Atlanta vs. Tampa Bay: 5 Battles Buccaneers Must Win to Defeat Falcons
Both teams struggled tremendously during their Week 1 losses and both teams rallied last week en route to victories.
Both teams have franchise quarterbacks capable of taking over a game at anytime, and both have defenses that rank in the lower quarter of the NFL.
What can the Buccaneers do to set themselves apart from the Falcons and prove victorious on Sunday?
Here are five battles Tampa Bay must dominate in order to defeat Atlanta...
Curtis Lofton vs. LeGarrette Blount
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According to JoeBucsFan.com, Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton has started the trash talking between the two NFC South rivals.
During his weekly radio show, Lofton came after Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount, “I want all of him. I don’t want no piece. I want the whole thing."
Neither Blount nor the Bucs have responded, but you can almost guarantee the feeling is mutual in the Tampa Bay locker room.
It's no secret the Bucs have to get Blount going early in order to win on Sunday. Considering Tampa Bay has struggled to come out of the gates in the first half of both its games, look for the Bucs to run Blount and keep Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan on the sidelines.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olsen made the right decision by continuing to run the football against the Vikings last week, even though the Buccaneers were playing from behind. Tampa Bay's offense is predicated on the play-action fake and without a semblance of a run game to keep Atlanta's defense honest, this could be a long one for the Buccaneers.
Roddy White vs. Aqib Talib
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Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib receives the privilege of having to blanket the Falcons' top wide receiver, Roddy White.
White hasn't been much of a factor this season for Atlanta, posting 11 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.
He was held to three catches for 23 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles. Talib can't allow this to be White's breakout party.
The Buccaneers' secondary has been weak, and this is the perfect opportunity for White to get going.
Talib's job is to keep that from happening.
Ray Edwards vs. Jeremy Trueblood
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The Falcons might have gambled a bit signing free-agent defensive end Ray Edwards.
Edwards saw success his last two seasons with the Vikings, but it's more attributed to who was around him rather than what Edwards did.
While with the Vikings, Edwards had two monster defensive tackles in Kevin and Pat Williams line up with him, and the always eccentric Jared Allen on the other side. With that kind of talent, it's no wonder Edwards had the kind of success he had.
Buccaneers right tackle Jeremy Trueblood has to contain Edwards and physically overpower him. Edwards is playing on a bad foot and his confidence is dwindling, having done very little in the Falcons' two games this season.
Trueblood needs to boost his own confidence by burying him early and making Edwards a non-factor.
Tony Gonzalez vs. Mason Foster
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With Quincy Black being benched—errrrr...nursing an ankle injury, Buccaneers middle linebacker Mason Foster will stay in on nickel situations.
This matchup does not favor the Bucs, as Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is a savvy vet who is intelligent and crafty enough to make any middle linebacker look bad, let alone a rookie.
Safeties Sean Jones and Cody Grimm have to keep an eye on Foster and help him with the deep middle. On top of that, they also have to carry out their responsibilities.
There's no way around this battle, and Ryan will expose the rookie with Gonzalez. Hopefully, Foster spent more time in the film room this week.
Falcons' Offensive Line vs. Tampa Bay's Pass Rush
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Something has to give with this matchup.
The Falcons are 30th in sacks allowed—getting Ryan killed nine times this season.
The Buccaneers are tied for 28th in sacks—only getting to the quarterback twice this season.
This is the battle everyone has to keep the closest eye on. This will determine the ball game.
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The Buccaneers have played a boring, stale brand of football for six of the eight quarters they've been involved in this season.
The Falcons' coaching staff isn't as dense as the Vikings. Tampa Bay will get a heavy dose of Atlanta running back Michael Turner anyway, but if the Bucs fall behind early, the Falcons won't stop running.
Falcons 27, Bucs 17