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Game Day: Bills at Buccaneers

Posted Dec 8, 2013

Prepare for Sunday’s game with our preview, including injury reports, key matchups, series history, players to watch and more

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.  The Buccaneers bring a 3-9 record into the game while the Bills are 4-8.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Bucs will be looking to cut down on turnovers on Sunday. While that’s always a weekly goal, Head Coach Greg Schiano said it has been an increased focus this week after two costly turnovers led directly to points in last week’s loss against Carolina, and with an opportunistic Buffalo defense on tap.

Buffalo is tied for second in the NFL with 16 interceptions on the year (behind only the Bucs with 17), and Schiano says many of those picks have resulted from a fearsome pass rush.

“The pass rush goes hand-in-hand with the interceptions,” Schiano said. “[The Bills] put so much heat on quarterbacks that there are some balls – if you watch the tape, game after game, and then the cut-ups, guys are under duress and they put it up there and they can’t really see and then they get intercepted. Their secondary is very athletic, their safeties really do a good job of seeing the quarterback, anticipating throws, so they’ve got man-to-man all over the place.

“They’ve got a lot of different combinations, their defense is very, very multiple, all different packages, all different blitzes, all different overloads. We’re really going to have to be on our ‘A game’ to be able to pick everything up. First identify and then pick it up physically, those are two different issues because their front seven is really good.”

Defensively, the Bucs are preparing for a tough one-two punch in the Buffalo backfield with running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. While their styles differ, Jackson, a pass-catching threat as well as a tough runner, and Spiller with his game-changing speed, will be priorities No. 1 and 2 for the Bucs as they seek to shut down the Bills’ fourth-ranked rush offense.

- LB L. David has three of the Bucs' NFL-high 17 interceptions

“[Spiller is] a nightmare – you don’t want him out there [in open space],” Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan said. “He’s a distinctly different guy than the regular guys that we’re playing against every week because when he is out in the open, you’re holding your breath and you’re just counting on your back end guys trapping him to get him down. In the open field he’s very elusive and he’s got incredible straight line speed. He runs away from a lot of defensive backs.

“They use [Jackson] as well in the screen game and that kind of stuff and he has to be accounted for as well because they can dump it off to him, and if you can’t corral him early in the down, he’s going to be breaking out. He’s a real talent.”

The Buffalo offense isn’t all about the running backs, however. Rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel also has a number of weapons in the passing game, most notably wide receiver Steve Johnson, an outstanding route-runner.  All told, the Bucs are preparing for a well-rounded Buffalo offense that has improved as the season has progressed.

“The biggest thing I would say, is that first of all, they’re very committed to running the ball and they do a very good job of it,” Sheridan said. “They have two very, very good running backs; they execute their running game plan very well; they can block all the fronts. They’re not complex, but therefore very good at what they do in their zone blocking patterns and they have to outstanding running backs who, eventually, they keep giving it to them, they crack the line of scrimmage and they’re out in the secondary and they make the four-yard runs turn into 20-yard runs.

“The other thing is, on the perimeter, they’re very explosive, they’ve got dynamic vertical threats and they’re more than willing to throw it down the field and all parts of the field and all down and distances. You watch them on offense and to me, they’re a very dynamic offensive team for those two things, the running game and the explosive athletes they have on the perimeter and their willingness to throw the ball down the field.”

As for the Buffalo defense, the Bills will bring an outstanding pass rush to Tampa that currently leads the NFL with 43 sacks, a full four quarterback takedowns ahead of second-place Carolina.

“They’ve got some good players on that front,” tackle Donald Penn said. “They’re really underestimated. [Defensive end] Mario [Williams is] playing good, both Williams’ [defensive tackle Kyle Williams] are playing great football. The other D-tackle [Marcell Dareus], he’s a real good, physical player. [Defensive end Jerry Hughes], he’s a great pass-rusher that really gets no credit coming off the edge.

“They’re doing some good things. They’ve kind of got a lot of similarities [to us]: [they] do some good stuff ‘here,’ they do some good stuff ‘here,’ but they haven’t put it all together. At times, they do. At times, they don’t. We’ve got to go out there and just make sure we attack them and do what we can do well and just keep doing it consistently.”

Click here for more on what the Bills will bring to the table on Sunday afternoon.

