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Game Day: Falcons at Buccaneers

Posted Nov 17, 2013

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

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Buccaneers hope to continue their recent ground game success against the NFL's 27th-ranked rush defense
  • If CB Darrelle Revis is matched up with WR Roddy White, CB Johnthan Banks' work against WR Harry Douglas could be key
  • DE Adrian Clayborn is a player to watch as the Buccaneers try to pressure QB Matt Ryan into mistakes
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.  The Buccaneers bring a 1-8 record into the game while the Falcons are 2-7.

On offense, the Buccaneers will once again be looking for a new face to step up at the running back position. When Doug Martin was lost for the year with a shoulder injury, Mike James appeared to have slotted in seamlessly as his replacement – until an ankle injury early in last week’s contest against Miami landed James on the sideline for the rest of the year as well.

The “next man up” – to borrow the Bucs’ tried-and-true motto for dealing with injuries – will likely be some combination of Bobby Rainey and Brian Leonard. No matter who ends up toting the ball for Tampa Bay, Head Coach Greg Schiano still expects a consistent level of production in the run game.

“I think our offensive line is going to be the key,” Schiano said. “Our receivers, everybody blocking down field, I think that’s critical. I do think the guys that are going to be touching the football as running backs, they have a good feel.

“Sometimes when a guy gets an opportunity, he shows what he can do and I think Bobby did that the other night and I think Brian’s been doing that all year. When he gets his chances, he’s made things happen.”

Defensively, the Bucs will look to not only get pressure on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, but more importantly, turn that pressure into incompletions, throwaways, turnovers and sacks.

“Matt, he doesn’t get sacked very much,” Schiano said. “I think they’re eighth or 10th in sacks allowed. He gets rid of the football, he has a very good sense of timing. It’s not that he’s not getting hit because he is getting hit, but he gets rid of the football, so he’s not an easy guy to sack.

“We’re going to try to do everything that we can to get to him, but we have to make sure that we disrupt his timing, that he has to get rid of it before he wants. To do that, if you can have tight coverage, then he’s either getting rid of it into a pass deflection, an interception, or he’s holding onto it and getting sacked. That’s where – against a guy like this – the coverage and the rush work so much together.”

Fortunately for the Falcons, some key offensive stars are finally getting healthy and will provide Ryan with additional weapons with which to work. Wide receiver Roddy White appears to be back to full strength after dealing with a variety of injuries this season, and running back Steven Jackson, who has only rushed 47 times in 2013 while nursing hamstring and toe injuries, may also be back in form.

“Roddy played 55 plays last week and word is out of their camp that he’s on kind of a pitch count and that was about the top, so maybe he gets another five or 10 plays, I don’t know,” Schiano said. “And now with Steven Jackson healthy, he’s still a physical, tough running back to get down on the ground, so between him and [Jacquizz] Rodgers, they have some weapons they’re getting healthy now. They went through a stretch these last three games where they didn’t have all of their weapons and I think you can see now that, with these guys coming back – unfortunately, last week was kind of their ‘get back into the groove’, so we’re going to get their offense, their real deal offense and we’ve got to be prepared.”

As for the Falcons defense, Atlanta comes to town with just the 25th ranked unit in the league, and the Bucs will look to build off a solid performance when these teams met in Week Seven.

In that game, the Bucs put up 337 total net yards, gained 23 first downs, and scored 23 points. While the red zone (just one touchdown in four trips that game) and goal-to-go situations (only one touchdown in three attempts) are areas that need improvement, the Bucs have already seen they can move the ball on Atlanta’s defense and will be looking for more come Sunday.

- QB M. Glennon and the Buccaneers will try to avenge a Week Seven loss in Atlanta
“We’re just trying to be balanced offensively, as usual,” wide receiver Vincent Jackson said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys and weapons on this team that can make plays. Each and every week, we’ve got to come in and run the ball, control the line of scrimmage and take our shots when we can and just be efficient, keep drives going on third down, and when we get down in the red zone, come away with touchdowns.”

