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Game Day: Buccaneers at Falcons

Posted Oct 20, 2013

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

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rookie QB Mike Glennon will face another new test in his young career as he makes his first start on the road
  • T Donald Penn’s battle with pass-rushing DE Osi Umenyiora is one of the keys to the outcome of Sunday’s game
  • RB Doug Martin faces a stiff Atlanta rush defense but the Buccaneers are likely to work hard to establish the ground game
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Buccaneers bring an 0-5 record into the game while the Falcons are 1-4. On offense, the Buccaneers will look for continued improvement from rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, who will be making his third career NFL start on Sunday, and his first on the road.  Glennon made some impressive throws and some positive strides in his performance in last week’s loss to Philadelphia, completing 26 of 43 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns, and he even ran for another 20 yards.

Although the environment in the Georgia Dome will be loud and hostile on Sunday, Glennon may have the chance to put up even bigger numbers through the air. Atlanta’s defense currently ranks just 26th against the pass, and Bucs Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan is confident his young passer has the physical tools – and the mindset – to take advantage of whatever a defense presents him with.

“[Glennon] does have ability to move and an accuracy, and there’s an upside as far as the physical tools, the attributes you want in a quarterback,” Sullivan said. “The thing that I would reassure our fans, in terms of getting very close with Mike in the meeting rooms [and] seeing him in practices, this is a guy who’s mature beyond his years. He is very focused, there is a steadiness about him, he doesn’t get rattled if it goes bad. If he makes a mistake in practice or in the games, he bounces back and he’s very smart.

“I think he has all the qualities of what we’re going to want in a quarterback here. Obviously, we just have a lot of work to do.”

Defensively, the Bucs find themselves preparing for an Atlanta team that will be without some of its top offensive stars. Receiver Julio Jones has already been ruled out for the year with a foot injury and fellow wideout Roddy White will also miss Sunday’s contest due to injury, leaving the Falcons without their top two wide receivers.

However, the Falcons still have one Tony Gonzalez to throw the ball to, a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the best tight ends to ever play the game. Even if Jones and White were healthy, Tampa Bay Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan said that Gonzalez would still demand attention in the Falconspassing game.

 “He is still a guy that they’re totally leaning on and counting on getting the ball in very key situations, whether it’s in the red zone or third down – he’s still a big-body target,” Sheridan said. “He’s nifty and clever, as far as using his body to screen guys out away from the ball.  He’s got great hands obviously, and they do a good job of putting him in stacks with other adjacent receivers so you’ve got to kind of fight through that to get on him.

“He is their guy and still is perfectly capable of changing a game unless you do something to take care of him.”

Of course, when it comes to the Falcons’ offense, everything still runs through quarterback Matt Ryan, no matter how many of his weapons might be banged up and unavailable.

The Falcons have struggled as a team this year, but Ryan has still played well – ranking ninth in the NFL in passing yards, fourth in completion percentage, and sixth in quarterback rating – and Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy says Atlanta’s quarterback is one of the best in the game and has been a focus all week in practice.

“I got asked this offseason, not in an interview or anything, but just kind of, ‘Name the elite quarterbacks,’ and I said Matt Ryan,” McCoy said. “Somebody was like, ‘Matt Ryan?’ I said, ‘Listen, I play against the guy. He’s an elite quarterback.’ I think it’s going to show up down the stretch. He doesn’t have his main weapon, but he can make the best of anything. He’s that good. The offense runs through him, and if he’s rolling, the team is rolling.”

Defensively, Atlanta has been particularly stout against the run, despite their struggles defending the pass. The Falcons currently rank seventh in the NFL in terms of average rushing yards allowed per game, at just 97.4 yards per contest.

Setting aside statistics, the Falcons have some big-name stars on the defensive side of the ball who Tampa Bay Head Coach Greg Schiano says are going to be looking to get back on track when the Bucs come to town, including top pass-rusher Osi Umenyiora and veteran cornerback Asante Samuel.

