On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue their early-season run through some of the NFL's most uniquely-talented quarterbacks. This week: Tony Romo.
In Week One, the Bucs' new-look defense contained run-pass dual threat Cam Newton in a win over the Panthers. Last Sunday, Tampa Bay picked off prolific pocket passer Eli Manning three times in the first half but couldn't hold off Manning's fourth-quarter onslaught in a shootout defeat.
Like Manning, Romo has piled up the passing yards in his impressive career, but, in his best moments, he does it in a somewhat different manner. The Buccaneers know that this Sunday, in the massive new Cowboys Stadium, they have to limit Romo's out-of-the-pocket creativity. According to Head Coach Greg Schiano, that's not a matter of out-scheming Romo and the Cowboys' offense but simply taking care of business in a fundamental way.
"He has a great ability to extend plays," said Schiano. "If it's open, he gets it to him right away. But if it's not, he's not looking to run all over the field, he's looking to extend the play so he can throw the ball down the field to his weapons. And he has some very talented weapons. Tony's done it for a long time at a high level and it's going to be hard to fool him or trick him. You're going to have to go out and execute and out-play him."
The Bucs made it easier on themselves against Newton by bottling up the Panthers' run game early. They were relatively strong against the Giants' ground game, too, though New York was more than happy to pass on 51 plays. Another strong performance by the run defense – perhaps the most improved aspect of the new Bucs so far – would help in keeping Romo from creating big plays off the play-action.
This week, that means containing second-year standout DeMarco Murray and his changeup reserve, Felix Jones.
"They're a little bit different in their styles, so that makes it difficult as well," said Schiano. "You'd better be sure you know who is dotting the I there, who's getting the ball. They both can hit a home run and that's something you'd better be aware of."
The Bucs should have a fully-stocked defense to counter Romo and his weapons, as reserve cornerback Anthony Gaitor is the only Tampa Bay player out due to injury today. Gaitor has been deactivated, along with CB E.J. Biggers, RB Michael Smith, S Keith Tandy, T Jamon Meredith and DE George Johnson. On offense, fourth-year lineman Demar Dotson will get his second consecutive start at right tackle, replacing Jeremy Trueblood.
Dallas was forced to deactivate three starters due to injury, as DT Kenyon Coleman, NT Jay Ratliff and S Gerald Sensabaugh are all unable to play. Joining them on the inactive list is starting C Phil Costa as well as WR Cole Beasley, S Matt Johnson and LB Alex Albright. Costa, Johnson and Albright are also out due to injuries. Sean Lissemore and Josh Price-Brent will move up into the starting defensive line in the Cowboys' 3-4 front, and Danny McCray will draw the start at strong safety. On offense, Ryan Cook will once again step in at center for Costa.
The Bucs will invade Cowboys Stadium for the first time Sunday, with kickoff against the Cowboys scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on radio through the Buccaneers Radio Network and its flagship station, US 103.5 FM. That radio broadcast will also be carried live on Buccaneers.com. Buccaneers.com will post a running blog of all the action on Sunday, and will also provide coverage of the team's postgame press conferences.