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SERIES HISTORY

The Buccaneers and Bills don’t have an extensive shared history, but it’s on that has been mostly positive for the home team.  Fortunately for Tampa Bay, it has almost always been the home team.

There are nine Bucs-Bills games in the books, and eight of them have been played in Tampa.  Upstate New York was the last remaining destination on Tampa Bay’s franchise passport before they finally took that trip in 2009, coming back with a 33-20 loss.  Weirdly, each of the first eight games in the series were played in Florida, one of the anomalies that came out of the NFL’s since-retired scheduling format that relied heavily on the team’s results from the previous year.  When the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002 it also went to a much simpler rotation of division opponents, guaranteeing that every team would have at least one home and one away game against every other team in an eight-year period.

Long before that – in fact before the Buccaneers were even in the NFC, the Bills were the third team ever to line up against the 1976 expansion team from Tampa.  The Buccaneers hadn’t scored a single point in their first two regular-season games, but they held a 9-7 lead early in the fourth quarter against Buffalo before falling, 14-9.  Tampa Bay then went on to win six of the next seven meetings…again, all in Tampa.

The Buccaneers’ 10-5 win in 1988 represents the only NFL game ever to finish with that score. Click here for more details on the all-time Buccaneers-Bills series.

**

INJURY REPORT

Buccaneers:

Player

Injury

Game Status

DE Da’Quan Bowers

Knee

Questionable

DT Gary Gibson

Calf

Questionable

WR Vincent Jackson

Hamstring

Questionable

G Davin Joseph

Knee

Probable

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Out

WR Chris Owusu

Hamstring

Questionable

CB Darrelle Revis

Chest

Probable

DT Akeem Spence

Wrist

Probable


Bills:

Player

Injury

Game Status

WR Marquise Goodwin

Calf

Probable

DT Kyle Williams

Achilles

Probable


**

BUCCANEER PLAYER TO WATCH: CB DARRELLE REVIS

Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis was the biggest of the team’s big-name offseason acquisitions, brought in to help bolster the team’s secondary and produce more turnovers on defense.

Revis is tied for second on the team in interceptions with two, but his presence has been felt in a more thorough sense. The Bucs currently lead the NFL in interceptions with 17, but Revis says he and his teammates in the secondary are far from satisfied.

“That’s a great accomplishment, but I think we’ve played up and down this year,” Revis said. “I’ve been trying to find ways to be consistent. We’re still trying to click as a group and hopefully we’ll be together for a bunch of years because we’ve been playing great at times, but we need to be better at times.”

Interestingly, the Bucs have been able to put up such impressive interception figures despite a number of injuries forcing a rotating cast of characters to take the field. Revis, who has missed time in recent weeks – though he has started every game – credits the defense’s depth and attitude for its continued ability to come up with splash plays, no matter who it is getting their hands on the ball.

“Guys have been stepping up,” Revis said. “We’ve been having a lot of guys injured or banged up a lot and guys have been stepping up. [Safety Keith] Tandy is one of those guys who has stepped up a lot, he has some interceptions. The linebackers have been playing awesome, Lavonte [David] got a pick last week and talk about Mason [Foster] getting interceptions for touchdowns. Guys have been playing great and that’s a great accomplishment for us leading the league in picks.”

This week, Revis and the Bucs’ defense will face a multifaceted Buffalo offense led by rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel. While it may be natural to assume the Bucs would target a young quarterback and try to force bad throws and interceptions, Revis says the focus – as usual – is still on stopping the run.

“Watching film on him I think they’ve got a strong offense,” Revis said. “They’re very explosive especially with [running backs] Fred Jackson and Spiller. [Manuel is] a rookie quarterback, he’s coming in, he’s trying to get his groove. I think overall we need to stop him and we need to stop the running game. I played against them in the past, Spiller and Fred Jackson, and the biggest key was to stop the run because we don’t want to get those guys going. C.J. Spiller can be very explosive and also Fred Jackson, he can turn it on as well.”

Despite the Bills’ one-two punch at running back and the all-important goal of slowing down Buffalo’s fourth-ranked rushing attack, Revis knows that Buffalo still has weapons in the passing game and is eager for the chance to line up against Manuel and his receivers and hopefully add to the Bucs’ impressive turnover tally.

