The Bucs defense believes stopping RB Emmitt Smith will be the key this afternoon
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have never won a game in Dallas. Considering the Bucs last paid a visit to the Cowboys 11 years ago, that is but a minor glitch in team annals.
The Bucs have also never won a Super Bowl, unlike the five-time champion Cowboys. Now that's a hole in the ol' resume the size of the gap in Texas Stadium's roof.
On a sunny day, the unique rectangular opening in the stadium's near-dome creates a shifting spotlight on the turf below, one that will shine upon the beginning of a new Super Bowl chase for both teams Sunday afternoon. While the Bucs are darlings of the preseason predictors and the Cowboys are coming off a 5-11 season, there is no chance that Tampa Bay will take this season opener lightly.
No small part of the Bucs' respect for Dallas comes from the difficulty in trying to catch 22. Sure Hall-of-Fame RB Emmitt Smith has ripped his number 22 jersey through 11 spectacular NFL seasons, amassing 15,166 rushing yards and 156 total touchdowns. If he racks up 104 more yards on the ground today, he'll pass Barry Sanders to become the second-ranked rusher in National Football League history.
That occurrence might not bode well for the Buccaneers, who believe containing Smith is the key to victory in today's ballgame. Buc defenders have told all who would listen that stopping the run is their unit's number-one priority for the season, and that is heightened today by the Cowboys' decision to start rookie Quincy Carter at quarterback. As talented as they believe the young signal-caller to believe, Tampa Bay would still like to put the ball in Carter's hands, then put his feet in motion with a fierce pass rush.
Ah, yes, the pass rush. Rice-Sapp-McFarland-Jones – the four names, the four first-round draft picks, that Tampa Bay hopes will strike fear into offensive coordinators around the league this fall. That foursome has had a few brief cameos during the preseason – and those moments were certainly promising – but the full impact of this crew has not yet had time to develop. Perhaps today will be that opportunity.
There are many more things Buccaneer fans have been waiting to get a real look at. Quarterback Brad Johnson and his precision passing. Warrick Dunn as the unquestioned feature back. Kenyatta Walker beginning life as an NFL left tackle.
You can follow all of the action in today's season opener right here on Buccaneers.com, using our special GameDay section. Inside, you'll find links for statistical updates, action photos posted at halftime and at game's end, lineups and injury information, team rosters and depth charts, live scoring summaries and more.
Also, beginning at noon EDT, one hour before kickoff, Buccaneers.com will begin reporting from the Georgia Dome with the most up-to-date information available. The only source allowed in the Bucs' locker room prior to the game, Buccaneers.com will bring you Head Coach Tony Dungy's thoughts at 12:00 and 12:30 p.m., then turn to game reporting after kickoff. Look for quarter-by-quarter updates as well as a final game story, just minutes after the action.