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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs-Bears: Keys to the game

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 04:05 AM

Focus

No matter how hard they try to convince themselves otherwise, this is not just another game. The Bucs spent the entire week in a foreign country, practicing in a foreign environment. This game is a showcase for the NFL and everything associated with it, from the travel schedule to the fans in the stands. It has the potential to distract even veteran players and rob them of their focus. As the youngest team, in the league the Bucs are even more prone to losing focus, but can overcome that by taking this game one play and one series at a time. It's an old cliché, but in this environment, it's appropriate.

Keep up the good work

The Bucs have been rather stellar against the run in recent weeks. Their only slip was in San Francisco, where they gave up 213 yards rushing. In the three other most recent games, they allowed just 162 yards rushing on 53 carries, or 3.0 yards per carry. Stopping the run is always Job One for the defense. The Bears have started to go away from what was a pass-heavy attack and leaned more on RB Matt Forte, who ran for 205 yards against the Panthers two weeks ago. The Bucs, though, cannot let Forte beat them.

Run it up

Bucs QB Josh Freeman is coming off arguably his best game of the season. Though he failed to complete 50 percent of his passes, Freeman threw for more than 300 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Saints. Still, this is no time to put more on Freeman's shoulders. The best way to beat the Bears is to neutralize their pass rush, which means running the ball. The Bears have been poor tacklers and exhibited horrible gap discipline as run stoppers. Tampa Bay won't have LeGarrette Blount, but Earnest Graham has enough power and cut-back ability to make the Bears pay. If the Bucs find a way to distract MLB Brian Urlacher with dummy passing routes, they could run all over the Chicago defense.

Key Matchup

Bucs coverage teams vs. Bears KR/PR Devin Hester

Hester is like a secret weapon out of a James Bond film. He'll easily be the most explosive player on the field, with the ability to change a game any time he touches the ball. Tampa Bay's kickoffs will need to be deep and over his head. Punts will need to be near the sideline so Tampa Bay can use it as an extra defender. When Hester does have the ball, the Bucs have to stay in their lanes, funnel him to areas of strength and tackle well. Hester has great speed, but his ability to make tacklers miss and explode out of his cuts makes him one of the league's most dangerous players.

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