Here it is Buccaneer fans. Our first divisional match of the season. While every game in the regular season is crucial, these divisional games are must wins. Especially when both are already starting off the year with a loss. This is a chance to get in the win column, but most importantly, to get ahead of a tough division rival.
Coach Arians and krewe won’t have to wait long to get redemption for last weeks tough loss to the Niners. Tampa Bay travels to Carolina this Thursday night where the Bucs currently are 7-12 historically in Charlotte. Not the worst place to play but the odds are already against them. Looking back at what kept the Buccaneers from getting an opening day win, let’s take a look at how they can declaw the Panthers.
It’s painfully obvious what the main problem this week is going to be. Christian McCaffery has annihilated almost every defense he has faced. Based on his week one performance against the Rams, things haven’t changed. He is a threat in the air and on the ground. But that’s not where it ends. Defenses keeping focus on one dynamic player is just going to exacerbate things. Last year the defense let Curtis Samuel run a hundred yards (not literally) from sideline to sideline on one reverse. Which ultimately turned in to a Touchdown. Allowing gadget plays like this are just momentum killers. Especially when they come from 2nd tier Wide Receivers.
Let’s also not forget about the main weapon of this offense in Cam Newton. Not that he once was, but a weapon nonetheless. Newton has dealt with shoulder concerns most of this offseason but was listed as healthy before kickoff. Whether or not that was a reason for hindrance is irrelevant at this point for the Rams, but if he’s not 100% ready it could be a lucky break for the Bucs Defense. Newton was kept out of the end zone last week, but we can bet he’s motivated to get that feeling back this week.
Newton, McCaffery and a pair of decent receivers are going to keep the defense on their heels most of the day. The key this week will be containment. What does that mean exactly? Discipline play by the secondary. Know your job and find your landmarks. These guys are slippery and elusive, while bringing some power to their game. Hit them in the mouth and wrap up every time. This team can not be given second chances.
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Last Sunday, the Buccaneers had a chance to put their “elite” offense on display for the home crowd. However, the product that was put on the field was anything but elite. Here are the drives for every offensive series in the first half.
Punt. Punt. Fumble. Interception.
The only score came from a Hargeaves pick 6 which gave the Bucs a 7-6 lead going in to halftime. The second half did not fair much better, but there times where guys showed up. A well covered Godwin found the end zone for six points after a 11 play, 70 yard drive. This is what this team needs to do against Carolina. Sustain drives and close. No more sputtering after a first down. No more Field Goals in the red zone. It’s time to show this league, and especially the Panthers, why this offense has been feared.
Speaking of fear. I do fear that we need to reduce the amount of pressure we put on Jameis Winston. In order to do so, the running game has to become a factor. If a comeback season for Ronald Jones lies ahead of us then I do expect so return to rhythm football and a much more calm Jameis Winston.
Be a Complete Football Team
For as long as I could remember, the Buccaneers have always had one really good part of the game, but struggled elsewhere. Strong Defense but mediocre or average Offense was the personality this team carried since the Superbowl. Now it feels like the opposite is here, except on Sunday, the Defense was the leg of the team that held it’s own. Now let’s include the Special Teams unit.
First punt of the year and it’s blocked. To make matters worse, it was as a result of our newly crowned Special Teams Captain, Dare Ogunbowale, getting steam rolled in the process. This needs to be remedied and fast.
This part is all on Bruce Arians. We need to find a way to be a complete team. Yes, mistakes are bound to happen. Penalties are almost inevitable, but they can and should be limited. Disciplined and smart football is the best way to achieve this and I believe Coach Arians will get us there. Acclimation will take some time so let’s take a breath and wait a few weeks before the pitchforks come out.
If all the above comes to fruition, we will leave Carolina with a 1-1 record and put our rivals in to a tough hole of 0-2. We absolutely, positively can not be on the other end of this.