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Bucs Look to Build on Recent Success

Posted Nov 21, 2013

Thursday Notes: The Buccaneers know they face a stiff challenge Sunday against the Lions but they're headed to Detroit with a renewed sense of confidence…Plus, injury updates and other notes

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Because the Bucs didn't get too low during the first half of the season, they're ready to capitalize on a surge of confidence
  • LB Mason Foster is eager to play Sunday but will follow caution and the orders of the trainers
  • The Lions' Matthew Stafford has been the most difficult quarterback to sack in the NFL this year
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head to Detroit looking for their first road win since the 2012 season finale and their first three-game winning streak since Weeks 9-11 of last year.  Obviously those notes are the product of a team that has struggled more than expected since that last streak put it at 6-4 and on the cusp of a playoff drive, but the Buccaneers have no shortage of confidence that they can meet those goals.

For one thing, Tampa Bay's last road trip – right before back-to-back home wins over Miami and Atlanta – was an eye-opener.  It wasn't a win, but the Buccaneers did take Seattle, which currently owns an NFC-best 9-1 record, to overtime at a venue that hasn't seen a road team win since 2011.  That loss was as disappointing as any other for Tampa Bay this year – there are no moral victories in the NFL – but it did show the team that it could compete against any team in any park.  That's important as the Bucs travel to a loud dome to take on a first-place team with a dangerous offense.

“I don’t look back; it’s a waste of time to look back and say the what-ifs," said Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano.  "What I do look back on and say is, 'I hope our team drew confidence from a noisy environment playing a very good football team.' We’re going into the same kind of environment, in a dome stadium. It’s going to be loud as all get-out and they’ve got weapons, so hopefully we drew some confidence from that last experience.  That’s what I’m hopeful for.”

Two games is a winning streak only in the barest of definitions, and it will take more to counter what came before.  But Buccaneer players have been enjoying the feeling of victory for 11 days now, with a little kick of confidence the week before that following the Seattle game.  Given the longer-than-anticipated wait for those feelings, the players are working hard not to let them slip away.

“Winning is contagious, and once you get that feeling, you want to keep getting it," said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. We’ve been putting in all the work to keep getting it. We put in all the work to get our first one and second one. We’ve just got to keep it going and not get stuck where we’re at, not get comfortable.”

Two wins in seven days might seem a bit insufficient to fully restore the confidence of a team that had lost eight straight and seen more than its share of unusual circumstances, but quarterback Mike Glennon would disagree.  The reason, says Glennon, is that the Buccaneers never got as low as one might expect given the negative attention focused on Tampa.

“I think the main thing is to just try to stay even-keeled through it all, to enjoy a win and be upset about a loss but never get too high or get too low within it all," said Glennon.  "When we’ve lost, we have to kind of learn from what we did wrong but then put it behind us and move on, and the same thing from a win – take what we did good, take what we did bad and then move on from it. I’ve noticed that since I’ve been here that guys have been good about that, never getting too high, never getting too low, whatever the circumstances.”

-- The Bucs head to Detroit looking for their first road win of 2013
* On Thursday, Schiano said he was cautiously optimistic that linebacker Mason Foster, who is recovering from a concussion, would be ready to play by Sunday.  Foster shares that optimism, but also understands the point of the caution.

"You never know," said Foster on Thursday, after missing a second straight practice, on his chances to suit up against the Lions.  "I think I'm close but you've got to be safe.  I hate missing anything, I hate missing reps, so it's tough, but at the same time you've got to be safe.  We've got great trainers and great doctors here, so I trust them.  I do what they tell me and just keep working, and hopefully I'll get the go-ahead."

Foster has yet to miss a game in his three-year NFL career, but that streak certainly could end this weekend.  There is very strict – and important – concussion protocol in the NFL, and Foster would have to pass specific tests in order to get clearance.

"Definitely, it's getting better, but I've never had a concussion so everything is new for me," he said.  "I love to play football.  It's tough to deal with something like this because I've never had anything.  But at the same time, I've got to look out for my future and make sure I'm able to play down the road."

While Foster sat out again on Thursday, rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks went from limited participation on Wednesday to a full slate of work on Day Two, improving his chances of playing in Detroit despite a painful shoulder injury.

"He fought through some pain, gutted it out," said Schiano, who ran a Thursday practice heavy on situational football.  "He did it because he knew – third down and red [zone] – how important it that is to get ready for that.”

