Head coaches in the NFL break up the season into four quarters. Each quarter of the season is made up of four games. The goal is to have a winning record in each of those quarters. The Buccaneers are 0-2 in the first quarter, but if they can get back on track vs the Falcons, they will allow themselves to have a chance to go .500 in the first quarter.
Traveling to Atlanta is a tall task. The Falcons are 1-1 after getting exposed last week in their loss to the Bengals. Handling the noise in the dome will be a premium for the Bucs on Thursday Night. This will be a clash of two division rivals and a pivotal game for both teams. Here are my keys to the game for the Bucs:
1) PROTECT THE BALL: I hate to be redundant each week but this area for the Bucs needs to be accounted for. Turnovers have been the achilles heel through the first two games of the season. Protecting the ball for four quarters will give the Bucs a tremendous advantage in winning this match up. With the Falcons high-powered offense, they cannot give them a short field to operate.
2) GROUND & POUND: Bob Rainey is coming off a 144-yard game and the offensive line had its best showing of the season. The return of Doug Martin couldn't have come at a better time as the Falcons defense was scorched for 170 yards rushing against the Bengals last week. There's no better way to succeed in a loud environment then running the football. The two-headed monster of Martin and Rainey must come up big for the Bucs to have a chance.
3) GET MATTY ICE OFF HIS POINT: It's no secret that Matt Ryan is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. With that being said, he had his moments last week playing with a shorthanded offensive line and throwing three interceptions. The Bucs defensive line must push the middle of the pocket. Getting Ryan off the middle point of the pocket and making him move to the left or the right has posed problems for the NFL star. Look for Coach Lovie Smith to add some middle pressures with the linebackers to help a bruised up defensive line get Ryan off his point. If they can get Ryan moving, those turnovers will come and provide the game changing plays on defense this Bucs team desperately needs.
4) MAKE A PLAY IN SPECIAL TEAMS: Last week, our special teams took a step back. They can help make up for it this week with a big return in the punt or kick return game. Chris Owusu showed us a glimpse of big play ability last week against the Rams. In a hostile environment, those return yards to gain field position will be crucial.
For the Buccaneers to be successful in Atlanta, these keys must be met. Mistake-free football and playing with an attitude at the line of scrimmage will always pave the way towards winning football. Thursday night will be electric in the ATL. With adversity in their face, lets see how this Buccaneers team responds.