Tampa Bay’s defense has been one of the league’s stingiest inside it’s own 30-yard line this season, as broken down in this Football Geekery column on Buccaneers.com. To summarize, the Bucs are among the NFL’s best teams at yards per carry allowed and opposer passer rating when the football gets near their red zone.
Still, the Buccaneers rank only in the middle of the pack in terms of points allowed in 2012 (15th, to be exact). Obviously, their opponents are scoring from somewhere, and as Head Coach Greg Schiano has pointed out in recent weeks, it’s the big play that has been a problem for his team. Last week’s mostly dominant 36-17 win at Minnesota was a perfect example: The Bucs’ defense forced six three-and-outs and three turnovers, but did give up a 64-yard touchdown run to Adrian Peterson and an 18-yard touchdown catch to Percy Harvin.
Now, Peterson and Harvin have been two of the NFL’s most productive offensive players this year, so there’s no real shame in that. However, Sunday’s game at Oakland poses a similar threat, and the Bucs hope to eliminate those big plays this time around.
“Offensively, we’re going to have our hands full, with Carson Palmer leading the show at quarterback and their running game is strong,” said Schiano from Oakland Coliseum in the hours leading up to the game. “They have the potential to hit big, big plays. [Darren] McFadden has got breakaway speed and then you look at their wideouts, they can run very, very well. It’s probably the fastest group of wideouts that we’ll play all season.”
McFadden’s big-play ability was evident during his first four NFL seasons, during which he averaged an excellent 4.8 yards per carry. This year, however, he is running at just 3.3 yards per clip. Oakland Head Coach Dennis Allen said this week that getting more explosive plays out of McFadden is one of his team’s immediate goals.
As for Oakland’s wideouts, they are indeed stretching the field well for Palmer. Both Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore are averaging 15.4 yards per catch or better.
Schiano is confident that his team has used the last 10 days to prepare well for Oakland’s big-play potential. Now it’s time to see if they can get the job done.
”They know what’s got to get done,” said Schiano. “I will remind them of a few things, but Sunday, game day, is the players’ day. Coaches need to just stay out of the way, make sure we give them good calls and let them go play.”