With a massive rushing yardage advantage of 130-10 and three sacks of elusive quarterback Cam Newton, it's clear that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the battle in the trenches in their season-opening victory over the Carolina Panthers. Doing so again in Week Two will once again be critical…but even more difficult to accomplish.
Not only will the Buccaneers be on the road in a hostile environment this time around, but they'll be facing the defending Super Bowl champions, a team that has built its success on the play of its front lines. Last year, en route to their second title in five years, the Giants finished sixth in the NFL in both sacks per pass play on defense and sacks allowed per pass play on offense.
The New York Giants weren't as sharp when they opened their title defense last Wednesday, losing 24-17 at home to the Dallas Cowboys, but that should only increase their drive in Week Two.
"They're coming off a loss," said Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who was one of the team's most disruptive defenders last week. "After you win the Super Bowl, that's not how you want to start the season, so you know they have a lot of pride up there. They're going to come out storming, and they play a hard brand of football. What they are going to do is run the ball. The line of scrimmage battle is going to be key this week.
"They have a lot to prove and they know that, so we have to know that as we go into this game."
The Giants' defensive front is bracketed by Pro Bowlers in Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul and backed up by pass-rushing linebacker Matthias Kiwanuka. That group led New York to 48 sacks last season, or exactly three per game.
"They're a talented bunch of guys, everybody knows that," said one of the Pro Bowlers on the opposite front, Bucs guard Carl Nicks. "They've got three or five Pro Bowlers on the D-Line, something crazy like that. They're big. They've got sacks, tackles for loss, they're causing pressure, bull-rushing, speed-rushing, jack-of-all-trades over there. You've just got to stick with your thing, do what you do best and execute. That's the main thing, to execute. No mental errors. You can't let them get one big play because then that will erupt to another big play and everybody's going to bounce off each other. We've got to nip that in the bud real quick."
On the other side of the ball, the Giants struggled to run the ball in 2011 but protected quarterback Eli Manning beautifully as Manning threw for just under 5,000 yards. They were sixth in the league in rushing just two years ago and were able to pick up 4.3 yards per carry on just 19 runs against the Cowboys . The Giants drafted running back David Wilson just one pick after the Buccaneers picked up Doug Martin in the first round in April, and while Wilson watched most of the first game from the sideline after fumbling on his second carry, it's clear that the team is interested in re-establishing its formerly powerful ground game.
"They play a hard-nosed brand of football, so that's what we expect," said McCoy. "Whatever that is, we've got to bring an extra Gatorade. Bring a neck roll if you don't wear one, all that stuff, strap up and go."