The Lions' injury report improved in six spots on Thursday, with three players – running back Joique Bell, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and safety Glover Quin – going from no participation to limited work and three more – cornerback Bill Bentley, wide receiver Nate Burleson and cornerback Jonte Green – going from limited to full.  In both cases, it is the receiver in the mix that is the most significant piece of news.  Johnson has been limited on the practice field for a good portion of the season but has only been forced to sit out one game and is very likely to play on Sunday after resuming practice.  Burleson is just back from a fractured forearm that cost him seven games and could bring a new dimension to an already strong Lions' offense.

"Sounds like Nate Burleson is returning," said Schiano.  "When he went down, he was leading the team in receptions so he was really cooking. Being that it was a broken arm, I’m sure that he was able to still run routes and all that stuff so you don’t have that rust factor, you shouldn’t, so it’s going to be a challenge. They added another weapon to the offense.”

The full injury reports for both teams, updated on Thursday, are below.

Buccaneers:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

CB Johnthan Banks

Shoulder

Full Participation

DE Da'Quan Bowers

Concussion

Full Participation

LB Mason Foster

Concussion

Did Not Participate

G Davin Joseph

Knee

Full Participation

G Jamon Meredith

Ankle

Full Participation

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Did Not Participate

WR Chris Owusu

Foot

Full Participation

DT Akeem Spence

Wrist

Full Participation


Lions:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

DE Ezekiel Ansah

Ankle

Limited Participation

RB Joique Bell

Achilles

Limited Participation

CB Bill Bentley

Knee

Full Participation

WR Nate Burleson

Forearm

Full Participation

S Louis Delmas

Knee

Limited Participation

DT Andre Fluellen

Thigh

Limited Participation

CB Jonte Green

Illness

Full Participation

TE Corey Hilliard

Knee

Full Participation

DE Israel Idonije

Knee

Limited Participation

WR Calvin Johnson

Knee

Limited Participation

TE Brandon Pettigrew

Knee

Limited Participation

S Glover Quin

Achilles

Limited Participation


* Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had three sacks last Sunday against Atlanta, and very nearly a fourth, and spent much of the day in the Falcons' backfield.  Given that his pass-rush has been that strong, but without returning the sack results, for much of the last month, McCoy could turn the Atlanta game into the beginning of a hot streak and hit double digits for the first time in his career.  No Buccaneer has had a 10-sack season since Simeon Rice in 2005.

The problem with that scenario is that sacks haven't been common against Detroit and quarterback Matt Stafford this year.  At all.

Stafford has been sacked just 12 times in 10 games, which would be a very good number for a team like San Francisco or Seattle that runs the ball more than 50% of the time.  It's particularly impressive for a team like Detroit that has called a passing play on 62.5% of its snaps this year.  Buccaneers  Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan, who is looking for ways to crack the code against Detroit's offensive front, credits Stafford's underrated athleticism and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan's play-calling for the low sack total.

“Stafford is very athletic and elusive, not that he’s looking to scramble and run like some of the quarterbacks we’ve played in the last month, but he’s athletic enough," said Sheridan.  "He’s not a real flat-footed, slowpoke in the pocket, so he can avoid the rush. He’s looking to throw it, but he can avoid it. The other thing is, Scott does a good job of, especially on different down-and-distances, setting up where, if he does feel pressure, he can get rid of the ball. There’s short enough routes in all of their route concepts where a guy is going to be in the quarterback’s sight line early in the down that if he wants to get rid of the ball right now, he can do it. He doesn’t have to sit back there and wait for four or five guys to get 15, 20 yards down the field. There’s going to be somebody that he can get rid of the ball to right now in the down. He does not sit back in the pocket and let people pour down on him. He’s going to get rid of the ball.”

That said, Sheridan has confidence in his own pass-rushers, and especially McCoy, who has the shortest path to the football from his three-technique spot.  Stafford may have that quick release, but the Lions will have to account for McCoy in some specific ways, anyway, or that sack total could rise.

“He's very explosive and powerful and he’s very hard to contain in conventional blocking patterns, in the run or the pass, because he’s just a big, fast, powerful guy and very quick and very explosive off the line of scrimmage," said Sheridan. "Most people, on most passing downs, orchestrate their protection to handle Gerald.  If they don’t, eventually, more times than not, he’s able to beat a guy in just one-on-one pass protection. He doesn’t see it very much, but when he does, he’s able to beat it.”
Game Rewind: Tampa Bay Buccaneers