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Bucs Seek Containment Against Newton

Posted Nov 27, 2013

Wednesday Notes: Tampa Bay defenders know they have to do a better job of keeping QB Cam Newton from escaping the pocket in their rematch with Carolina...And other notes

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Bucs hope to do a better job of keeping Carolina QB Cam Newton in the pocket on Sunday
  • CB Darrelle Revis did not practice Wednesday and is considered day-to-day
  • LB Lavonte David thinks his Player of the Week award should be a group honor
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense allowed just 17.5 points per game during the first month of the season despite facing the high-powered New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots in that span.  However, the Buccaneers' next three opponents – Philadelphia, Atlanta and Carolina – put up identical final scores of 31 points.  According to Head Coach Greg Schiano, the main problem in the first two of those three games was the defense uncharacteristically letting passes fly over the top.  There was a different issue in the third game, however.

As Schiano noted on several occasions after Tampa Bay's 31-13 loss to Carolina in Week Eight, the back-breaking issue in that game was loss of containment on the quarterback.  Now, this isn't a complete surprise, as the Panthers' quarterback happens to be Cam Newton, who has 379 rushing yards on the season, third in the league among passers.  But it was a disappointment, because the Buccaneers went into that game knowing they needed to keep Newton from breaking the pocket in order to keep the Panthers in check.

Now the Buccaneers are preparing for a rematch with the Panthers – this time in Charlotte, and against a team that sports the league's longest winning streak at seven games – and the same issue is front and center.  The Buccaneers are preparing the same way they did last time, too, because it wasn't a strategic issue that cost them in Week Eight.

"It was just assignment issues, guys being too aggressive, trying to get to the quarterback," said linebacker Lavonte David.  "We've got to be more disciplined.  We've learned from it, and that's about it."

Newton ran 11 times for 50 yards in the first Bucs-Panthers game of this season to lead all players in that category.  He took three sacks but threw well on the run, putting up 221 yards and two touchdowns without committing a turnover.  Newton's own six-yard run in the third quarter was the play that broke up what had been a fairly tight competition.

“Obviously, he’s a good runner, once he breaks contain out of the pocket," said David. "He has a great strong arm and he’s taking care of the football. He’s got great game management and he knows how to find his weapons.”

-- Carolina QB Cam Newton has led his team to seven straight victories
Newton has been on a tear since he last faced Tampa Bay, leading his team to a string of comeback victories and mostly avoiding turning over the football.  The Bucs think they can slow him down, but they have to do a better job on their core assignment this time around.

"We've just got to execute," said linebacker Mason Foster.  "He's a great athlete so he's going to make plays, but you've just got to limit those plays.  Keep him in the pocket.  Force him to make throws down the field.  Don't let him escape with his feet and make throws outside the pocket.  Just keep him in there and try to contain Cam Newton."

Last Sunday, the Buccaneers faced a Lions offense that ranked third in the NFL and that had also done a good job of limiting turnovers, but they managed to intercept quarterback Matthew Stafford four times.  In their previous road trip before the Detroit game, they took the NFC's top-seeded team, Seattle, to overtime in a venue that is considered the most difficult in the NFL for visiting teams.  Now they take to the road again with Cam Newton waiting for them in Charlotte.  It's a test they relish.

"It's exciting," said Foster.  "He's a big-time competitor who makes a lot of plays with his arm and his feet.  You've got to love that challenge, going down there to play against a great team.  I'm excited.  This is what you dream about as a little kid, playing in a big game against a great quarterback.  It's going to be fun."

* Foster should get a chance to help in the efforts to contain Newton, as he returned to full participation in practice on Wednesday after missing all of last week.  Foster was overcoming concussion symptoms for much of the week, and as always the team took a very cautious approach with that particular injury.  For the first time in his three-year NFL career, he sat out a game, staying back in Tampa as the team traveled to Detroit and secured a 24-21 victory over the Lions.

"I'm good to go, man, I'm good," said Foster after Wednesday's practice.  "[Sitting out the game] was just to be safe.  I did what they told me but I'm ready to go now so I'm just moving forward."

Foster did not particularly enjoy the experience of watching the Buccaneers play from his couch, though he did have a good number of family members on hand to share it with…and to exchange living-room chest bumps after each big takeaway by the Tampa Bay defense.

"Oh man, it was hard," said Foster.  "Watching the game at the house, I had to let everybody know: Unless you're going to be completely engaged, you need to get out.  It was one of the toughest things to do, sit there and watch, but I'm glad the guys pulled it out.  They were playing great defense.  It was a great team effort.  There was a lot of celebrating going on in the Foster house, with Lavonte [David] and [Keith] Tandy [making plays].  I felt like was out there with them, but it's great to be back."

