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
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
“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
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
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.