The Tampa Bay Buccaneers earned their first win of the season on Monday night, and now seek their second against a less-than-stellar opponent. The Atlanta Falcons are next on the schedule for the Buccaneers, and it’s safe to say that whatever injury concerns you believe the Buccaneers have, the Falcons have it worse.
Already without their best wide receiver Julio Jones, the Falcons have injuries to Roddy White, Harry Douglas, and Tony Gonzalez to deal with as the enter this game. Steven Jackson is still battling ailments himself, so nearly every position player the Falcons have is hobbled by some injury or another.
So how do the Buccaneers capitalize and earn their second win of the season? Here are my takes on the keys to victory.
1. Stick with what works on offense.
Don’t throw a bomb on 2nd-and-10. Don’t throw the ball at all on 3rd-and-1. Don’t get cute when a simple power running play will gain the yards the team needs to move the football.
The Buccaneers have a tendency to let playcalling get away from them as games go on, opting for deep throws and poor route combinations in situations where a well-designed running play or short pass would have been a much better choice.
The Atlanta Falcons proved they can score against the Bucs without their best weapons on the field. The Buccaneers are going to need to find some offense to stay in the game. That will only come as a result of smart, efficient offense, rather than stubborn deep passes and poor third-down decision making.
2. Allow the defensive line to win their matchups, rather than run an absurd amount of stunts.
The Atlanta Falcons have one of the worst offensive lines in the league when it comes to protecting the passer, according to Pro Football Focus‘ “Pass Blocking Efficiency” statistic. That means the Buccaneers should be able to get up the field and pressure Matt Ryan on a regular basis.
But if they continue to run an excessive amount of stunts along the line in the wrong situations, rather than just allowing their players to win one-on-one against Atlanta’s players, it will be an easy day for Matt Ryan. Gerald McCoy is unstoppable, except for the plays during which his job is simply to occupy space while other defensive linemen move from side to side to find rushing lanes.
AllowMcCoy to be a disruptive force, and let the defensive ends do their best to get after Matt Ryan by defeating his weak offensive line.
3. Let Erik Lorig Do His Job
As I wrote earlier this week, Erik Lorig was the team’s MVP in their first win of the season. Hopefully the team saw the impact he had on the running game, and the coaching staff uses him even more on Sunday against Atlanta.
Lorig has led the way for Mike James, Brian Leonard, and Bobby Rainey in recent weeks and helped ease their transition from benchwarmer to key contributor. The team is statistically better at rushing when he’s on the field, and he should be allowed to do his job and let the tailbacks carry the load for the offense.
4. Be Sound on Special Teams
Less than a week removed from Eric Page‘s awful penalty on special teams and Michael Koenen‘s horrific punt, the Buccaneers must rebound and be more sound on special teams against Atlanta. Miami was a mess on Monday night, and the Bucs mistakes didn’t catch up with them. But Tampa Bay’s division rivals from Atlanta won’t let them off the hook so easily for missteps in the kicking game.
The Buccaneers don’t have a good enough offense to compensate for mistakes in other areas, so avoiding key mistakes which swing field position should be a top priority.