A Shot at Redemption: Buccaneers vs. Falcons Preview

For week ten of the 2014 regular season, the Buccaneers are coming home to try to reclaim any available shred of dignity that might be left after opening the season at 1-7 with a series of pitiful performances and heart wrenching final moments. Unfortunately, in order to look at the potential outcome of week ten we must go back. The Buccaneers will host the division rival Atlanta Falcons this week, and the scars from the Thursday Night Curbstomp are still somewhat fresh.

I’m sure no one wants to remember the week three debacle on national television, but it can’t be forgotten that this team is entirely different than they were that week. The most obvious change between the week three Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the week ten Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the man wearing number 93 and harassing quarterbacks on a weekly basis. On a team that has been ripe with frustrating injuries all season, none was more crippling than the one suffered by McCoy in week two of the season.

In the first half of the week two game (which of course ended in a loss), Gerald McCoy suffered a broken hand which removed him from the game. Unfortunately, the timing of the week three Thursday Night Football contest against Atlanta was too quick for McCoy to sufficiently recover to play. While he did return in week four with a cast, he was sorely missed in a week three blowout where the defense blitzed on 46.8% of their plays in a failed attempt to create pressure on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Buccaneers threw from the shotgun a staggering 38 times. The shotgun took up a whopping 66.7% of the Bucs offensive playcalling. With that immense amount, the Buccaneers entered the fourth quarter down 56-0. I’m going to say it again. Maybe it’ll echo loud enough for the players not named Mike Evans, Gerald McCoy, and Lavonte David to hear it. In week three of the regular season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered the fourth quarter of a nationally televised thursday night game down 56-0.

I know that’s tough to hear about again, but there’s (potentially) good news to go along with that. That 56-14 night was entirely the Buccaneers fault. Hear me out. Since that game, the Falcons have gone 0-5. In the last five games they’ve allowed an average of 29.8 points per game and an average of 421.8 total yards of offense per game. The Buccaneers have fluctuated, but have been closer in their games. With the exception of the two bombastic blowouts, every other Buccaneers game has been decided by a single score. Meanwhile, all five of Atlanta’s losses were by more than one score.

Statistically, our offense hasn’t exactly been spectacular, but the outcome of this game rests entirely on the shoulders of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With Gerald McCoy and Mike Evans (yes, I’ve designated him the face of the offense) at the helm, the Buccaneers have firm control of any opportunity to redeem themselves and give a jolt to a fanbase on life support. The playoffs may be a miracle away, but the season is not over. It’s still possible to bleach out some of the skidmarks that have been left by the first eight games.

In order to do that, the defensive players not named Gerald McCoy will have to create non-blitz pressure against Matt Ryan and a one-dimensional Falcons offense. Lavonte David having another amazing performance, Major Wright’s success continuing, and a few interceptions would help the cause. If the Falcons are allowed to chunk it all game long, set sail for fail. On the offense, something as simple as using the weapons provided can make a world of difference. This was clear by Mike Evans victimization of the Browns secondary and Vincent Jackson’s respectable performance against them.

I don’t believe that Mike Glennon has been the problem during his time at quarterback, but I’ve also found it harder to buy him as being the “future” of Tampa Bay. Rumors and reports of serious interest in high profile draft prospects like Marcus Mariota are already popping up despite the fact that the draft is still over five months away. I still don’t believe Josh McCown was the problem during his few pre-injury weeks either. Both Glennon and McCown have made mistakes, but they’ve had critical failures in other groups that have made their jobs even harder. McCown’s return to quarterback will mean nothing if he makes critical interceptions and the rest of the team doesn’t step up.

If Jackson wants to continue dropping balls, might I suggest to go to the other behemoth we have playing the tight end position. The Buccaneers have everything they need to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Raymond James Stadium this Sunday. The question is whether or not they’re going to actually use it. If the Bucs play like they did against the Browns and capitalize on moments, this is in the bag. If they don’t protect Mike Glennon Josh McCown and proceed to wave at Matt Ryan while he throws touchdowns, it’s all ogre.

Prediction: Bucs win, 24-14