Turnover starts at the top as Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano was replaced by Lovie Smith Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Keys to Victory: Defense

The offseason was good to the Bucs. The team landed some highly coveted free agents, they had a fortuitous draft, and brought in a coach that gave this team a confident and aggressive attitude. The job Schiano has done with this team is really quite remarkable. Just last year this team was in complete disarray. The team had no discipline, direction, or drive. Greg Schiano fixed all of that in less than 1 year. With the infusion of talent via free agency, and the draft this team is now in the playoff hunt. The additions of Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin have bolstered the confidence of quarterback Josh Freeman and has made the Tampa offense highly fulminant. Last season, Freeman experienced a “sophomore slump” of his own. Since the arrival of his new coach and the addition of legitimate playmakers on the offense Freeman has been on a tear.

This season Freeman has thrown 18 touchdowns and only thrown 5 picks. In the last 5 games he has 13 touchdowns and only 1 pick! Looking at his totals from 2010-present: 59 touchdowns 33 picks and an average qb rating of 89.56. Not including this season’s totals, the yardage he’s averaged annually is 3521.5. Those are some pretty good numbers. We are going to have to get to Freeman. He cannot be allowed to stand in the pocket and let Jackson, who is 6’5” and 230 lbs,  get deep on our corners and throw him a jump ball that neither Munnerlyn nor Norman has a chance at. The play of our defensive line is going to be of the utmost importance. Johnson and company are going to have to get after Freeman. The longer he has in the pocket the longer the odds of us winning this game become. The secondary is not skilled enough to be asked to cover for more than 3 to 4 seconds. So we are going to have to pin our ears back and get to Josh. We have seen this defensive line wreak havoc against some decent offensive lines, however last week the Broncos offensive line, which was rated 2nd, did an outstanding job of keeping us off of Manning.  The Bucs have the #3 offensive line so we definitely need to bring the heat to get to Freeman or it will be an unfavorable outcome for Carolina.I know  Tampa is 4th ranked in scoring and 4th in touchdowns scored. So they can light up the scoreboard. We have gone over the potential aerial assault by the Bucs and what we must do to stop it. Now let’s take a look at their onslaught in the ground game.

Doug Martin is a BEAST! This kid out of Boise State has made a significant impact on this Tampa Bay squad. He definitely has earned the nickname ‘muscle hamster”. Powerfully built with a low center of gravity, Martin is a load to bring down. Never one to shy away from contact, he is an extremely effective between the tackles runner. Our priority will be to shut down this phase of the Bucs offense. They would rather run the ball then pass, however they run the ball to open the pass. They pound you with the run, then the safeties come up in run support. That is when they send the receivers deep downfield and Freeman has a cannon for an arm so he can get it deep. This is the reason V-Jax is averaging an eye-popping 21.6 yards per reception this season. We must gang tackle Martin. He is a tough runner and will run through most attempts at tackling him with only one person.

The most telling statistic I saw while writing this article was in the 4 losses suffered by Tampa, their 3rd down conversion rate was an average of 24.5%. That came with an average of 12.25 conversion attempts per game. So we must stop the run and get the Bucs into as many 3rd and long situations as often as we can. The more we keep them in  these situations the better the chances of a Carolina victory.

We have a rough draft of a strategy that can be used to beat the Buccaneers. There are several factors not covered in either of these 2 articles that would greatly affect the outcome of this game. These are just my observations and adding to them my limited knowledge of organized football. That being said if the Panthers execute these things and all other things being equal Carolina should come out with the win. My prediction: Tampa Bay 13 Carolina 27.

God Bless!
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