“They’re talented,” Schiano said. “Osi’s got four sacks. He’s bringing it – and violent sacks too – off the back end. He’s bringing it. Asante Samuel’s a dangerous player. He’s a guy who can take the ball away, and we’ve got to be careful there. We’ve got to make sure that we’re not careless, at all, around him because he’s done it to everybody.

“We need to continue to perform well on third down. We’ve been able to do that much better than we did last season and we’ve got to keep doing that. That’s going to be critical for our success to extend drives and important to us having a chance to win this game.”

Overall, Schiano says the Falcons are a team with much more talent than their 1-4 record might suggest, and one that will pose an extremely stiff challenge for the Bucs come Sunday.

“They’re a very talented football team, very well coached, the quarterback is a special player,” Schiano said. “They lost Julio last week, he’s one of the elite guys in the National Football League, but they still have good players and Gonzalez is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and he’s still making plays all over the place. They’re playing very good run defense. They’re a good football team, they’ve lost some close football games, so have we. It should be a great game. Like I said, they’re a well-coached football team.”

**

SERIES HISTORY

The Buccaneers lead the all-time series with Atlanta, 20-19, taking the lead in last year’s regular-season finale with a 22-17 win in the Georgia Dome.  The Bucs-Falcons series is one of the most tightly-contested in the NFL among teams that have played each other at least 30 times.

The Bucs and Falcons have split 22 games over the 11 years since they’ve been paired in the NFC South.  That includes season series sweeps for Tampa Bay in 2002, 2005 and 2007, and for Atlanta in 2006, 2009 and 2010.  Each of the last two seasons have ended in a series pslit, with both teams winning at home in 2011 and on the road in 2012.

-T Donald Penn has done well protecting QB Mike Glennon's blind side
Atlanta and Tampa Bay met frequently even before becoming division mates in 2002.  The series kicked off in 1977, Tampa Bay’s second year in the league, with a 17-0 Falcon win.  The Bucs’ first win in the series came just a year later, with a 14-9 victory at Tampa Stadium that marked just the second home win in franchise history.  The best run for Tampa Bay came between the 1997 and 2003 seasons, when they won six in a row.  Atlanta recently ran off five victories in a row from 2008 to 2010.

Click here for more details on the all-time Buccaneers-Falcons series.

**

INJURY REPORT

Buccaneers

Player

Injury

Game Status

CB Michael Adams

Knee

Questionable

DE Da’Quan Bowers

Toe

Questionable

RB Jeff Demps

Groin

Out

G Davin Joseph

Knee

Probable

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Out

WR Mike Williams

Hamstring

Questionable

C Jeremy Zuttah

Groin

Probable

Falcons

Player

Injury

Game Status

T Sam Baker

Knee

Out

TE Chase Coffman

Knee

Out

LB Akeem Dent

Ankle

Questionable

RB Steven Jackson

Hamstring

Out

RB Jason Snelling

Concussion

Probable

WR Roddy White

 Ankle

Out

BUCCANEER PLAYER TO WATCH: RB DOUG MARTIN

As the Buccaneers prepare to play the Falcons and their seventh-ranked rush defense this Sunday, it might be natural to assume that running back Doug Martin will be in for a tough go of things.

However, Martin says the Bucs’ rushing and passing attacks complement one another, and success throwing the ball against a Falcons secondary that has struggled to defend the pass so far in 2013 could eventually open up opportunities for his own impact on the ground.

“With the pass game and the run game, they work off each other,” Martin said. “If you have eight guys in the box, you have to pass the ball. That’s what we want to do as an offense and I think that we’re doing a pretty good job of it and we’re going to continue to do it and hopefully that opens up the run game.”

Martin is currently ninth in the NFL in total rushing yards with 409, averaging 81.8 yards per game – good enough for sixth in the league in that category. And playing alongside rookie quarterback Mike Glennon – who has thrown the second-most passes as a rookie quarterback through his first two starts in NFL history – Martin knows a pass-happy attack might eventually soften up the tough Atlanta run defense.

“It has opened up the run game, definitely,” Martin said. “We had some holes and we had some good runs last game, but unfortunately we were held back by the penalties which we’re also working on.”