“[Manuel] takes his chances, he takes a lot of shots down the field,” Revis said. “They’ve got some fast receivers, they really do. They’ve got some fast receivers on the outside, so we need to be aware of that in the secondary. He seems like he’s not shying away, he doesn’t care whose out there, regardless he’s going to throw the ball up because he has confidence in his guys.”

**

KEY MATCHUP: LB LAVONTE DAVID VS. RB C.J. SPILLER

The Buccaneers go into every game with the primary goal of stopping the opponents’ rushing attack, but this week there’s little doubt that keeping the Bills’ ground game in check is critical.

Buffalo ranks fourth in the NFL with 139.2 rushing yards per game and features the only pair of teammates with at least 600 yards each in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.  Jackson has been the slightly more productive back of the two and is certainly a key concern for the Buccaneers; however, Tampa Bay’s defense is most worried about giving up big plays and Spiller is one of the NFL’s most dangerous big-play back.

Essentially, the Bucs have to make sure that Spiller never, or at least rarely, makes it out into open space, because he has the type of speed that makes him deadly at that point.  In that regard, Tampa Bay’s best defense is #54, one of the NFL’s best linebackers at stopping running plays before they can get started.  LB Lavonte David leads the NFL with 11 run stuffs after ranking second in that category as a rookie in 2012.  Few players have the speed to keep up with Spiller in the open field, but David has the sort of sideline-to-sideline quickness that can contain a big-play back before he ever gets a chance to turn on the jets.

Click here to read about other head-to-head matchups that will help determine Sunday’s outcome.

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TEAM RANKINGS

Both the Buccaneers and the Bills have done a good job of producing turnovers, especially in the passing game, but Buffalo has a much higher sack total on defense.  Tampa Bay’s defense appears to be better against the run, however, and has also allowed fewer points per game.  The Bills’ running game is among the best in the league but the Bucs may have an advantage when returning punts and kickoffs.

OFFENSE

BUCS RANK

BILLS RANK

Points Per Game

30

20

Yards Per Game

31

16t

Rushing Yards Per Game

22

4

Average Per Rush

24

14

Passing Yards Per Game

30

29

Sacks/Pass Play

25

18

Interception Pct.

10

14

Third-Down Efficiency

28

23

Punt Return Average

7

27

Kickoff Return Average

6

25

DEFENSE

BUCS RANK

BILLS RANK

Points Per Game

17

24

Yards Per Game

16

17

Rushing Yards Per Game

12

24

Average Per Rush

18

19

Passing Yards Per Game

18

15

Sacks/Pass Play

28

2

Interception Pct.

4

6

Third-Down Efficiency

20

16

Punt Return Average

29

28

Kickoff Return Average

2

10

OTHER

BUCS RANK

BILLS RANK

Turnover Differential

4t

13t

Gross Punting Average

24

26

Net Punting Average

31

27

Field Goal Percentage

28t

7


**

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

  • LB Lavonte David has five sacks on the season and, with one more can tie for the fifth-most sacks in a season by a Buccaneers linebacker in team history (Kevin Murphy-6.0, 1989).
  • David has three interceptions this season and with one more can become the first linebacker since Derrick Brooks (5 in 2002) to record four or more interceptions in a single season.
  • LB Mason Foster has two interceptions returned for a touchdown this season and with one more can tie LB Derrick Brooks (3 in 2002) and CB Wayne Haddix (3 in 1990) for the most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a single season in franchise history.
  • WR Vincent Jackson needs 38 receiving yards to reach 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season, and the fifth time in his career. Jackson would be the first Buccaneers receiver to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since Joey Galloway (three consecutive seasons, 2005-07).
  • WR Eric Page has two punt returns of 40 or more yards this season. With one more punt return of 40 or more yards, Page will tie Jacquez Green (three in 1998) for the most returns of 40 or more yards in a single season.
  • With one more receiving touchdown this season, TE Tim Wright can tie Calvin Magee and Jim Obradovich as the only rookie tight ends in franchise history with at least three receiving touchdowns.
  • With a win against Carolina, the Buccaneers would be the first team since the 1978 St. Louis Cardinals to lose their first eight games then win the next four.
  • S Keith Tandy has an interception in each of the Buccaneers’ last two games.  If he picks off a pass against Buffalo, he’ll be the first Buccaneer safety to record three straight games with an interception since Joe King in 1993.
Game Rewind: Tampa Bay Buccaneers