3 Keys to victory
DON’T FORGET ABOUT BUSH
Most of the attention will be focused on the matchup between Lions WR Calvin Johnson and Bucs CB Darrelle Revis, and rightfully so. Theirs is a matchup of the two best players in the league at their respective positions. The Bucs, though, can’t allow themselves to become overly concerned with that battle. Another task will demand just as much attention, if not more, and that is stopping RB Reggie Bush. Bush has fit very nicely into the Lions’ attack, where he is their first option in the run game and their second most-targeted player in the passing game behind Johnson. That makes him a double threat with the ability to change the game. While he is best known for his ability to make plays in space, Bush has also proven an effective runner between the tackles.
GET GLENNON ON THE MOVE
Bucs QB Mike Glennon has proven much more mobile and athletic than anyone wanted to give him credit for coming out of college. Good thing, too, because the Bucs are going to want to put that mobility and athleticism to the test today. The strength of the Lions’ pass rush is the middle of their line, where tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley have combined for 51 quarterback hurries, 16 quarterback hits and eight sacks. The Bucs are going to have their hands full with those guys, but they can neutralize their effectiveness by moving Glennon’s launch point. That means rolling him out and throwing off the run, something else Glennon has proven adept at doing. The Bucs will definitely want to take some shots downfield, but rolling Glennon out and hitting on short passes might be the best way to keep the chains moving.
KEEP THE BALL IN FRONT OF YOU
This is a basic principle of defensive football, but something the Bucs have struggled with at times. A quarter of Lions QB Matt Stafford’s throws have been to targets 11 yards or further downfield. He has completed only 46 percent of those, but one such completion can turn the game around, especially if it goes to Calvin Johnson. Johnson ranks seventh in the league with 355 yards after the catch, so the Bucs have to keep him cornered and make him accept what the defense allows and little or no more. The key to that is playing sound positional football and tackling well. The Bucs have had issues with their tackling at times, so that’s another area, particularly in the back seven, where they have to be sharp.
The Bucs are really enjoying their two-game winning streak. This week, they took to taping humorous captions to some of the life-sized action photos that line the walls of One Buc Place. The trick now, of course, is to find a way to mix fun with execution and beat the Lions. It won’t be easy, what with S Dashon Goldson (suspension) and MLB Mason Foster (concussion) out. But if there is one thing the Bucs seem to have an abundance of right now, it’s confidence. Tampa Bay’s modest two-game winning streak has bolstered this team. But despite claims from inside the locker room the Bucs have finally come together as a team, a lot of outsiders still aren’t buying in. Critics want to see a victory against the Lions before they believe, and the Bucs know that. They’re goal is to oblige them and they’re using all that doubt as incentive.
5 Questions with WR Skye Dawson
Q: Who are you named after?
A: My dad named me Skye because of the line, “The sky’s the limit.’’ Then he put an extra “e” at the end, just to be different.
Q: What thoughts flash through your mind as a punt returner when the ball is hanging in the air?
A: It’s all about securing the football. You take a quick look downfield to see if the blockers are there, then you look back at the punt. Once the ball goes in the air, it’s no longer a rush. The adrenaline is pumping and you’re no longer nervous. When you’re back there waiting for the guy to punt it, that’s the worst. What kind of a punt is it going to be? Once he kicks it, all those nerves are gone.
Q: You are from Mesquite, Texas. Does Texas have the best barbecue in America?
A: Texas has the best everything. I’d say my parents make the best barbecue. Got to have the sauce — and they’ve got it.
Q: Weren’t you strictly a running back as a freshman at Texas Christian?
A: That’s right. I did nothing but run the ball my first year. There was actually one play called the Jet Sweep that was pretty much all I would come in for as a freshman. I’d either fake it or take the handoff, lining up as a scatback. I just wanted to get on the field in Division I football. If I was the deep snapper, that would have been good enough for me. Then I switched to receiver as a sophomore.
Q: What was your best track event at TCU?
A: Probably the 60 meters was my favorite. It was the shortest and you get it over with very quickly. To me, track is a lot more nerve-wracking than football because they’re calling out everyone’s name on the loudspeaker. Say you’re going against somebody like Usain Bolt in Lane 4. They give all his statistics, world-record holder and all that. Then they say, “In Lane 5, Skye.’’ It can get pretty stressful, especially when you’re going up against great athletes.
Bucs WR Vincent Jackson vs. Lions CB Chris Houston
That Darrelle Revis-Calvin Johnson matchup is one for the ages. But if the Bucs can get Jackson matched up against Houston, they’ll have a chance to exploit the Lions secondary, which is easily their biggest weakness. At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Houston is going to have a hard time keeping the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Jackson off the stat sheet. He’s an aggressive corner and runs well, but just doesn’t have the size necessary to keep Jackson from winning those opportunity or jump balls the Bucs like to throw to him. Opponents have picked on Houston a lot this year and his stats tell you why. He’s allowed a reception on 41 of the 69 balls thrown his way and is giving up 16.1 yards per catch. Opposing quarterbacks have put together a passer rating of 101.4 when throwing at Houston, so look for the Bucs to try to add to that number.
Bucs keep it close but can’t rally late as winning streak ends at two.
Bucs defense struggles to contain dual-threat Reggie Bush.