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

**

SERIES HISTORY

Once again, the lead in the all-time Buccaneers-Falcons series is up for grabs.  The head-to-head duel has already been tied up on eight different occasions over the past four decades, and it hit even again four weeks ago when Atlanta took a 31-23 decision over Tampa Bay in the Georgia Dome.

That made it 20-20, though the Bucs do still hold a 12-9 edge in games played in Tampa.  The two teams have shared a division since the 2002 NFL realignment brought the NFC South into existence, and since then Atlanta has won 12 of 23 meetings.  The Bucs are trying to create a season series split for the second straight year, after a stunning 22-17 upset in last year’s season finale at the Georgia Dome avenged a one-point loss from earlier that season.

There is something a bit unusual about this year’s second Bucs-Falcons game: the date.  This year, Tampa Bay will be finished with its division opponents from Georgia sooner than ever before.  In each of the first 11 seasons of the NFC South’s existence, the second Atlanta-Tampa Bay game has occurred in either December or January.  On several of those occasions – most notably in 2002, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010, that late-season matchup between the Bucs and the Falcons has been a big part of determining the final outcome in the NFC South.

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

**

INJURY REPORT

Buccaneers:

Player

Injury

Game Status

CB Mike Adams

Knee

Probable

S Mark Barron

Knee

Probable

DE Da'Quan Bowers

Concussion

Questionable

CB Danny Gorrer

Groin

Probable

WR Vincent Jackson

Knee

Probable

G Davin Joseph

Knee

Probable

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Out

WR Chris Owusu

Foot

Questionable

T Donald Penn

Calf

Probable

DT Akeem Spence

Wrist

Probable


Falcons:

Player

Injury

Game Status

WR Harry Douglas

Knee

Questionable

TE Tony Gonzalez

Toe

Questionable

DE Malliciah Goodman

Calf

Out

RB Steven Jackson

Toe

Probable

DT Peria Jerry

Toe

Questionable

DT Corey Peters

Knee

Questionable

RB Jason Snelling

Knee/Not-Injury

Questionable

LB Sean Weatherspoon

Foot

Probable

WR Roddy White

Shoulder

Probable


**

BUCCANEER PLAYER TO WATCH: DE ADRIAN CLAYBORN

As the Bucs prepare to take on a Falcons team that will be welcoming some key offensive players back to health – namely receiver Roddy White and running back Steven Jackson – the onus will be on the Tampa Bay defense even more to step up and shut down the Falcons’ high-powered attack.

Helping lead the charge will be defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who knows that Atlanta poses a stiff test for any defense – regardless of the status of its key weapons.

“It’s not really [any different], they still attack downfield,” Clayborn said. “Last game, they beat us with [Harry] Douglas. Having guys like Roddy White back, it’s pretty much the same offense, they’ve just got more guys to contribute.

“It’s going to be very important to kind of minimize [White and Jackson] and get after the quarterback and not give him the time to get it to those guys.”

We want to be the type of defense that ends the game and doesn’t let guys score on us.
-- DE Adrian Clayborn
Of course, one of the best ways to slow down an offense like Atlanta’s is to make it a one-sided attack by taking away Jackson and the ground game.

“I think it’s very important for us to, first of all, stop the run,” Clayborn said. “That was the thing the last two weeks was they kept running the ball and pounding the ball and we kept them to zero yards on first and second down, so that was very good for us and it allowed us to pass rush and put pressure on the quarterback.”

 Coming off the team’s first win of the season – capped by an impressive defensive stand to close out the victory – Clayborn said the Bucs’ defense is aiming to keep the momentum going and build off that winning performance.

“We want to be the type of defense that ends the game and doesn’t let guys score on us. We [did] that in the beginning of the season, so hopefully it keeps rolling.”

