Keys to Victory

The Bucs know a win Sunday means respect.
The Bucs know a win Sunday means respect. /
The Bucs know a win Sunday means respect.
The Bucs know a win Sunday means respect. /

It’s gameday, folks. It’s time to talk about the keys for the Bucs to beat the Falcons and give out our predictions for the final score. This isn’t going to be an easy game for the Bucs (understatement of the day) but it will be a winnable game and one that the Bucs truly need if they want the NFL to take them seriously.

So without wasting anymore of your time building up what is already a big game, let’s just get down to the five keys to a Bucs victory.

1.) Key on Michael Turner

When isn’t this a key to beating the Falcons? If you want to win against Atlanta you have to contain one of the best backs in football. There’s a reason they’re 9-2, and it’s offensive balance, but that starts with a great line and a stud back. Michael Turner can and will break a defense’s back if he’s given a chance to. There’s no ‘if’ with him, he’s one of the league’s best. So we’re looking at you front seven. This is going to be a big test for the Bucs and will give a very good indication of how far this defensive line has progressed from the last meeting when Turner went over 100 yards and scored twice.

2.) Get to Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan is a very good quarterback when he has time to throw. When he doesn’t, he’s not as comfortable and he’s not going to pick apart a defense quite the same way. Fortunately for Ryan he plays behind one of the league’s best lines so getting to him isn’t easy. If the Bucs want to win though, they need to pressure him. He’s 19-1 at home in his career, but today’s game is in Tampa, on the road Ryan has been much more fallible. Whether it’s via the blitz or just good pressure from an improving front four (at his current rate of improvement, Gerald McCoy is on pace for four sacks today, though I think we’d all be thrilled with one or two out of him today) Tampa has to pressure Ryan. Make him move around in the pocket (he’s not really a scrambler) and prevent him from getting in rhythm. It’s a lot easier to write that than actually do it, but it’s a key to winning.

3.) No Turnovers

The Falcons will be a big enough threat to score when they have the whole field in front of them. Giving them the ball in good field position via a turnover is a quick way to get rolled. I think one of the strengths of Josh Freeman is his fearlessness and his desire to make plays, not manage a game. Today though, I wouldn’t mind seeing him dial it back. I’m not saying to castrate the offense, just don’t make a lot of risky decisions. Unlike in other games, the Bucs won’t be able to overcome turnovers or a slow start, they need to play smart and worst case scenario, if you can’t score at least reverse field position and make the Falcons go the farthest distance possible to score.

4.) Pound the Ball

LeGarrette Blount is a beast, a straight-up man-eating monster. Feed him the rock. Blount needs to have at least 25 carries and they need to be predominantly between the tackles. That may sound boring but it will set up the play-fake and more importantly, it’s going to wear down the Falcons defense. If the Bucs keep the game close and Blount pounds the defense all day, by the fourth quarter you’re going to see him really start to rip off some good yardage. The Falcons have beaten the Bucs that way before, just a war of attrition with their lines and backs against the front seven. It’s time to give the Falcons a taste of their own medicine.

5.) Focus on Special Teams

Special teams can swing the outcome of a game faster than any other phase, all it takes is one play and the entire outlook of a game can shift dramatically. Case in point, look at what happened last time when Michael Spurlock broke off nearly 200 yards in kick returns including a touchdown. On just a handful of plays the Bucs were put back into a game that they were being beaten soundly in. Between Spurlock’s touchdown return and a 50 yard return that set up another Bucs touchdown, it’s pretty easy to see what kind of effect special teams can have. The Bucs HAVE to win in this phase of the game today. Hit your kicks, punt well and focus on the return game, both defending it and returning it. If the Bucs get beat in the special teams department it’s going to put them in a hole they may not be able to dig themselves out of.

Prediction: Bucs 27 Falcons 24

I think the Bucs will eke out a win today. They have everything to play for and they know that winning this game equals respect. If Josh Freeman could take a bad Bucs team into the Superdome and beat the soon-to-be-champs last season, he can lead the Bucs to a win over the Falcons at home.