On Now
Coming Up
  • There are no Events to display in this category.

News

Print
RSS

Game Day: Buccaneers at Patriots

Posted Sep 21, 2013

Prepare for Sunday’s game with our preview, including injury reports, key matchups, series history, players to watch and more

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The return of Carl Nicks could help the Bucs’ offense find the groove that has eluded it through two games
  • New England leads the all-time series, 5-2, but the two teams have split the last four meetings
  • The Bucs’ pass rush has been among the league’s best while New England’s defense has been very good against the pass
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the New England Patriots on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.  The Buccaneers bring an 0-2 record into the game while the Patriots are 2-0.

After a second consecutive narrow defeat, the Tampa Bay offense once again found itself lamenting some missed opportunities in its Week Two matchup with New Orleans. But Head Coach Greg Schiano says the team certainly isn’t feeling sorry for itself and has continued to work extremely hard in practice all week to find more consistency on the offensive side of the ball.

“We just need to keep practicing and get better, get in the groove,” Schiano said. “It will come. We just have to keep working at it. We have to go out and just work on it and be more detailed and more focused and that’s what practice is for. It will click. It’s clicked before; it’s not like this group hasn’t done it together, we just need to get it going, and soon.”

Defensively, the Buccaneers have been impressive through two games. The unit bottled up the Saints’ rushing attack last week, only allowing 75 net yards, and forced quarterback Drew Brees to throw two interceptions against just one touchdown pass. Things won’t get any easier this week, of course, as Tom Brady will pose yet another tough challenge for the Bucs’ defense.

Despite yet another matchup against one of the league’s elite passers, Schiano says much of the Bucs’ game plan will remain the same – stay tough against the run, and remain disciplined against Brady and the Pats’ aerial attack.

“I think it’s a well-coached, very efficient group,” Schiano said of the New England offense. “I think every year they run the football. Everybody thinks about Tom Brady because he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer without a doubt, but they run the football effectively and that’s what you look at. And when they run it, they win.

“You have to start by trying to stop the run. That’s difficult, because you have that guy No. 12 standing there. They’ve had some injuries at the wide receiver position but the guys are stepping up and they’ve made enough plays to win. Again, it’s a really well thought-out scheme. The guys are very technically sound with the way they execute, so it’s a huge challenge for our defense. They do a very good job of mixing it up: run, pass, deep shots, screens, intermediate routes. They do it all and they do it off play-pass action, so it’s going to be a big challenge for our defense.”

- The Bucs' defense will try to continue a strong start in Foxborough

As Schiano noted, the Pats have had to deal with a number of significant injuries on offense, most notably to all-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski and newly signed wide receiver Danny Amendola. Yet, seemingly as ever, the New England offense has charged along unfazed, helping the Patriots to an unblemished 2-0 mark to start the season.

However, it should be noted (particularly in light of the Bucs’ two extremely close defeats) that the Patriots have won their two contests this season by a grand total of five points. Whether due to the injuries on offense or any other factors, the Patriots offense hasn’t been quite as unstoppable as in years past, and Brady says the Bucs defense will pose a very stiff test.

“We’ve played a couple pretty good defenses the last few weeks, but Tampa’s defense is, from what it looks like on film, as good as any that we’ve played, so we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Brady said. “It’s a very challenging team. They’ve got a really good system. Just going against them in practice [in training camp] was challenging, at times, to kind of figure out what was going on. They do a lot of things in coverage. They’ve got really athletic linebackers, and they can really rush the quarterback. It’s going to be a big challenge for our offense to stay on the field, convert third downs, and, ultimately, score points.”

Defensively, the Patriots will field a unit that through two games has ranked as one of the better crews in the league, allowing just 302 total yards per game on average. While the New England secondary – led by former Buccaneer cornerback Aqib Talib – has been particularly stout, the Patriot rush defense has proven to be somewhat vulnerable.

Ranked just 28th in the league against the run, allowing an average of 132.5 rushing yards per game through two contests, the New England defense could prove to be a tantalizing matchup for Bucs running back Doug Martin. Martin is currently the third-leading rusher in the NFL with his 210 rushing yards, trailing only Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy and Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles, both of whom have played a game more than Martin thanks to Thursday night’s Eagles-Chiefs tilt.

**

SERIES HISTORY

The Buccaneers and Patriots have met seven times previously, with New England holding a 5-2 edge overall but the two teams splitting the last four outings.  The Buccaneers are 1-2 all-time in Foxborough, most recently visiting the Patriots’ home in 2005.  New England won that contest, 28-0, as the Buccaneers were at the end of a rare three-game road swing.  The Patriots also won the most recent regular-season meeting between the two teams, a 35-7 decision that was played in London in 2009 and was technically considered a home game for Tampa Bay.  The Bucs’ most recent win in the series came in the 2000 season opener, as Tampa Bay won 21-16 in Foxborough.

 

**

INJURY REPORT

Buccaneers

Player

Injury

Game Status

CB Michael Adams

Knee

Out

T Gabe Carimi

Illness

Out

DE Adrian Clayborn

Hip

Probable

TE Tom Crabtree

Ankle

Out

LB Mason Foster

Toe

Probable

DT Derek Landri

Knee

Out

CB Rashaan Melvin

Hamstring

Questionable

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Questionable

TE Luke Stocker

Hip

Out

Patriots

Player

Injury

Game Status

WR Danny Amendola

Groin

Doubtful

RB Brandon Bolden

Knee

Questionable

G Dan Connolly

Finger

Questionable

DB Nate Ebner

Ankle

Questionable

TE Rob Gronkowski

Back/Arm

Questionable

WR Matt Slater

Wrist

Out

TE Zach Sudfeld

Hamstring

Probable

T Will Svitek

Knee

Questionable

RB Leon Washington

Thigh

Questionable

 **

BUCCANEER PLAYER TO WATCH: WR MIKE WILLIAMS

It’s no secret that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have struggled to find a consistent rhythm on the offensive side of the ball through the first two weeks of the 2013 NFL season. wide receiver Mike Williams, a fourth-year veteran, is a potential candidate the team will rely on to help turn the tide on offense heading into a Week Three matchup in New England.

