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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs-Cowboys: Keys to the game

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Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 11:55 AM

Don't beat yourself

The Bucs lead the league in giveaways with 31 and rank third in penalties with 108. Quite simply, the Bucs have been beating themselves, yet can't figure out a way to eliminate the mistakes. Many of the penalties the Bucs are for infractions such as defensive offsides and offensive false starts. Those can be eliminated with greater focus and concentration, as can turnovers.

Pressure Romo

Cowboys QB Tony Romo is having an exceptional season, completing 65 percent of his passes with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. One reason for his success is the Cowboys' array of talented receivers. From TE Jason Witten to WR Laurent Robinson, the Cowboys have weapons aplenty, and they're hard to cover. The Bucs will need to reach the backfield and disrupt Romo's timing. Romo does a good job of moving around in and out of the pocket to extend plays. By launching an array of blitzes and stunts, the Bucs should be able to force Romo into mistakes Tampa Bay can turn into scoring opportunities.

Protect the passer

The Cowboys can really bring it on defense. Led by DE DeMarcus Ware, they have 35 sacks this season and will try to make life difficult for Bucs QB Josh Freeman. The Bucs can slow the Cowboys' pass rush by rolling Freeman out a little more, but to keep Freeman clean they're going to need an extra tight end and a chip blocker on most plays. Freeman has struggled against the rush this year, throwing off balance and often off his back foot, which compromises his accuracy and arm strength. The Bucs have to give Freeman a clean pocket and a clean look and allow him to step into his throws. He'll have to keep some plays alive and make good decisions with the ball, but the ability to do that will be dictated by protection.

Key Matchup

Cowboys TE Jason Witten vs. Bucs defensive front seven

Witten leads the Cowboys with 64 receptions and is easily one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league. He has become Romo's go-to-guy in the clutch and faces a Tampa Bay front seven that has struggled to contain tight ends of his caliber. The Bucs will use an array of coverage schemes featuring defensive ends and linebackers in an attempt to contain Witten. If they can stay close to him and keep him from making big yards after the catch, they could earn a draw in the battle. If they can get a corner or safety into the mix and force a turnover or two, they could win this individual battle and maybe even the game.

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