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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs should know Giants' game plan well

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 12:55 PM
TAMPA -

Ronde Barber still remembers what it was like to line up against Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon in Super Bowl XXXVII, hear him bark out an audible and know exactly what play was coming.

It was a little surreal, to say the least.

After all, then-Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, who left Oakland for Tampa Bay 11 months earlier, boldly predicted the Raiders would use the very same offensive signals he installed the year before.

Gruden even prepped the Bucs for it, right on down to playing Gannon's role while running the scout team offense in practice. When the game began, there was Gannon, suddenly, almost surprisingly, proving Gruden right on almost every play.

Barber can't imagine experiencing the same rush of surreal feelings this Sunday when the Bucs take on the Super Bowl champion Giants at MetLife Stadium, even though the situation seems ripe for it.

Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan is only a few months removed from an eight-year run as the Giants receivers and quarterbacks coach, so his knowledge of the Giants offense is almost as intimate as Gruden's was of the Raiders.

"There is certainly some crossover there,'' Barber said. "I'm just not sure how much it's going to help us. But either way, I'm sure Sully will have some pointers for (Bucs defensive coordinator) Bill (Sheridan).''

Oh, he's provided some pointers all right.

Tampa Bay first-year head coach Greg Schiano made no secret of the fact Sullivan has tipped him off on just about everything from the Giants' play-calling tendencies to the language they use for everything from audibles to protections schemes.

Whether that will give the Bucs an advantage, though, is hard to know, in part because Sullivan has incorporated a lot of the Giants' offense, including some of the language, into the Bucs' offense.

"They're familiar with the terminology we use and we're familiar pretty much with the terminology Tampa uses,'' Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "So there will be some things we'll have to deal with. But they'll have to do the same thing.''

The Bucs will have the added benefit of Sheridan's knowledge of the Giants, which was culled from the four years as their linebackers coach and one as their defensive coordinator.

Sheridan hasn't been with the Giants since 2009, however, so much has changed on the defensive side of the ball for them. He knows enough, though, to make at least one Giants lynchpin nervous.

"That team is going to have a lot of confidence because both of their coordinators know this football team very well,'' defensive lineman Justin Tuck said. "We know they're going to have some plans to counteract what we do.''

Unlike the Raiders during the Super Bowl, the Giants no doubt have some plans to counteract the Bucs. In particular, they may put together some "dummy calls'' to keep Tampa Bay off balance.

The likelihood, though, is the Giants will keep their system pretty much intact and take their chances. They certainly didn't make any changes during the preseason.

"It was all the same stuff, and I doubt that they've changed it,'' said running back D.J. Ware, who was released in the Giants' final cutdown and signed by the Bucs.

"(Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride) has been there for a long time (since 2004), so I don't really see them changing anything. They'll just do what they've always done, probably.''

That's what worries Sullivan. He's never had to face the Giants defense from the other side of a field before, and knows they present some problems a play-calling advantage can't always erase.

"Before it gets into the chess match, it's about realizing what the issues are, what problems they create,'' Sullivan said. "So, instead of just trying to trick somebody, we're trying to make sure we have (our game) in order.''

That's the same approach Giants quarterback Eli Manning is taking. He's well aware of the possibility of tipping the Bucs off on a play or two. He's confident, though, they play will work if executed properly.

"It's the same challenge they have because we know their offense pretty well, too,'' Manning said. "But in football it's always a matter of going out there and executing. That's the most important thing.''


rcummings@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7979 Twitter: RCummingsTrib

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