CUT DOWN ON PENALTIES
Fact: the NFL's 46 Super Bowl champions averaged 93 penalties per season. We mention this because it's a frame of reference. To win consistently and win big in this league, you have to play clean, disciplined football. The Bucs are averaging 9.5 penalties, on to commit 152. That would shatter the franchise record set last season when Tampa Bay was penalized 123 times and finished 4-12. Now, it's true penalties are up throughout the league this season, perhaps as a result of the use of replacement officials. But that's no excuse. Many of the Bucs' penalties are the result of lapses in judgment, focus and discipline – things they can and must erase.
CASH IN ON THE MONEY DOWN
We really hate to be repetitive here, but have no choice. Third-down efficiency was a key in last week's 16-10 loss at Dallas, where the Bucs converted just three of 15 third-down plays to rank last in the league with a 25.6-percent conversion rate. It's hard to win the time of possession battle, which Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano considers crucial, and keep the defense fresh when the offense can't stay on the field. The odd thing is the Bucs are really struggling on third-and-short, where they were just 1-for-4 on plays needing 4 yards or fewer last week. The Bucs spent millions piecing together this offense and it needs to cash in on the money down.
KEEP RGIII IN THE POCKET
It seems we talk about this almost every week, too. This was a key against the Panthers' Cam Newton in Week 1 and last week against the Cowboys' Tony Romo. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III is similar in his ability to create big plays by improvising outside the pocket. The Bucs have proved very capable of controlling these mobile quarterbacks, but can't afford to let up today. The challenge is greater after the loss last week of RDE Adrian Clayborn to a season-ending knee injury, but the Bucs have an athletic group of linemen and linebackers and must remain disciplined as pass rushers and in coverage to keep RGIII from escaping the pocket and making plays.
Bucs QB Josh Freeman vs. Redskins secondary
Freeman has been ordinary so far this season. He has a chance today, though, to break out of his slump. The Redskins allow 337 passing yards per game, second worst in the league, and are even more vulnerable since losing DE Adam Carriker and LB Brian Orakpo to injuries. The key here is Freeman's supporting cast, which has to do a better job. Former Saints QB Archie Manning, father to Peyton and Eli, said it best about quarterback play: "It's not tennis. It's about the support you get from the people around you." That's particularly true with Freeman. His receivers have struggled to get open, his lineman have struggled to protect him and his coaching staff seems hesitant to lean on him. With a little more help from his friends, Freeman can have a big day.
The Buccaneers have not played their best football yet. Not even close. Their play in every phase of the game has been littered with mistakes and inconsist, yet they won their opener against a favored opponent and took the Giants and Cowboys to the wire on the road. Early in the week, there was a feeling in the Bucs locker room that this team wasted a great chance to start off 3-0. The feeling now is this team is truly capable of beating anyone if it can just avoid critical mistakes. Tampa Bay is eager to come home after two tough road games and thinks it is close to putting everything together.
5 QUESTIONS WITH BUCS WR ROSCOE PARRISH
Q: Would you encourage your son to play professional football?
A: Yes, if he wants to play the game I'd see no problem with it. By the time he gets to the NFL, he'd be well prepared after playing in high school and college. I don't see why not.
Q: Did you ever meet Bucs coach Greg Schiano when you were at the University of Miami?
A: No, I just missed him, but I heard all about him. I didn't get a lot of details, but I was told that he was a hard-working coach who pushes guys.
Q: How long did it take you to get used to the cold weather in Buffalo?
A: I never did. That's something you don't get used to. You've just got to learn how to dress according to the weather. In my seven years up there, I never got used to all that cold.
Q: How many times did you visit Niagara Falls?
A: Two times, both on the American side. Very nice, set in beautiful surroundings. No, I didn't get in any of those boats. I just stood on the top and looked at the water. It was quite a sight to see.
Q: What's the hardest you've ever been hit fielding a punt?
A: It was in Kansas City in 2010. I caught the ball and kind of ran into one of my guys. When I tried to move, it just happened so fast, but I held onto the ball. He got me right in the face. I actually had to leave for a play because I had a split lip. You can still see the scar. Hey, that's what we sign up for.
The Bucs finally put it all together and go into their bye week with a .500 record.
Josh Freeman exploits a weak secondary coached by a familiar face, Raheem Morris.