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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs-Panthers: Keys to the game

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Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Pay attention to detail

Little things have hurt the Bucs the past six or seven games. It's a linebacker abandoning his zone on a fourth-and-2 play, a receiver pushing off a defender in the end zone or a penalty wiping out a converted third down. A recent third down play failed simply because someone lined up in the wrong spot. Details can often be the difference between winning losing. Many times this season, the Bucs come up short on the scoreboard because of simple mistakes.

Give the offense a short field

The Panthers have some of the NFL's worst punt and kick coverage, ranking 27th and 28th, respectively. The Bucs need to take advantage and create short fields for an offense that has struggled to score points. With a short field, even a failed drive allows the Bucs to win the field-position game. Pinning the Panthers deep in their territory could prevent them from breaking out for big gains.

Stay with the running game

Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount seems to have found his groove the past few weeks. He's run 38 times for 210 yards (5.5 yards per carry) and caught four passes for 62 yards the past two games. The Panthers, meanwhile, are among the worst run-stopping teams in the league, ranked 28th in allowing 137.5 yards per game. The Bucs' passing game has become unreliable, with too many dropped passes, penalties and interceptions. They need to run Blount consistently and stick with him, even if they fall behind by a score or two.

Key Matchup

Panthers QB Cam Newton vs. Bucs blitz

Newton can hurt a team with his legs and his arm. He's smart, and his speed and maneuverability outside of the pocket make him difficult to track down. One thing he struggles with, however, is a blitz – still a little unsure of what he's seeing when he surveys the defense. Bucs coach/defensive coordinator Raheem Morris runs many elaborate blitz schemes, with the potential to add to Newton's alarming total of 26 sacks.

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