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Bucs-Falcons Pregame Report

Posted Nov 17, 2013

Tampa Bay had a short week to prepare for Atlanta’s visit to Raymond James Stadium Sunday, but at least they had the boost of a victory last Monday night...Plus, Coach Schiano’s pregame thoughts and more

  • The Bucs have 'a pep in their step' after a MNF win, but they had less time to prepare for today's follow-up
  • A Tampa Bay running game that had 345 yards over its last two outings will be relying on new ballcarriers once again
  • DE Da'Quan Bowers will not suit up after suffering from concussion symptoms during the week
On Tuesday morning, players for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers woke up feeling as good as they have all season…mentally, at least.

A hard-fought 22-19 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Monday night – in front of a national prime-time audience – was reason enough to smile on Tuesday. Of course, that much-appreciated Monday night stage also meant less time to prepare and recover for the next game. Physically, the Buccaneers were a day behind on Tuesday, and they have tailored the rest of the week to make up for that abbreviated schedule with the division-rival Falcons coming to town on Sunday.

“There’s certainly a different pep in your step when you win a game,” said Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano. “Everything’s more enjoyable, but you have to make sure that you realize that preparation is the key to everything. You fight the battle all week and you go claim the prize on Sunday or Monday, whenever you play. This is a tough week, coming off Monday night. It’s a short week and physically they’re not feeling as well as they usually do at this point. The final 48 [hours] leading up to the game was very, very important and I think the guys did a good job of getting themselves feeling better. Hopefully the preparation is going to pay off.”

The short week also gave the Buccaneers a little less time to rework the offensive backfield in the wake of RB Mike James’ season-ending ankle injury. James had done a splendid job of replacing 2012 Pro Bowler Doug Martin after Martin’s own season-ending shoulder injury in Atlanta, but Tampa Bay must now test its depth once again. With Jeff Demps and Michael Smith also on injured reserve, the Bucs are quite familiar with backfield adjustments at this point.

With James out, seventh-year veteran Brian Leonard is the projected starter, though he is likely to share the backfield duties with Bobby Rainey, a waiver-wire pickup from Cleveland in October. If either of those two run into trouble, the Bucs could also turn to rookie Michael Hill, who was plucked off Green Bay’s practice squad this past week.

- RB B. Leonard will try to keep the Bucs' running game in its recent groove
“We’ve put four running backs on I.R., and that’s unusual,” said Schiano. “Brian Leonard and Bobby Rainey have done a great job stepping in, and now we get Hill on the roster and we’re confident in those three guys. The O-Line, it’s ready to block for them, and we’ve got to go out and do it.

“Earnest Byner, our running backs coach, has done a great job of getting these guys prepared and we just have to go out there and run our offense. It will be Brian and Bobby…God willing they still healthy but I think Michael will be ready if his number is called on.”

In a way, the Falcons’ backfield is headed in the opposite direction, with lead back Steven Jackson just returning to action two weeks ago after missing the middle of the season with a leg injury. That’s not to diminish the injury problems Atlanta has dealt with in 2013 – WR Julio Jones, T Sam Baker, FB Bradie Ewing and DE Kroy Biermann are all on injured reserve – but the offense is at least closer to resembling the lineup that led Atlanta to within minutes of a Super Bowl berth last year.

“They’re getting back to full strength on offense,” said Schiano. “The guy they’re obviously missing is Julio, but they’ve got pretty much everybody else back and it’s going to be a challenge. Matt Ryan is one of the best quarterbacks in this league, Steven Jackson is a dominant runner and Jacquizz [Rodgers] is a very good runner as well. Defensively, we need to really be on our A game because they’re going to mix it up run and pass and they do a lot of things formationally to make it hard to defend them.”

The Bucs will take on that Atlanta offense without defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, who spent the week trying to overcome concussion symptoms. Though Bowers isn’t a starter on the Bucs’ defense, he did play extensively in a reserve role, and now the Buccaneers will rely on rookies William Gholston and Steven Means to round out the rotation up front.

“Well, the guys have got to pick up the slack,” said Schiano. “Da’Quan was a big part of our third-down sub package and now some other guys are going to have to jump in there. And they will…guys have been preparing all week and they’ll be ready.”

In addition to Bowers, the Buccaneers deactivated the following players before Sunday’s game: CB Deveron Carr, CB Danny Gorrer, S Bradley McDougald, G Patrick Omameh, G Carl Nicks and DT Derek Landri. Bowers, Gorrer and Nicks are out due to injury. That list of inactives means wide receiver Chris Owusu, who has missed the last three games with a foot injury, will finally return to the lineup. The Buccaneers kept all six of their receivers active to face the Falcons.

Atlanta declared the following players inactive: S Kemal Ishmael, RB Jason Snelling, LB Omar Gaither, G Harland Gunn, T Sean Locklear, WR Brian Robiskie and DE Malliciah Goodman. Snelling and Goodman were out due to injury. That list conspicuously does not include TE Tony Gonzalez and WR Harry Douglas, the team’s top two pass-catchers in 2013, both of whom were questionable on Atlanta’s injury report. They will play along with WR Roddy White, who returned to action in Week 10 after missing three games. Also, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was activated from the injured reserve/designated for return list this week and will play against the Buccaneers

The Buccaneers and Falcons will kick off their Week 11 matchup at Raymond James Stadium at 1:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised locally by FOX. 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.