While proven contributor Vincent Jackson has been his usual self through two games (12 catches for 231 yards), and running back Doug Martin has added 210 rushing yards and a score of his own, the Bucs need another threat to emerge in their offensive attack, and Williams could be the perfect option.

The Patriots will pose a stiff test, however, entering the game as the NFL’s seventh-ranked defense in terms of total yardage allowed per game. The Pats are particularly stingy against the pass, ranking fourth in the league in that category, thanks in no small part to former Buccaneer cornerback Aqib Talib.

“[Talib] looks good,” Williams said. “To be honest, I think he’s one of their top three defenders over there. They’ve kind of changed their defense toward him; they play a lot more man, a lot more blitzing. Having a good cornerback like that with cover skills will change things. I always said he was top-four in the league, since I got here and to this day. He’s a good player.”

With the talented Talib likely locking horns with Vincent Jackson for much of the game, the chance could present itself for Williams to step up and contribute elsewhere on the field. But while the Bucs are coming off consecutive agonizing defeats and are preparing to face one of the most successful teams in the league in recent years, Williams says he doesn’t feel any added sense of motivation.

“We didn’t come into this season saying we were going to be 15-1,” Williams said. “All our goals are still ahead of us – get into the playoffs and try to win our division. When we get in there, we’ll see what happens. We call it the tournament – [lose] one game, you’re out. When you keep on winning, you keep on playing. So all of our goals are still ahead of us, and we’re going to go out and try to get this Patriots game.”

**

KEY MATCHUP: BUCCANEERS LG CARL NICKS VS. PATRIOTS DT VINCE WILFORK

Carl Nicks likes Vince Wilfork…as a person.  Nobody particularly likes an afternoon of trying to slow the momentum of the Patriots’ 350-pound battering ram.  “He’s actually a nice guy off the field, a really nice guy,” said Nicks of his foe across the line of scrimmage this Sunday.  “He’s a Hall-of-Famer, point blank. That’s what he is. He’s a great athlete, surprisingly. People just looking at him wouldn’t know how quick he is, how fast he is, and how strong he is. He’s a complete D-tackle.”

If everything goes well, the Buccaneers will have their own standout blocker to counter Wilfork.  Nicks was questionable heading into the weekend, but he felt confident that he would be able to make his 2013 debut on Sunday.  Nicks has squared off against Wilfork and the Patriots’ D-line four times during his career, and he’s the biggest body the Buccaneers have to counter Wilfork’s incredible mass.  If Nicks can move the Patriot DT off his spot, that would likely open up running lanes for Doug Martin and keep the pocket from collapsing up the middle on QB Josh Freeman.

**

TEAM RANKINGS

The Buccaneers and Patriots have both done a good job of preventing their opponents from scoring this season, but have also had trouble lighting up their own halves of the scoreboard.  Both teams have also protected the passer well, but the Bucs’ pass-rush has been more productive.  New England’s pass defense has been very good, but Tampa Bay might be able to exploit the Patriots’ 28th-ranked run defense.

OFFENSE

BUCS RANK

PATRIOTS RANK

Points Per Game

27

25t

Yards Per Game

29

22

Rushing Yards Per Game

11

13

Average Per Rush

13

15

Passing Yards Per Game

31

21

Sacks Allowed

9t

6t

Interceptions Thrown

4t

15t

Third-Down Efficiency

18t

16

Punt Return Average

15

9

Kickoff Return Average

5

20t

 

DEFENSE

BUCS RANK

PATRIOTS RANK

Points Per Game

8t

6t

Yards Per Game

13t

8

Rushing Yards Per Game

12

28

Average Per Rush

10

19

Passing Yards Per Game

18

4

Sacks

1t

16t

Interceptions

5t

5t

Third-Down Efficiency

15

8

Punt Return Average

6t

6t

Kickoff Return Average

12

9

 

OTHER

BUCS RANK

SAINTS RANK

Turnover Differential

13t

4t

Gross Punting Average

26

24

Net Punting Average

6

18

Field Goal Percentage

28t

19t

 

**

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

  • RB Doug Martin has 12 career rushing touchdowns and needs only two more to pass LeGarrette Blount (13 from 2010-12), and Doug Williams (13 from 1978-82) for 10th-most in franchise history.
  • QB Josh Freeman has 1,125 career passing completions and needs two more to pass Vinny Testaverde (1,126 from 1987-82) for the most completions in team history.
  • WR Mike Williams has 2,792 career receiving yards and needs 51 more to crack the top 10 in franchise history by passing Lawrence Dawsey (2,842 receiving yards from 1991-95).
  • P Michael Koenen has 51 punts inside the 20 with the Buccaneers and needs five more to pass Tommy Barnhardt (55 from 1996-98) for sixth-most, six more to pass Tom Tupa (56 from 2002-03) for fifth-most and nine more to pass Dan Stryzinski (59 from 1992-94) for fourth-most punts inside the 20 in team history.

Recent Articles