**

KEY MATCHUP: BUCCANEERS CB JOHNTHAN BANKS vs. FALCONS WR HARRY DOUGLAS

Tampa Bay CB Darrelle Revis, now more than a year removed from his season-ending knee injury in 2012, when he was a member of the New York Jets, gets closer every week to the form that earned him the nickname “Revis Island.”  With his man-to-man coverage responsibilities increasing by the week, he has begun to take out the opposition’s top pass-catcher with more and more reliability.  With that in mind, the Buccaneers may choose on Sunday to match Revis up against Falcons WR Roddy White, who just returned to action last week from a hamstring injury.

If White does indeed find himself on Revis Island, the rest of the Buccaneers’ secondary will need to make sure that WR Harry Douglas doesn’t duplicate his impressive showing from the last Atlanta-Tampa Bay matchup in Week Seven.  With both White and fellow starter Julio Jones out, Douglas stepped up to catch seven passes for 149 yards and a touchdown.  The next week, at Arizona, Douglas grabbed another 12 Matt Ryan passes for 121 yards.

Douglas may become the primary responsibility of Buccaneers rookie CB Johnthan Banks on Sunday.  Banks has settled in as Tampa Bay’s starter opposite Revis and in recent weeks has done a good job of limiting big plays by opposing number-two receivers.  At 6-2 and 185 pounds, Banks has the size and the speed to run with the lanky and quick Douglas and he’s rapidly building confidence during a promising rookie campaign. If Banks is able to keep Douglas from having a second straight big game against the Buccaneers, and if Hall of Fame-bound TE Tony Gonzalez is out or limited due to his toe injury, Falcons QB Matt Ryan may have few options to keep the Falcons’ passing attack in gear.

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

**

TEAM RANKINGS

Atlanta has thrown the ball well, as usual, and has not been hit particularly hard by sacks or interceptions, but it ranks among the league’s worst at both running the ball and stopping the run.  The Buccaneers have been strong against the run for a second straight season and have a turnover ratio usually associated with winning teams, but the offense has struggled to put up enough points to produce victories.

OFFENSE

BUCS RANK

FALCONS RANK

Points Per Game

31

23

Yards Per Game

31

14

Rushing Yards Per Game

14

32

Average Per Rush

15

29

Passing Yards Per Game

30

6

Sacks/Pass Play

12

4

Interception Pct.

10

17

Third-Down Efficiency

21

10

Punt Return Average

8

23

Kickoff Return Average

10

12


DEFENSE

BUCS RANK

FALCONS RANK

Points Per Game

14t

29

Yards Per Game

14

25

Rushing Yards Per Game

5

27

Average Per Rush

8

27

Passing Yards Per Game

14

25

Sacks/Pass Play

24

23

Interception Pct.

15

24

Third-Down Efficiency

20t

31

Punt Return Average

28

12

Kickoff Return Average

3

27


OTHER

BUCS RANK

FALCONS RANK

Turnover Differential

12t

28

Gross Punting Average

28

6

Net Punting Average

27

5

Field Goal Percentage

15t

8t


**

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).
  • QB Mike Glennon has nine touchdown passes on the season and needs one more to pass Bruce Gradkowski (nine in 2006) for second-most and two more to pass Josh Freeman (10 in 2009) for the most passing touchdowns by a rookie in team history.
  • Glennon has 1,304 passing yards on the season and needs 358 more to pass Bruce Gradkowski (1,661 in 2006) for the second-most passing yards by a rookie in team history.
  • 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.
  • In Weeks Nine and 10, the Buccaneers recorded 140 rushing yards in back-to-back games for the first time since last season, and with one more game of 140 or more rushing yards will have recorded 140 rushing yards in three consecutive games for the first time since 2005 (9/11-9/18-9/25).
  • Tampa Bay held Miami under 250 yards of offense. If they hold Atlanta under 250 yards of offense, it will mark the first time since 2008 that they have held consecutive opponents under 250 yards (11/16-MIN, 210; 11/23 @DET, 207).
Game Rewind: Tampa Bay Buccaneers