Safety Dashon Goldson also rejoined the team on the practice field after watching the Detroit game from home, though his absence was due to a one-game NFL suspension and not an injury.  Goldson was especially discouraged to learn that a suspension meant he could have no contact with the team for an entire week.

"It was real frustrating to be away from the team," he said.  "And I didn't know the extent of being suspended.  You couldn't be around the building, you couldn't have any contact with the coaches.  I couldn't even be in the training room to get my body right.  That was kind of a surprise to me.

"At least sitting out a game [due to injury] I get to see what's going on, I get to be with the team and sit in meetings.  Being suspended is nothing like that.  It’s not a good taste."

Like Foster, however, Goldson at least enjoyed seeing his teammates play so well against the Lions, especially with the defense missing those two key components.  Cornerback Darrelle Revis also sat out the second half of the game, but critical plays came from the likes of safeties Kelcie McCray and Keith Tandy and cornerbacks Danny Gorrer and Leonard Johnson.

"It was vital," said Goldson of the young players taking on such important roles.  "Those guys did a good job of just bowing up and playing football.  It was no surprise to me how they played.  Young guys stepped up.  Johnthan Banks stepped up, Danny Gorrer came back.  Kelcie McCray, Tandy, L-Boogie [Johnson] – we had some guys who stepped in and made some key plays."

The Bucs may need more of the same on Sunday in Charlotte if the groin injury Revis sustained in Detroit is significant enough to keep him out of the next contest.  Revis did not practice on Wednesday and was described by Schiano as being "day-to-day."  Revis was one of four Buccaneers who sat out the first practice of the week.  The Panthers practiced without participation from six players, including all three of their primary running backs: Jonathan Stewart (ankle), DeAngelo Williams (quad) and Mike Tolbert (knee).  The full injury reports for both teams are below:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

LB Mason Foster

Concussion

Full Participation

LB Adam Hayward

Foot

Did Not Participate

G Davin Joseph

Knee

Did Not Participate

G Jamon Meredith

Ankle

Full Participation

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Did Not Participate

CB Darrelle Revis

Groin

Did Not Participate

DT Akeem Spence

Wrist

Full Participation


Player

Injury

Practice Status

LB Chase Blackburn

Foot

Limited Participation

T Jordan Gross

Not Injury Related

Did Not Participate

TE Ben Hartsock

Knee

Limited Participation

DE Charles Johnson

Knee

Did Not Participate

G Chris Scott

Knee

Did Not Participate

RB Jonathan Stewart

Ankle

Did Not Participate

RB Mike Tolbert

Knee

Did Not Participate

RB DeAngelo Williams

Quad

Did Not Participate


* LB Lavonte David contributed to the defensive effort in Detroit with 12 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble and one passes defensed.  That was a robust stat line, to be sure, and he led all players in tackles while making some key open-field stops of Reggie Bush, but it was not really much of an outlier from what David has been doing all season.

Against the Jets in Week One, for instance, David had eight tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, one interception and two passes defensed.  At Atlanta in Week Seven he combined 10 solo stops with three tackles for loss and a pass defensed.  He had one sack and two tackles for loss to go along with 12 total tackles the following weekend against the Panthers.

In other words, it was a typical day at the office for David, but it was also impressive enough to win him the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award for Week 12.  David believes the added recognition was actually the product of so many other players making critical contributions around him.

"You've got to give the credit to them," said David on Wednesday.  "If it wasn't for them making all those plays I probably wouldn't have even been recognized.  It's a great honor but if it was up to me I'd give it to our defense as a whole.  We left the game with five turnovers, and that's really good.  You've got to take your hat off to those guys for doing such a great job."

Of course, just because David's performance in Detroit felt almost expected for the talented young player doesn’t mean it was unworthy of the award it brought him.  Winning makes the difference, of course, and Wednesday's award, in one sense, is recognition of the way that David has been playing all season, even when the victories weren't piling up.

“He probably could’ve gotten [the award] several other times," said Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan.  "Even for us, when we try to give out game balls to determine who played best on offense, defense and that kind of stuff, he’d be a candidate every week for us. I imagine he’s probably as productive or as competitive as all the guys that are playing out there every single week. It’s no surprise, obviously overdue, and I could anticipate him being a candidate for that week-in and week-out.”
Game Rewind: Tampa Bay Buccaneers