Five Keys to Winning

Suh is a mean dude.
Suh is a mean dude. /
Suh is a mean dude.
Suh is a mean dude. /

Today when the Detroit Lions face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium the Bucs will come in the clear cut favorites. At 8-5 and still very much alive in the playoff hunt the Buccaneers need only win and they’re in. But this Lions team is much better than its 3-10 record and won’t go down easily. Here are the keys to the game:

1.) No Turnovers

There’s always a place atop the keys to the game for not turning the ball over. The Bucs should be the better team, but in the NFL when you give away the ball, you even the playing field. The Bucs can’t afford to give anything away, no team can. But especially today, in a game the Bucs must win, they really can’t afford to give Detroit a thing. Josh Freeman needs to be very smart with the ball, LeGarrette Blount needs to hold on to it and the receivers need to be careful not be stripped. Don’t. Turn. It. Over.

2.) Cue on Suh

Don’t let Ndamakong Suh blow up the line. The interior of the Bucs line is already racked with injuries and Suh is a very talented young interior pass-rusher. Don’t let him beat you and don’t let him hit Josh Freeman. It’s rare to find a guy who can really do damage to Freeman’s study 6’6 250 lb. frame, but look no further. Suh is an animal, one who eats quarterbacks and it’s going to be priority number one for the Bucs to stop him. Double team him when need be, roll out Freeman more than usual, whatever you have to do. Suh hurts quarterbacks and causes turnovers. That’s a lot of fun to watch if he’s on your team, terrifying if he’s not.

3.) Find the Soldier

You read it here earlier, even the Lions bloggers admit they have a weak linebacking corps and struggle in their secondary. Kellen Winslow is a mismatch against good safeties and linebackers. Give him a sub-par group to pick on and he can be downright nasty. The Lions front four is a talented bunch lead by the aforementioned boy named Suh. Josh Freeman may feel a lot of pressure in this game so having a go-to tight end that can abuse the linebackers is going to be huge. Winslow is in line for a giant day if the Bucs can find him with the ball. It shouldn’t be hard. He’ll be open.

4.) Run, Run, Run

Despite featuring a good front four, the Lions are still just 22nd in the NFL stopping the run. They get after the quarterback great but are susceptible but to a solid ground game. I would imagine the best way to attack this over-aggressive front four would be with lots of screens and draws. I’m sure you’ll see the screens, but the Bucs lack a good option for the draw. Still, I think slamming it between the tackles 25 times could work just as well.

5.) Use your head

Play smart is such a cliche but it’s totally appropriate in this case. This also ties into not turning it over, but the Bucs also can’t afford dumb penalties or blown assignments. The Bucs can’t play on emotion alone, they need to play smart and avoid the mental mistakes that come with being a young team. It seems like once a game the Bucs do something stupid that costs them points or keeps their defense on the field another series. It’s not conducive to making the playoffs and it’s fatal once a team is in.