Buccaneers: Tampa’s defense can’t rest on Sunday

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

The Buccaneers can ill afford to have a let-up against the Los Angeles Rams like the one they had against the Falcons last week.

Deep into the third quarter, it appeared as if the defense sat back a bit as Matt Ryan and crew diced the D for a pair of scores. Instead of holding a 17-point edge going in the final stanza, the Bucs were back to “having” to score to maintain control of the game and ensure the W. That the D finally came around, and Mike “Ball Hawk” Edwards managed to snare a pair of errant throws, but the Bucs can’t rely on that kind of play every week.

And this week, facing another NFC powerhouse in the Rams, we need to be on our toes from start to finish. Any let-up, any opportunity for them to breathe, can be costly.

That’s not to say Tampa is going to lose this game, but the potential to lose is greater than it would be if we were playing the likes of Atlanta. In truth, if we play our game, our way, we fly back on the red-eye in good spirits.

But lackadaisical play, and not paying attention or sounding off could be costly. No question, the Buccaneer offense will do its part. No team in the league has a “good enough” defense to stop Tampa when it is on a roll. The receiver depth can’t be charted because you have to go through about five ball catchers just to get to the number two receiver if you catch my drift. L.A. simply cannot handle the Bucs one on one.

So, the Rams’ best bet will probably be to run some variation of a zone. But playing zone leaves definite vacancies on the field, and the Bucs are savvy enough to know where to sit down to make a catch or how to slice through the coverage on crossing patterns.

But just the slightest let up on defense can give a team like the Rams the idea that they can score against us, and extrapolate that into winning. We need to break the Rams’ will to win. That’s what great teams do against their opponents. It’s not enough to get the team on the ground, you have to keep them on the ground with a proverbial foot on their throats and not let up. If you let up, they may get the idea that they have a chance and play as if they do. That burst of confidence could conceivably be enough to propel them to victory.

What do the Buccaneers need to do? They need to score on every possession, and not just some crummy field goal. We are experiencing a sort of magical instance in which our offense can only be stopped by our offense. To date, neither of our previous two opponents were able to stop us. We stopped ourselves with all kinds of things. Passes that should have been caught by us that weren’t, untimely dumb penalties, and to some extent failing to follow through on plays. Third and one, third and one, fourth and one-and we don’t convert? That kind of play will get us in trouble come Sunday.

But in the end, it’s the defense that needs to step up. Sure, we were able to come back and beat the Cowboys on a last-minute field goal. But we should not have allowed them to score that much in the first place. Same for the third quarter against the Falcons. How is it that we couldn’t stop the dirty Birds from getting into our end zone? They should never have had such a chance.

In the final analysis, this game against the Rams could easily be determined by which team stops the other from scoring. It’s not just stopping them at the very end of the game, it’s stopping them on every opportunity they have. Stop them, get the ball back to Tom and Crew, and let our guys build a winning tally. Sure, they have good players too, and we probably won’t stop them every time. But if we can force them to kick field goals vs extra points, we have a pretty good chance to come home in good spirits.

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