Last Sunday against Carolina, the new-look Tampa Bay Buccaneers found the end zone on their first offensive possession of the 2012 season, after recording just two first-quarter touchdowns in all of 2011.
The Buccaneers hope to make that a trend this fall, having emphasized fast starts under Greg Schiano and the new coaching staff. Schiano says that will be particularly important on Sunday when his team invades the new Meadowlands.
"We need to start here quickly because this crowd is going to be into it and this Giant team is an angry team coming off their opening-week loss," said Schiano on the morning prior to his team's first road game of the season. "They've had time to stew over it. So it's going to be important that we can match them blow for blow early in this football game. Then as the game goes on I think that's going to be good for us. We've just got to match them early."
MetLife Stadium opened just two years ago, but the Buccaneers have heard firsthand accounts of the arena's raucous atmosphere from Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan and running back D.J. Ware, both Giants employees until recently.
MetLife has a capacity of over 82,000 and it is brimming on Giants game days. The front-row seats are closer to the sideline than in any other stadium in the NFL, and the noise can be deafening. That's a likelihood the Buccaneers have been preparing for all week.
"We have crowd noise at practice every week," said Schiano. "When we're at home it's for the defense and when we're away it's for the offense. Both teams need to communicate and when it's loud you have to do it non-verbally. That's what we've done offensively and I think the guys feel comfortable with all the non-verbal communication that has to occur. But you take that and then you put those pass-rushers out there it's a little different."
As Schiano points out, the crowd noise at MetLife, if it is allowed to build, is a potentially lethal combination with the Giants' greatest on-field strength, it's pass rush. New York has a trio of dynamic backfield invaders in Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Matthias Kiwanuka, and even the slightest delay by the opposing offensive line at the snap can put quarterbacks in jeopardy.
Thus, the Buccaneers' greatest chance for success on Sunday in the Meadowlands will be to be to jump out to a quick start and keep the crowd and the Giants' defense from feeding off of each other.