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Bucs-Bills Pregame Report

Posted Dec 8, 2013

Tampa Bay and Buffalo each bring a potentially potent rushing attack into Sunday’s game, so the defense that best counters that threat could lead its team to victory...Plus inactives and other notes

  • The Bucs and Bills are both among the league's top 12 rushing teams, though their approaches differ
  • The home team is hoping than an unseasonably warm December afternoon works in its favor
  • WR Vincent Jackson and CB Darrelle Revis were both cleared to play for the Buccaneers
December football doesn’t normally feel the way it’s going to feel at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills will face off on an afternoon that could hit mid-80s on the thermometer, with humidity approaching 75%.  Nevertheless, this could be a typical late-season slugfest, with each time trying hard to establish its rushing attack.

That’s almost a given for the Bills, who bring the league’s fourth-best ground game to Tampa, with the running back duo of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller being the obvious focal point of the Buffalo attack.  Tampa Bay has fielded the NFL’s best rush defense over the last two years combined, however, and they always consider run-stoppage to be task #1 on game day.  Doing so on Sunday would help rookie QB E.J. Manuel from getting deeper into the playbook and making good use of such receiving threats as WR Steve Johnson.

“They’re committed to running the football and they have two really fine running backs,” said Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano.  “They have a very good offensive line and they’re running the ball against everybody.  We’re going to have to stop the run, yet they have speed on the perimeter that can give you problems.  They are not afraid to throw the ball downfield.  So we’re going to have to defend the deep and we’re also going to have to stop the run, which puts you in a little bit of [a bind].  You’ve got to make a choice sometimes.”

The Bucs have several elite run-stoppers, however.  LB Lavonte David and DE Adrian Clayborn rank first and third in the NFL, respectively, in run stuffs (TFLs), and DT Gerald McCoy makes the whole scheme work by creating havoc and occupying blockers in the middle of the front line.  The Bucs expect another big game out of McCoy, and will have trouble stopping Jackson and Spiller without it.

- DT G. McCoy will be a key factor in the Bucs' attempts to slow down Buffalo's rushing attack
“Each and every week, Gerald is a key part of what we can do,” said Schiano.  “He’s one of our elite players.  In the National Football League, your elite players have to play that way for you to have a chance to win.  And Gerald has done that all season long.  We move him all over the place.  We try to scheme it where he can get some one-on-ones, but that’s awful hard to do because there’s so much attention that gets paid to him.  But we need Gerald to play at a high level for us to be successful.”

Jackson has been producing underrated offensive totals for seven years in Buffalo, and Spiller has recently emerged as one of the league’s scariest open-field threats.  In terms of the running game, the Buccaneers counter with a single primary ballcarrier who was on the waiver wire as recently as October.  Second-year man Bobby Rainey may not have the same established pedigree as his Buffalo foes, but he has impressed the Bucs quickly with his sudden open-field moves and his ability to make the most out of the smallest gaps.

“It all starts up front,” said Schiano.  “They have a very good defensive front seven and we need to get on our blocks, get on the right people assignment-wise, and then we need to stay on them.  Bobby’s got to run the ball per-play, do the things the play is designed to do, and he’s been good at that.  He doesn’t need a lot of space, Bobby; he’ll find the daylight.  We’ll get back to running the ball, I believe that.  And we have to be patient.  Their defense creates negative plays, lost-yardage plays; everybody they’ve played, they’ve done it.  We need to be patient because there will be some plays that don’t look so pretty, but if you stick with it they’ll start popping.”

Fortunately, the Bills won’t be able to focus exclusively on Rainey with WR Vincent Jackson cleared to play.  Jackson has been limited all week by a hamstring injury but he tested it out on Sunday morning and informed Schiano that he was good to go.  The Bucs’ leading receiver, Jackson is just 38 yards away from yet another 1,000-yard campaign.  With Mike Williams already on injured reserve, the Bucs’ passing attack would be seriously short-handed without Jackson.

CB Darrelle Revis (chest/shoulder) has also been cleared to play, which is less surprising given that he was listed as probable on Friday’s injury report.  Revis has missed portions of the Bucs’ last two games in Detroit and Carolina due to separate injuries but he’ll hopefully get in a full game Sunday against the Bills and their top receiving threat, Steve Johnson.

“He practiced, did just about everything this week, and that’s good because we’re going to at times match him up with Stevie, and other times he’ll be elsewhere,” said Schiano.  “We need him to play well.  He’s another one of our elite players that way.”

With both Revis and Jackson cleared to play, the Buccaneers declared the following seven players inactive for Sunday’s game: CB Deveron Carr, FB/RB Lonnie Pryor, S Bradley McDougald, LB Danny Lansanah, G Patrick Omameh, G Carl Nicks and DT Gary Gibson.  Nicks is out due to injury.

Buffalo has no players out due to injury on their current 53-man roster.  Their seven Sunday inactives are: QB Jeff Tuel, FB Frank Summers, DB Brandon Smith, G Mark Asper, G Antoine McClain, LB Jamaal Westerman and TE Tony Moeaki.

Oh, and that aforementioned heat?  The Bucs hope to turn it into an advantage.  That edge would be doubled if a raucous crowd at Raymond James Stadium raises the decibel level against Buffalo’s finesse attack.

“It’s a beautiful day ,that’s for sure, and we’ve got a great crowd,” said Schiano.  “That crowd’s going to be a help.  The heat’s going to be a help and that crowd is going to be a help because Buffalo employs the no-huddle offense and the crowd noise when we’re on defense is going to keep them from communicating efficiently."

The Buccaneers and Bills will kick off their Week 14 matchup at Raymond James Stadium at 1:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised in the Bay area by CBS.  The action will also be broadcast by the Buccaneers Radio Network and its flagship station, US 103.5 FM.  That radio broadcast will be available via a live stream on Buccaneers.com.  Visit Buccaneers.com throughout the day to for further reports on the game action, including coverage of the team’s postgame press conferences.