: 5 Keys to the Game for Tampa Bay

Caleb AbnerContributor IIIDecember 28, 2014

Buccaneers vs. Cowboys: 5 Keys to the Game for Tampa Bay

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    Week 1: Win

    Week 2: Loss

    Amazingly, the above description works for both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys, who are opponents in the third week of NFL action.

    So for both teams, this matchup will decide if they go into Week 4 with a winning record or a losing record with positive or negative momentum. 

    Let's look at the five keys to the game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Keep the Ball in the Air

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    Last week, the Bucs averaged 7.9 yards per pass and 3.8 yards per rush against the Giants. Josh Freeman did throw for two interceptions, but one of them was a desperation toss on the final drive, hastily launched into the air as the clock was winding down.

    In short, Freeman really only threw for one interception in actual game time, and the pass offense is far more efficient than the rushing offense.

    Why shouldn't the Bucs pass more?

    The NFL is a passing league, and the Bucs have the weapons to pass (i.e. Vincent Jackson, V-Jax, Vinny Jack, etc.. ). Josh Freeman has a strong arm and an even stronger desire to win football games.

    And if the coaches are concerned about weakening the run game, they should take into account that if the opposing defense has to go into packages with more defensive backs than defensive linemen, then running the ball will become much easier.

    So to answer my own question, there is no real reason why the Bucs shouldn't pass more.

Stay Aggressive

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    While the last slide was about passing more, this one is about running less. 

    By running less, I am referring to the second half when the team has the lead. In the third quarter, Tampa has run 16 times and passed just seven. 

    Since the offense become predictable in the third quarter, the opposing defenses have an easier time stopping it.

    The rationale for running the football when you have the lead is that it "runs" time off the clock, but because the drives are shorted as the defense gets the stops earlier, it would be better pass the ball and keep the drives alive.

    Once the Bucs decide to keep trying to score, no matter what their lead, they'll have an easier time maintaining their leads.

No More Stunts

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    Keep it simple, stupid.

    In New York, the Buccaneers had an absolutely miserable game rushing the passer, failing to record a single sack.

    This may be because of the coaches' efforts that bolster the pass rush.  To confuse the Giant offensive line, defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan called a variety of blitzes and stunts.

    Still, the Bucs struggled to pressure Eli Manning on a consistent basis.

    Sheridan himself has acknowledged how the stunts and blitzes may have actually hurt the pass rush.

    "Some of the things we could've done to help our defensive linemen out was to have given them an opportunity to be more conventional, straight rush," Sheridan said. "I think they probably felt they would've had more success." (TampaBay.com)

    If the Bucs just let the D-linemen do their jobs—no stunts, no gimmicks—they'll have far greater success than they did against the Giants. 

Be Ready for the Pass on First Downs

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    So far this season, Tony Romo has performed extremely well on first downs. On first down alone, he has passed 29 times, thrown for 208, completed 65.5 percent of passes and has a passer rating of 109.6.

    Meanwhile, the Cowboys only have 59 rushing yards on 20 first-down attempts.

    If Dallas head coach Jason Garrett is smart, he'll let Romo throw more early. 

    And if the Bucs are smart, they'll anticipate Romo throwing more early.

Show Up Angry

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    See that mohawk?

    Imagine how much more terrifying it will be once Freeman gets angry.

    And he has every right to be angry.

    His defense gave up 510 yards and three touchdowns to the golden arm of Eli Manning, numbers that make it seem like they were trying to help Manning's owners in fantasy fantasy. 

    Come angry, just like the Giants did during the second half of that game. 

    And don't come prepared to lose.

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