The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are floundering without a win so far in this NFL season, and yet find themselves within striking distance of their division rivals from Atlanta. That’s because the Falcons have had their fair share of problems this season as well, mainly involving injuries to their key players on offense.
So as Sunday approaches and the Bucs prepare to take on the Eagles, here are the keys to victory that will allow the Bucs to overcome Atlanta and earn their first win.
1. Stop Tony Gonzalez.
Seriously, just stop him. Put multiple defenders on him. Don’t allow him to get a clean release off the line. He is literally the only better-than-average weapon left on the Atlanta offense. Matt Ryan will be lacking in other trustworthy options, and he will prefer to find his reliable tight end as often as possible.
There is no excuse for Gonzalez to be allowed space to operate in this game. Mark Barron should follow him at all times, and should be given help from Lavonte David, Mason Foster, Dashon Goldson and Leonard Johnson. If Tony Gonzalez is the reason the Buccaneers lose on Sunday, it will be an utter failure in either coaching or execution of what should be an obvious plan to shut down the future Hall of Famer.
2. Stop Tony Gonzalez.
Seriously. He can’t be the reason the Bucs lose.
3. Keep the Offense Conservative and Allow Mike Glennon to Keep His Rhythm.
Last week, the Buccaneers ran a more conservative offense in the first half, and Mike Glennon flourished. But for the second week in a row, halftime led to clear changes in the Tampa Bay offense and it sapped away Glennon’s confidence and rhythm.
And as I mentioned in an article about Glennon’s ability on deep passes, he has yet to display the ability to stretch a defense and earn respect to open up the running game. So instead, the Buccaneers should spread out the field and get multiple receivers involved to allow Glennon plenty of targets at which to throw. That will prevent the Falcons from stacking the box and give Doug Martin more room to run.
4. Avoid Dumb Mistakes
This game should be low-scoring considering the ability of both offenses. That means any mistake, such as a holding call on offense or a personal foul on defense, could be all it takes to lose the football game. The margins will be thin, so boneheaded lapses in judgement could lose the Buccaneers this game in a hurry.
5. Show Consistent Effort
As Sander Philipse of Bucs Nation pointed out on Saturday, there are multiple football analysts around the web who are calling into question the effort of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not giving 100% effort is a quick way to rack up losses and injuries and get a head coach fired. And in the short-term, not giving full effort against a banged-up Falcons’ team will lead to a very disappointing loss in a winnable game.
6. Get Pressure on Matt Ryan from the Front Four
With Tony Gonzalez figuring to be the primary offensive option for the Falcons, the linebackers may be otherwise occupied and unable to blitz as often as they have in recent games. That means that the Tampa Bay front four must work their way into the backfield and disrupt Matt Ryan on their own on Sunday. According to Pro Football Focus, the Falcons have one of the 10 worst pass blocking offensive lines in football in terms of keeping pressure of off their quarterback. The front four must take advantage to allow defensive flexibility on against Atlanta.