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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs-Jaguars: Keys to the game

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Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 11:05 AM

Focus on the task at hand

The Bucs' hopes of winning the NFC South division, reaching the playoffs and posting consecutive winning records under coach Raheem Morris have all been dashed. It is easy, at times like this, for players to lose focus, especially a team that relies so heavily on young, inexperienced players. With four games left, the Bucs can break out of their extended slump, rebuild some confidence and leave the impression they can be relevant again in 2012. It s imperative they treat every game as if it has playoff implications. Fail to do that and the implications for players, as well as coaches, could be even greater.

Win one-on-one matchups outside

The Jaguars have one of the league's top pass defenses, but the numbers don't tell the real story. They struggle to get to the passer and don't have top-end talent on the corners. In particular, the Jags have a tendency to get beat when they put their corners in man coverage, something they'll have to do to stop RB LeGarrette Blount and the Bucs' running game. Tampa Bay's receivers need to get good separation and win the battle for ball in man coverage. QB Josh Freeman will have plenty of opportunities to make big plays if he's sharp and his receivers are on their game.

Tighten up the middle of the defense

When it comes to their running game, the Jaguars like to play it right down the middle. They run the ball between the tackles more than 70 percent of the time, so the Bucs will need sound play from their defensive tackles and rookie middle linebacker Mason Foster. Jags RB Maurice Jones Drew runs with great leverage and can be tough to bring down, so the tackles will need solid support from the outside linebackers and secondary. The Bucs must stay in their gaps, tackling well and rally to the ball.

Key Matchup

Bucs CB Ronde Barber vs. Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert

The Jaguars are running a conservative offense that emphasizes mostly short and intermediate passing routes. It's an attack that could play right into Barber's hands. Barber remains one of the smartest and most instinctive pass defenders in the game. Gabbert still doesn't have a good feel for his offense, much less opposing defenses. If Gabbert doesn't look off his receivers and mix deep throws with short ones, he could create several take-away opportunities for the Bucs.

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