As the Buccaneers season garners disappointment after disappointment, this matchup could not be more dreaded. On the one hand, maybe the Buccaneers have a chance at redemption against the Falcons, who blew out the Buccaneers week 3 on national television. On the other hand, that game was the stuff nightmares are made of. The chance that we will be blown out in a similar fashion is very real. However, the Falcons have lost every game since week 3 and no longer seem as infallible as they once were.
Buccaneers Offense against Falcons Defense
The Falcons defense is looking extremely anemic as the season has progressed. They give up a lot of big plays, having allowed the third most plays of 40+ yards in the league. Their defense, like ours, is susceptible to trick plays that put defenders out of position. Should we choose to employ this tactic (doubtful), we could gain chunk yardage and drive down the field. Baltimore sustained drive after drive during their week 7 matchup with the Falcons, where they beat Atlanta 7-29. Pre-injury, QB Josh McCown (#12) and our offense ranked dead last in trick plays attempted. Since his injury the offense has incorporated more trick plays into its play calling repertoire, the sad execution of which makes it unlikely this strategy will be successful even with our “starter” back in the reins.
Atlanta’s secondary is almost as bad as ours. However, they are opportunistic, so they’ve got them going for them. McCown absolutely cannot get happy feet and throw the ball away like he did in our last matchup with Atlanta, because bad or not, this defense can and will capitalize on it. And happy feet are even more likely given that McCown was injured in the last matchup against Atlanta (plus that’s just how he rolls). Our receivers should have some success provided they have been cured of the case of the drops that has ailed the corps all season.
Our offensive line looked much better last week against Cleveland, even rolling out to do some run blocking. There is a chance the unit will be able to withstand Atlanta’s passive defensive line.
Overall, this defense’s tackling is about on-par with ours so given everything else on offense is successful, that should not be an issue.
Buccaneers Defense against Falcons Offense
The key to beating this offense is pressure. When the offense is firing on all cylinders, it is scary. RB Steven Jackson (#39) steamrolls over defenses. WRs Julio Jones (#11) and Roddy White (#84) have the ability to shred weak secondaries like ours. Unfortunately for Atlanta, its offensive line has been wrecked once again by injuries. And that is where their weakness lies. Getting through the offensive line has a domino effect.
1. The running game really does not have time to get going. This offense depends on the threat of the running game to get the passing game going. Nipping that in the bud really effects their threat through the air.
2. Ryan does not have time to throw. In games where Ryan was under relentless pressure (Baltimore, New York Giants, Chicago), the offense was unable to do a whole lot, despite Ryan’s quick release.
3. The receivers do not have time to get open. As athletic and dangerous as this receiving corps is, it can all be quashed by beating the offensive line.
Our front 7 should be the stars of this game. Hell, we could probably even do it with just the front 4, as long as DEs William Gholston (#92) and Jacquies Smith (#56) and DT Clinton McDonald (#98) see extensive playing time, which is likely given DE Michael Johnson (#90) is inactive for today’s game. These three players have really stood out this season. Gholston and Smith are both phenomenal on the edge. McDonald brings an aggressiveness to the middle.
The rest of the defense should be on notice. If the defensive front fails, Ryan is not fearful of throwing into coverage (although coverage will probably not be a problem), and the receivers are more than capable of making catches in those situations. Our secondary is especially lacking this week with the absence of CB Alterraun Verner (#21), who is out with a hamstring injury. While Verner has largely been considered a free agency bust, his tackling ability will surely be missed. CB Crezdon Butler (#26) will be starting in his place. We will be relying on a lot of young guys back there, also including CBs Johnthan Banks (#27) and Leonard Johnson (#29). While these guys have shown flashes of potential, receivers like Jones and White eat guys like them for breakfast.
Spotlight: QB Josh McCown
Head Coach Lovie Smith drew a lot of ire this week by benching QB Mike Glennon (#8) in favor of McCown, including from Glennon himself. McCown was terrible at best in his early season showing and his injury came at a time when many were already calling for his benching. Two weeks later Glennon carried us to our only victory but has been stagnant since. Week 9 it seemed McCown was ready to go (he even dressed out for the game) but it still appeared Lovie was sticking with Glennon. That changed earlier this week when Glennon’s brother tweeted that he had lost all respect for Lovie. Glennon announced on his radio show later that evening that he was being benched in favor of McCown, leaving many fans in an uproar.
That brings us to today; the moment of truth. McCown is under more pressure than ever to prove himself as a worthy starting quarterback after a career on the bench. He is back, matching up against the team that injured him weeks ago. He is at home today in a stadium (half) filled with fans who want redemption, or at the very least to not be embarrassed. He has the pressure of a head coach who is out to prove he knows what he is doing. It’s sink or swim, Josh.
Atlanta is in a very different place than it was seven weeks ago. The hope that we can pull off a win is there. We need it. They need it. We can ensure their defeat by:
- Utilizing trick plays to get their defense out of position.
- McCown avoiding happy feet, making costly mistakes for this opportunistic secondary to capitalize on.
- Our offensive line continuing to improve.
- Attacking Atlanta’s injury-wrecked offensive line with our front 4.
- Our secondary being on notice should the front 4 not be successful.