 Overall, Martin says he still feels confident in the Bucs offense, and even though he’ll be going up against a tough Atlanta run defense on Sunday, he sees good things in the future for his group.

“We’ve definitely taken a big step forward,” Martin said. “We have some offensive schemes in there working with eight or nine [defenders] in the box, and Mike Glennon’s doing an awesome job connecting with the receivers.

“We’re getting a better chemistry as an offense as a whole, so we’re definitely taking the right steps forward.”

**

KEY MATCHUP: BUCCANEERS T DONALD PENN VS. FALCONS DE OSI UMENYIORA

John Abraham is no longer in Atlanta, but the Falcons have replaced him with another dangerous veteran edge rusher in former Giant Osi Umenyiora.  Atlanta’s pass rush has been underwhelming, ranking 25th in the NFL in sacks per pass play, but Umenyiora has been a force, racking up four sacks and two forced fumbles in five games.  He is capable of getting sacks in bunches, putting up his current total with a pair of two-sack games.  Umenyiora is quick off the edge and has had a number of what Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano calls “violent” hits on the quarterback.

Left tackle Donald Penn has done a very good job of protecting rookie QB Mike Glennon’s blind side.  Penn, who has started 97 consecutive games, has helped Tampa Bay rank 10th in the league in sacks allowed per pass play.  Glennon has shown good functional mobility in the pocket but is not a serious running threat, so it will be important on Sunday for Penn and company to give him time to throw against the NFL’s 26th-ranked pass defense.

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

**

TEAM RANKINGS

The Falcons have one of the NFL’s best passing attacks and are also 12th in the NFl in putting points on the board.  The Buccaneers have allowed the 10th fewest points in the league, on a per-game basis, and are ninth in the NFL in yards allowed per rush.

OFFENSE

BUCS RANK

FALCONS RANK

Points Per Game

31

12

Yards Per Game

31

8

Rushing Yards Per Game

20

26

Average Per Rush

20

17

Passing Yards Per Game

32

2

Sacks Allowed

7

2t

Interceptions Thrown

21t

3t

Third-Down Efficiency

13t

6

Punt Return Average

6

26

Kickoff Return Average

5

18

 

DEFENSE

BUCS RANK

FALCONS RANK

Points Per Game

10

25

Yards Per Game

16

19

Rushing Yards Per Game

13

6

Average Per Rush

9

21

Passing Yards Per Game

16

26

Sacks

19t

27

Interceptions

15t

6t

Third-Down Efficiency

14

32

Punt Return Average

15t

4

Kickoff Return Average

12

23

 

OTHER

BUCS RANK

FALCONS RANK

Turnover Differential

16t

22t

Gross Punting Average

23

17

Net Punting Average

12

17

Field Goal Percentage

28

15

**

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

  • LB Lavonte David has four sacks on the season and with one more can become the first Buccaneer linebacker to record five sacks in a season since Lonnie Marts in 1996 (7.0).
  • P Michael Koenen has 53 punts inside the 20 with the Buccaneers and needs three more to pass Tommy Barnhardt (55 from 1996-98) for sixth-most and four more to pass Tom Tupa (56 from 2002-03) for fifth-most in team history.
  • WR Vincent Jackson needs two more receptions to reach 100 as a Buccaneer, becoming only 34th player with 100 catches as a Buc.
  • With 10 receiving yards Sunday, Jackson would have 1,800 receiving yards in only 22 games as a Buccaneer, becoming the fastest player to reach the mark in team history (previous best: Keyshawn Johnson, 27 games).
  • RB Doug Martin has 1,863 career rushing yards and needs 76 more to pass LeGarrette Blount (1,939 from 2010-12) for 10th and 185 more to pass Earnest Graham (2,047 from 2004-11) for ninth in career rushing yards in franchise history.
  • WR Mike Williams has 25 career touchdown catches and with two more will tie WR Mark Carrier (27 touchdown catches from 1987-1992) for fourth-most in franchise history.
  • Williams has 2,895 career receiving yards and needs 41 more to pass Michael Clayton (2,936 receiving yards from 2004-09) for ninth and 47 more to pass Bruce Hill (2,942 receiving yards from 1987-91).

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