Bucs stand strong while Bills wilt in scorching Florida heat
Mike Glennon remains upright long enough to make some key throws downfield
There was a feeling in the locker room that the Bucs let more than just a victory slip away at Carolina last week. The Bucs believe they were in a position early on to take control of the game and, by letting it slip away, blew a chance to prove they can hang with the best teams in the league. Now they’re being measured against a 4-8 Buffalo team, and it has clearly left a bit of a sour taste in their mouths. The Bucs honestly believe they are a much better football team than their record indicates and have made it a mission to prove that over the final four games. That last quarter of the season starts today, and if the Bucs want to meet their objective they’ll need to win this one.
Questions with DE William Gholston
Q: Why did you transfer from Mumford to Southeastern High in Detroit after your sophomore season?
A: My little sister got diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and she was really sick. They moved her into the Ronald McDonald House, and so I moved in with one of my aunts at that time.
Q: You were a big-time recruit. Why did you pick Michigan State over Michigan?
A: What other school is there besides Michigan State? That’s not even a comparison — not even close. No regrets at all that I made the right call.
Q: How important are the final four Bucs games for you personally?
A: It’s extremely important that I show not only the coaches but everyone else who watches film that starting with next season, people are going to have to worry about me and this defense. I don’t need it from a confidence perspective. I’ve already got that. The first couple of games I played gave me plenty of confidence.
Q: Is it tough to see what your hometown of Detroit is going through financially?
A: Not necessarily. I know they are going through some hard times economically, but most of the families in Detroit really stick together and help each other along the way. I know we were able to move around when I was growing up and my family was in financial trouble. People in Detroit manage. I don’t think people there really complain when it comes to how things are. I actually think it’s getting better. It’s hard times right now, but believe me, Detroit people know how to deal with it.
Q: What’s the best Christmas present you ever received?
A: I didn’t really get anything for Christmas. I did get some black gloves one year, I wanted the Stretch Armstrong, Hulk Hogan version. That’s the only gift I can remember getting for the holidays.
Bills RB C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson vs. Bucs defense
Spiller and Jackson are a tough 1-2 run combination, ranking 22nd and 27th, respectively, in rushing yards. That despite the fact Spiller has played through injuries and the offensive line not being a strong run-blocking unit. The Bucs pride themselves on stopping the run, but if they don’t rally to the ball and tackle well, they’re going to be in trouble. Spiller has seven runs of 20 yards or more and four of 40 yards or more, so he clearly can break a game open. Jackson doesn’t have Spiller’s elusiveness or breakaway ability, but he can grind out tough yards and wear a defense down. This is as good a test as the Bucs’ rush defense has faced this year. If they can pass it, they’ll be in position to win.
Keys to victory
REVIVE THE RUNNING GAME
No one can dispute the NFL has become a pass-oriented league, but the ability to run the ball often dictates a game’s outcome. In the previous four years, the Bucs are 20-11 when running for 100 or more yards in a game, and two of their three victories this year were fueled by dominating rushing attacks. The Bucs, however, have struggled mightily in that area each of the past two weeks. The Bucs were beaten badly in the trenches at Detroit and Carolina, so the line must be tougher and smarter. The Bills are ranked 24th in the league against the run, allowing an average of 124 yards per game. That offers the Bucs a chance to get their rushing attack back on track.
CAPITALIZE ON SCORING CHANCES
The Bucs left a lot of points on the field the past two games. They scored only one touchdown in four red-zone opportunities and have only one touchdown and three field goals to show for their last eight possessions inside the opponent’s 35-yard line. That’s not winning football. Better work by K Rian Lindell, who has missed three field goals the past two weeks, would help, but the Bucs can’t keep settling for field goals, particularly against elite opponents. The Bills don’t necessarily fall into that category — their 307 points allowed are the ninth-most in the league — but Buffalo will look elite if the Bucs can’t find a way to score more touchdowns.
GET CREATIVE IN THE PASS RUSH
You wouldn’t know it from looking at their sack totals, but the Bucs have actually done a pretty good job of rushing the passer in recent weeks. Even at Carolina, where they failed to record a sack or QB hit last week, the Bucs managed to force QB Cam Newton into some bad throws. Forcing Bills QB E.J. Manuel into critical mistakes might not be so easy. The Bills have one of the best offensive lines in the league. The addition of G Doug Legursky made the left side almost impenetrable. The Bucs, though, have a lot of pass rush weapons along the line, at linebacker and in the secondary. If they get creative and design some unique blitzes, they could succeed not only in getting Manuel off his spot but in taking him down.