I was on vacation last week so I didn’t get to write this, but going into the matchup against the Saints I felt strangely confident. Sure we got killed the week before in San Francisco. Yes, we were playing without LeGarrette Blount and Gerald McCoy. But I just had a feeling the Bucs would come up big against New Orleans.
Boy was I right!
While Freeman had his best game of the year, the credit goes to the improving Bucs defense. Four picks!!! FOUR PICKS of Drew Brees (welcome back Tanard Jackson! Let’s put the weed away for a while). The most impressive thing about the game was the Bucs pass rush. There was constant pressure on Brees. Adrian Clayborn was a beast with pressure, chasing Brees out of the pocket several times. Michael Bennett continues to play at a high level. And Brian Price… well… you are my hero.
All this adds up to bad news for the Bears.
The Bears have two huge weaknesses… the wide receivers and the offensive line. We’ve seen the Bucs play bad O-lines this season and dominate (see Colts, Falcons). Gerald McCoy is set to comeback this week only making the D-line stronger and we saw Da’Quan Bowers fill in nicely last week that I expect him to get some more time. Meantime, the secondary was up and down. They had four picks (and dropped a few more) but also gave up a lot of big plays. However, any of the Saints top three receivers would be the number one receiver for Chicago (who is the best receiver in Chicago?). This should be a good matchup for the Bucs secondary.
As for the offense… all I can say is… FINALLY! Finally, the Bucs started throwing the ball downfield. I don’t know if this is because Blount was on the bench, but this is what we saw last year, play action and throw deep. The Bucs tried it several times in this game, connecting on a long TD to Arrelious Benn (and missing one with Mike Williams). The Bucs wide receivers started making plays again. And not to surprisingly, when you can pass it really opens up the running game, even for Earnest Graham.
The Bears haven’t played stellar this season. The O-line is getting Jay Cutler killed. So it doesn’t take a Belichickian genius to know that means you have to stop two players, Matt Forte and Devin Hester. Forte is sort of a poor man’s Marshall Faulk. He’s that double-threat runner/receiver we’ve seen make big plays against this Bucs defense. As for Hester, Michael Koenen did a great job neutralizing Darren Sproles last week and should be able to do it again.
The wildcard here is the location. Both teams have to travel across the pond to play in England. The last time the Bucs traveled to England for a game, they got crushed by the Patriots leading to the start of the Josh Freeman era. Tampa elected to spend the entire week in London, where the Bears are traveling late in the week. I don’t know which is the better tactic, but it does give the Bucs a little more time to adjust to the time change and apparently slick field.
The Bears and the Bucs have a lot in common. Neither appear to be great right now, but both could get hot and cause trouble. I think the Bears have more issues (both on and off the field) and that hopefully gives Tampa the advantage in this game.
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About the Author
Written by Justin Chechourka
Born and raised in California, I inexplicably became a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. Now I bleed red and pewter. The best part of being a Bucs fan in California... I never have to worry about blackouts.