The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off their first win of the season against the Miami Dolphins and look to build upon this momentum against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 11. Both teams are in the midst of disappointing seasons, but neither has given up and continue to show a good bit of fight.
The Bucs were lucky to emerge from the Miami game with a win. They again played a sloppy second half and gave Miami the ball with time to drive down the field at the end of the game. Only two long overdue sacks from the defensive line saved the day.
However the Bucs should take a few lessons away from their win in Miami that have relevant application to their game with Atlanta this Sunday. Let's see what Tampa needs to do in order nab their second win on the season:
All season the Buccaneers defense has collapsed late and allowed opposing offenses to drive down the field for the game-winning score.
After spending most of the Miami game toiling in irrelevance, the Buccaneers defense finally got through one of the worst offensive lines in the league. The line, led by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, sealed the deal with consecutive sacks of Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Head coach Greg Schiano's defense utilizes a multitude of blitzes and stunts that resulted in 19 sacks this season, good enough to be ranked 26th in the league.
Schiano needs to let his ego go for a second and realize that he has possibly the best defensive tackle in the league in McCoy, who is wasted with ineffective stunts that take him out of far too many plays.
Let McCoy simply attack and watch Matt Ryan run for dear life behind his depleted offensive line.
Over the past two weeks the Buccaneers have rediscovered their running game despite catastrophic injuries to their backfield. With Doug Martin and Mike James out for the season, it falls to Brian Leonard and Bobby Rainey to bear the load for the Bucs' running game.
Fortunately the offensive line has shown significant improvement over the past two weeks. The insertion of Jamon Meredith at left guard galvanized the unit. Guard Davin Joseph appears to be getting some of his old explosiveness back.
Atlanta's run defense is ranked 27th in the NFL and allows 126 yards rushing per game. With the Bucs' running game starting to heat up, it would behoove Schiano to continue pressing the ground game to take advantage of the favorable matchup.
Greg Schiano has already expressed his wish to get the ball more to Vincent Jackson. The Bucs' upcoming matchup with Atlanta gives him the best opportunity to do just that.
Jackson has been quiet over the past two games, catching only five passes for 39 yards. His poor production can be partly attributed to the loss of fellow Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Williams, but Jackson always had more of an effect on Williams' production than vice versa.
Fortunately for Jackson, he matches up favorably against Atlanta. The 6'5" receiver towers over all of the Falcon corners, none of whom are taller than 6'0". During the Bucs' last game with Atlanta, Jackson abused cornerback Asante Samuel and the Falcons with ten catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
As the main offensive weapon in the passing game, Jackson needs the ball to take advantage of the favorable matchups he gets against the Falcons.
Schiano need only make good on his promise.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis is slowly returning to elite form from his ACL surgery last year. His path to recovery has brought into question Greg Schiano's competence in his use of Revis against opposing offenses.
With each passing game more of the old Revis returns, and the Bucs must use the $16 million-a-year corner the way he was meant to be used.
The Bucs are fortunate that Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is out for the season with a foot injury, leaving Roddy White and Harry Douglas to carry most of the load at WR for Atlanta. In the Bucs' last encounter with Atlanta, White sat out with an injury, but Douglas tore the Tampa Bay secondary apart, catching seven passes for 149 yards and a touchdown.
Revis was definitely not covering Douglas that day. Both Falcon receivers are limited by injuries going into Sunday's game. White looks likely to play but Douglas was unable to practice Thursday.
With Douglas injured, Revis needs to stick to White like glue. That will remove the Falcons' best receiver from the passing game, leaving a hobbled Douglas to carry the load.
Penalties have plagued the Bucs since the start of the season. In a number of games, such miscues have been the Bucs' downfall, as when linebacker Lavonte David delivered a late hit on quarterback Geno Smith to extend the New York Jets' game-winning drive in the season opener.
Fewer dumb penalties and the Bucs might have marked the win column a little earlier in the season.
Tampa Bay is the third-most penalized team in the NFL, amassing 74 flags in ten games. The Bucs lead the league in unnecessary roughness calls with ten, an indication of the team's utter lack of discipline.
Against Miami, the Bucs incurred nine penalties, giving Miami first downs or stalling drives for the Bucs' offense. Tampa Bay can no longer afford to give away yards to opposing teams.
The Bucs' last matchup with the Falcons was marred by penalties on both sides. Division games tend to be pretty chippy, but given the Bucs issues with penalties this season, they will need to rein themselves in if they hope to win against Atlanta.