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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs-Texans: Keys to the game

Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 07:00 AM

Convert third down

The Bucs have struggled recently on third down, converting just six of 26 opportunities, or 23-percent, the past two games combined. Their inability to gain good yardage on first down – their 5.5-yard average per play ranks 18th in the league – is a big part of that. They have to keep the chains moving today, especially in the red zone, and give the defense a break from Texans running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Third-down play, on both sides of the ball, could decide this game.

Capitalize in the red zone

Moving the ball between the 20-yard lines hasn't been much of a problem for the Bucs. Moving it once they get inside the opponent's 20-yard line is the problem. Defenses tighten up dramatically in the red zone and opponents have all but strangled the Bucs, limiting them to eight touchdowns on 22 trips. The Bucs like to run the ball in the red zone. While that might not be easy against the league's fourth-rated rush defense, Tampa Bay has to take some chances with it. Their attempts to pass in the red zone have too often resulted in turnovers or field goals.

Get a lead

The Bucs have trailed at halftime in all but one of their eight games. Their poor starts on offense are sometimes the result of questionable decisions that leave points on the field. A week ago at New Orleans, the Bucs failed to convert on fourth-and-1 in the first quarter instead of kicking a field goal for a 3-0 lead. The Bucs have to take advantage of a chance to take the lead. It's too hard to win when a team plays catch-up all the time. The psychological boost of playing with a lead might give this team the boost it needs to turn its season around.

Key Matchup

Texans RB Arian Foster vs. Bucs defensive front seven

Foster is having a nice season, but can be slowed when teams force him to run between the tackles. Before last week, when he ran for 89 yards on 10 carries between the tackles, Foster averaged 3.9 yards per carry on such runs. If the Bucs can close off the outside running gaps and force Foster to cut back inside, they could reduce his effectiveness and give themselves a chance to succeed against one of the league's better running teams.